Marcia Poelman is the chairwoman of the organisation ‘Het Roze Huis’, which takes care of the LGBTQ+ movement in Antwerp. It’s an open and safe space where everyone from the community can come in and talk with each other. She has been representing the assembly since 2014. Next to that, she has a lot of projects going on that are mostly evolving around LGBTQ+ research or events. At ‘Het Roze Huis’ there are a lot of activities running at the moment, one of most exciting being Antwerp Queer Arts Festival. We sat down with her to discuss what we can expect from the festival.
Interview by Laura-Andréa Callewaert
What is Antwerp Queer Arts Festival?
I’m the project leader of the festival and it truly feels like this festival is my child. I’ve been doing this project for five years now. The first year we started out very small, but it kept on evolving and now we’re starting to get where we want to be. The essence of the festival is of course to give people a beautiful experience. But we also want to give a platform to queer people and artists so that they get the chance to interact together and form new connections and collaborations. That’s something we really aim for, because a lot of queer artists are still very secluded and don’t get as many jobs as regular artists. That’s why we try to invite all the artist who we work with to the festival itself, this way we want to create more interaction between artist and audience as well.
The essence of the festival is to give people a beautiful experience
What can we expect from the festival?
Officially the festival runs from 2 to 12 August, but we can’t wait to start so we’re doing a radio show on the 29 already. On the radio show we talk about the coming-out stories of people. Next to that, we have the ‘Out of Focus’ exhibition, a film festival during three days and Maud Vanhauwaert, one of our team members, will be creating the new Antwerp city poem which will premiere at Museum night in MAS. There will be a literature night as well, where Maud invites a couple of queer and lesbian writers. There’s also a queer experimental movie screening with some porn movies as well and last but not least, a party, where Le1f and Light Asylum will be playing!
Le1f photographed by Illias Teirlinck at the 2016 edition of our festival.
Why did you start AQAF?
One of our team members threw the idea on the table a couple of years ago and we were all very fond of it, because with ‘Het Roze Huis’ we only attract a certain group of people. With the festival, we want to broaden the spectrum and change our image a bit. Because there is still a big divide between queer people, gay people, trans people, people of colour and people who are none of all this, we want to lower the barriers between these groups by providing an arts festival and give them a fun and airy experience. The festival runs parallel with Antwerp Pride every year so we can reach even more people who are interested in what we present with our festival. Which isn’t organised by the authorities, by the way, but by a non-commercial, bottoms-up initiative; that’s a very important thing for a lot of people because pride is getting more and more commercial.
We want to give queer people and artists the chance to interact and form new connections and collaborations
How do you provide a safe space for LGBTQ+ people at the festival?
We are very aware of the issues around safety in public spaces with people of the LGBTQ+ community. I always check if an organisation is LGBTQ+ friendly before I work with them. We always take care of the toilets for example; we would never organise an event where there are no non-binary toilets. Besides that, we always educate and brief the people we work with about how they have to function during our events. For example, we did a theatre piece last year at a venue that wasn’t ours. The ticket sale was through their website and I saw that there was only a ‘Female’ or ‘Male’ option to choose from when you purchased a ticket. I contacted them about it and they immediately changed it. Small things like that can make a big difference. You can never be completely sure about the safety, but you can at least try.
The festival hosts a party on the eve of the Antwerp Pride weekend. On the line up we find Le1f, Light Asylum, and more. The party is free for Subbacultcha members. Join the family here.