Queer Zinefest 2018 - It's a wrap!
I meant to do this post right after QZF, but I got caught up returning tables and chairs and then I went to work so I didn't have time to do this up but HERE I AM! I'm still so excited. You guys. I can't believe it. We did it! Queer Zinefest 2018 HAPPENED! And it was incredible! Ahh. You guys. I want to say "my heart is so full" but it honestly isn't just my heart. My whole being, my whole soul, feels so full of love. For the people who made this possible, for everyone who showed up yesterday, and also for the future of Singapore's queer community. We've come a long, long way from the police brutality and gang-incited homophobia of the 80's. We owe so much to the LGBTQIA+ folk who came before us, who endured the hate my generation has not even had to see. This zinefest would never have happened if not for the people who fought for our rights when it was unsafe to do so. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I hope we can keep up your legacy and continue pushing for a more inclusive Singapore.
I will save my thank you's and gushing for the end of the post - let me quickly run you through what went down last Saturday!
My dad (bless him) drives me down to Camp Kilo at 10 in the morning. The sky is overcast and the weather forecast looks only marginally hopeful. He cracks himself up. "I'm just imagining what would happen if you met someone at the zinefest and they said to you, "hi, nice to meet you, I'm Raine." He laughs some more, and for a second it doesn't matter whether or not it rained - I am just so thankful I have a dad who will wake up at 8.45 in the morning to send his daughter all the way across the island so she can run her very gay event. I'm so ridiculously lucky.
We arrive, and the good people at Camp Kilo are already setting up - tentage is going up, banners are being tied, reggae music is playing over the loudspeakers. My dad does a round of the venue, and he can't stop saying what a nice place it is. He talks to the chefs, asks me if I need help, I say it's alright, he gives me a big hug and says, "have fun!"
Math Class Club is the first to arrive. They stayed up the night before to DIY a bunch of beautiful, beautiful props for our photobooth and now they're here to set it up. By the way, if you haven't already, you must check them out. They make films and art with so much heart, and you're really missing out if you aren't keeping up with them. Wait - you should see some of the pictures people took at the photobooth, with the props they made from scratch:
I love parties. I love planning em more than the actual partying. I love setting things up. So it is very, very exciting when the balloon van pulls up. I was wondering whether they'd inflate the balloons beforehand - I guessed they wouldn't, because it would be easier to transport flat balloons, right?
The balloons have arrived, and they are fully inflated, and there are NINETY-EIGHT OF THEM! It's one of the most exciting moments of my life. Ninety-eight rainbow-coloured helium balloons in the back of a van bobbing down the Pan Island Expressway. What a way to start the day.
I can't believe I just wrote two whole paragraphs about balloons. Just kidding. I totally can believe it.
Volunteers and boothers start trickling in. It's slow at first, and then Akansha arrives with the tables and chairs (big love to Akansha and their dad for helping us transport all of it!) and suddenly the set-up is in full swing. We have fourteen wonderful volunteers who jump right in - they're setting up the tables, testing out the PA system, organising the booths, and just generally being incredibly efficient. They are so wonderful. I love them all so much. They are the reason QZF ran so smoothly - they're the reason the musicians' sets ran like clockwork, the merchandise sold so well and the rojak zines table was so popular. Seriously, hats off to you guys for making this happen.
The Squelch Zines team arrives and starts setting up their 3 metre long zine library. It is a little surreal to see them here, because they're people I've looked up to for so long. I really, really love what they've been doing and it's such an honour that they're working with us on QZF. They've been so lovely and supportive, and aiyah. I just love them a lot.
By now, the rain clouds have cleared out and we are back to our regular programme of blinding sunshine and sticky heat. Nadia from Camp Kilo notices, and offers to help us set up tentage. They bring out not one, not two, but three gigantic tents to shield the boothers from the sun. This could well be a metaphor for their hospitality - they've embraced our event since day one and have worked alongside us to bring it to life. The venue is half of the magic - it feels homey, it feels safe, it feels like somewhere you can let your guard down and be yourself and meet new people.
With that, the festival kicks off to a slow but happy start. Project X arrives to conduct the first workshop, and RON begins our five-hour-long live music session. It's a good way to begin the day - everyone is warming up to each other, and the morning heat has settled into a warm breeze.
To be honest, the rest of the afternoon is a bit of a blur. A happy, hazy blur. Even though I'm busy running around and trying to make sure everything is working and everyone is okay, it's impossible to miss the energy of the whole zinefest. It just feels so good. Like a collective exhale. Like a whole bunch of young people coming together, being themselves, being comfortable being themselves. Someone messages me after the fest: "ive never felt more accepted and have never embraced my sexuality and my queerness as much as i did today" and honestly? Me too.
So much of it has to do with the fact that these are queer creators who are so generously and so bravely sharing their stories and their art, who have come out (ha) today to tell the world they are here and their voices are important. I am so proud of everyone who boothed - it takes a lot to be out, let alone be out and self-publishing and disseminating pieces of your life the way they have. I want to buy something from every booth, but the festival is a handful and I end up only purchasing from a few stalls. Still. I mean it when I say I plan to keep up with all of them and what they're up to. I am so excited for the things they are going to do (and the things they're already doing! Edwin had an exhibition on over the weekend, SWING is working on another zine, I believe DIV. is graduating real soon...)
The musicians are perfect. At some point I have time to breathe and I sit down to eat with Akansha while Chris Hong is playing. Chris Hong has also brought a gigantic trans pride flag and later manages to wear it. I love Chris Hong. Heck, I love all our musicians. Did I mention how on the ball they were? All five of em responded to me the same day I asked them if they wanted to be part of QZF. They're all lovely, and you should check all of them out. I'm going to put their social media links here: RON, Empatlines, Jean Seizure, Chris Hong, Aeriqah.
Illi (oops, I mean Empatlines) comes up to me later and says she's proud of me, I'm the little sister she never had even though she has a little sister. Later she tells me I am the future, and I feel super duper loved. I owe so much to Illi because I would have zero clue how to organise an event if she hadn't been mentoring me and guiding me through organising Destination:INK. She's such a great person and so kind and supportive and hang on a minute I need to wipe my eyes. It's also really sweet that some of the spoken word artists I've looked up to turn up for QZF - Will Beale and Jenn Champion are there and it's so ridiculously humbling to have them here because... because wow. They're the kind of artists whose work I keep in my head as inspiration and motivation and... and they're HERE! Holy shit.
The workshops are wonderful - each one is so different and so fun. We have a zines & activism workshop by Project X, then a Vogue dance workshop by Andreas Chua (holy shit!), then a drag king workshop by Steph Dogfoot, then an improvised theatre workshop by Bhavani B., and then a dating workshop by Prout. They're all lovely people and they really added to the whole energy of the fest.
The rest of the festival whizzes by. I'm too busy to take photographs, so it's really really lovely that we have photographers on hand. Here are some for you to enjoy before we upload everything on our official QZF Facebook page:
Before I even know it, QZF is over. We're hugging boothers goodbye, packing up the merchandise, making final announcements for people to use the photobooth before we take it down. It feels too short, like I wish I could stay in this space forever. Akansha and I take the tables and chairs back to my place in the lorry (special shoutout to the lorry guys for being so wonderful and helpful) and it feels kind of unreal that this whole thing happened and now it's over.
QZF was a dream come true. Big thank you to Camp Kilo for sponsoring this beautiful venue, and thank you to the people at BeInclusive who linked us up with the angels at Camp Kilo. Thank you to the various people who have given me advice on where to print things, find things, who to talk to... Shannen, Illi and Jerusha, thank you for being so forthcoming with all the event-related-information you've amassed. Thank you to Squelch Zines for supporting us from day one and then bringing your zine library to our fest - people loved it so much (and so did we!). Thank you to BooksActually, Grey Projects and The Projector for helping us disseminate postcards in the lead-up to the event! Thank you to the volunteers, boothers, musicians and workshop facilitators who came down on Saturday and made QZF what it is. And of course, a big, big thank you to the Kickstarter backers who made QZF a reality. You guys - we made history.
We made history, and I couldn't have asked for a better team to make it with. To Steph, thank you for encouraging me to go ahead and do this right from the start. You've been a role model since god knows when, and it's really exciting to be actually working on an event with you. Here's to many more collaborations like this!
To Joy, thank you for being so enthusiastically involved from the time you came onboard. You are a ray of sunshine who's been so generous with everything you know about zinefests and Kickstarter, and you've been so ridiculously efficient at creating our collateral. I expected one poster, you created a whole body of work. Your irrepressible optimism has really, really helped me stay afloat. When we were still crowdfunding, we were something like $2000 short, and we only had 24 hours left on our campaign. "We're not gonna make it," I said. "Yeah we are," she said, and she was so sure of it I almost stopped worrying. In the end, she was right. We surpassed our funding goal (thank you guys!) at the eleventh hour.
To Akansha, thank you for saving my life and coming onboard to help when I was drowning in work. You've brought a fresh perspective to every discussion (Akansha is the reason we had a Vogue workshop, an OOTD contest and a dress-up theme) and turned this event into something bigger than just a zinefest. It's such a good feeling, knowing that I can work on passion projects like this with my best friend. Thank you for supporting my ideas and pulling me back to earth when they get too unrealistic. I love you!
And I guess that's it from me for now! If you're reading this and you actually went to QZF, it'd be super great if you could help us fill in this feedback form (you don't have to, but it'd help us cobble together the next QZF!). And if you're wondering what's next for the QZF team (besides mailing out Kickstarter perks), you can stay tuned via our Instagram and/or Facebook pages. We want to continue building a sense of community amongst queer self-publishers, so a second QZF is definitely on the table. In the interim, we want to organise a bunch of smaller get-togethers and events, but I can't spill any details until I'm surer where this is going.
For now, though, thank you so much for reading my brain vomit, and for supporting Queer Zinefest. It was one of the best days of my life spent with some of my favourite people in the world. Thank you guys. So much. I don't have enough words to tell you guys how grateful I am. Big love to all of you, and see you guys around!