A comrade and a friend called G on the queer dating and friends app Lex recommended a two day queer arts festival near Bern called Tortenessen. It was going to take place on a now legal trailer park squat called Wagenplatz Bethlehem.
The festival itself has been running since the late 1990s and aims to raise money for the Swiss Trans Safety Emergency Fund and this year also for perfocraZe International Artist Residency (pIAR) started by Va-Bene Elikem K. Fiatsi, an incredible non-binary performance artist from Ghana.
There is currently a horrendous anti-LGBTQIA+ bill going through the parliament there which will put queer people in Ghana at risk. The need for international solidarity is so so great. Please donate if you can to this artist collective who are attempting to secure their own space in case the bill should pass and they won’t be able to rent.
I went to Tortenessen without knowing anyone and without having any camping equipment despite it being a camping thing. However, I was not worried. I just know there is a level of solidarity between queer peoples around the world. It’s not something we talk about but it’s there. We are tied together by the our shared experiences and the oppression we face. There is a love that binds. This is why I was not worried (I’m a planner and a worrier at heart).
I travelled by tram to the last stop on the line, through a small suburb and then into some woods. The instructions on the website said to follow the cake signs and low and behold there they were.
After snaking over a motorway bridge and through the woods, I stumbled on a kind of temporary queer utopia. A festival with some lovely people from around the world, all united in our shared vision of a better world without borders and cops where we can be free.
I’m gushing but honestly it was so good. All the performances and DJ sets were incredible. We swam naked in the river. We danced. We laughed. I swallowed a wasp…
I did it accidentally whilst drinking my cola. Seemingly it didn’t sting me but the irritation caused me to have a panic attack. Luckily people were on hand to help and look after me for a couple of hours while the fear subsided. Thanks to those lovely peeps and everyone who I met. You’re all gorgeous and wonderful and I hope we can meet again next year.
I find travelling to be quite a drain on the social spoons, so a big festival (I would say one hundred people at peak) was a lot. It’s also really difficult language wise as my German is almost non existent and my French is not up to conversational levels. I often found myself having to take little breaks and walks away from the main site to chill out. It’s important to remember to check in with yourself about how you’re feeling and then meet any needs you find. Especially whilst travelling.
All utopias can only be temporary. It was time to move on… to FRANCE.