BiFest: Suck it and See…

My first Bifest. It was a gradual process getting there, in fact, I’d been working up to this for years!

When I first started coming out, my friends and the local LGB scene served as my community. After a while I realised that whilst the ‘umbrella’ of LGB spaces was great, I’d actually quite like to meet some more specifically bi people. Initially I searched the internet, thinking there was bound to be some sort of local bi group. At first, joy! A phone number, an email address, and Bi Group here I come! So, I phoned the number… disconnected. I crossed my fingers and sent an email… a delivery report advising me ‘failure’, which it would seem is what that group had suffered.
Despite the setback, all was not doom and gloom, because in my searches on
the Internet, I’d discovered Bi Community News, yay, which confirmed the lack of Bi group in my area, but also, excitingly, held info on all the Bi Events around the country ~ amazing! It’s like a Bi Bible isn’t it?

Nonetheless, it was with some trepidation that I boarded a coach to London on Saturday 3rd May. Why the apprehension? Largely, I think it stemmed from feeling shy, worried about whether or not I’d fit in with a whole group of bisexual people, and just having no idea of what to expect!

I arrived and was immediately pleased with the venue. The Doggetts Coat and Badge is easy to find, and a pleasant relaxed atmosphere, with BiFest taking over most of the upstairs rooms for the day, plus the entry fee can only be described as bargainous!

Paul and Meg opened the day, warmly and enthusiastically welcoming everyone to the event. In my excitement about going, I thought I’d already decided which workshops I’d attend but faced with the program again it was a difficult decision. I
could go to ‘Have Your Say’, where I’d be able to contribute to the discussion
about what bi people would like to feed back to mental health and other organisations. Sounded useful, but somehow, under the circumstances, it seemed almost compulsory to go to ‘Bi for Beginners’, what with it being my first event and all that. In this session, Marcus began by discussing how bisexuality is commonly ill- defined, with a fun analogy of liking chocolate (you really will have to attend an event yourself to know more about how that works!). The workshop then provided an easy opportunity for everyone to introduce themselves and immediately know some faces, as well as providing assurance that we were all in the same boat as Bifest ‘newbies’.

This was followed by a group discussion covering various interesting threads such as common myths around bisexuality, what it means to be a bi- activist, and what groups are going on all over the place. By the break between sessions I was chatting away to people like I was an old hand at this bi community thing.

Decision time again, which workshop next? In ‘Personality Snap’ I could
have played a fun ‘conversation- starting game’ with one word labels, but instead I couldn’t resist finding out more about Bi History. The extremely enthusiastic and informative Alex and Laws, led us through this information packed presentation,
taking their audience on a journey into the past. They explained how, yes, bisexuality really does seem to go back over 3000 years, and believe me, these two know their stuff. Some more meeting people, generally feeling relaxed, and despite my
reservations, feeling very much I completely fitted in – believe me that’s quite rare. Time to attend just one more workshop.  I’m not quite sure what would have happened in ‘Fun and Games’, but I have no doubt that it would have lived up to its description of being amusing and entertaining.

Despite its appeal, and after some debate, I chose to go to ‘Bi Bodies in Everyday Life’ run by Helen, which involved playing with plasticine and various crafty bits and bobs to consider how bi people experience their identities, which was really fun -I can’t say any more than that as weall agreed that what was discussed in the session remains confidential.

Sadly, I had to leave after this workshop, having already made other plans for the evening. If I’d have stayed I’m sure that I would have continued to feel welcome, to easily chat with the people around me, safe in the knowledge that although they weren’t necessarily bi themselves (such is the nature of the inclusivity of
Bifest), they were certainly bi-friendly. In fact, one of the most reassuring aspects of this event for me was how inclusive it felt of everyone there, and how much ‘respecting each other’ was completely the expected norm. A refreshing and novel, not to mention fun and informative experience all round then.

I left London seriously thinking that with the help of BCN’s A-Z I might have to get around to setting up a local bi group one of these days. Inthe meantime, I’m desperate to know what I missed in the sessions I didn’t attend… it’s no good, I’m going to have to go again… but that’s ok, BiCon’s coming up soon!

Isobel Winters