WHOLE is a very fresh installment in the European festival area, but make sure to keep this one in mind. The premiere edition was just launched last year at Bergheider See, but for 2018 the organizers are heading to much more-known territory for many festival-fans: Gremminer See at the area of Ferropolis. To give you a taste of what visitors can expect, I caught up with the main creators of the event – Raquel Fedato and Chris Phillips. Both are responsible for the line-up and the creative part of the festival, including booking, performances, workshops for guests and collaborating with different collectives based in Berlin. So basically, the duo makes the festival come alive.
‘As a queer person I never really felt welcomed on festivals, although I love them so much. But somehow I never belonged there’, Chris explains when asked about the idea of coming up with WHOLE. ‘We decided to create a safe space for queer people.’
‘In Europe you only have a few queer options that are mostly focused on pop music and on pop culture in general. There is nothing curated for our community, which is not listening to this kind of music. It’s an electronic music festival – that’s what makes it different from other festivals in the queer field. There are queer festivals, but we are different.’
Different fits also with the concept of this year’s edition of WHOLE. Although it is the second festival, for the team it feels like it will be a premiere again.
‘Last year was very spontaneous, super last minute’, Chris says. ‘This year everything is better organized. ‘We also have a new location’, Raquel tells me. “We are moving to Ferropolis, where the MELT! takes place . We have a better structure, more guests, more acts and more collectives involved.”
WHOLE will host some of the most established queer collectives of Berlin, including Buttons, Cocktail a’Amore or Pornceptual, each of them well known in the scene for exquisite parties and events. This year even two international collectives will join the festival: New York-based platforms Discwoman and Unter. Both platforms are active in the electronic and techno field. Sounds like this festival might not only get loud, but kinky. And in contrast to its location, not as big as expected.
‘It’s funny because a lot people think we are going to use the main area, which is the huge arena with the cranes’, Raquel clarifies. ‘We are not using it at all, actually. We are using part of the peninsula area, near the water.’
‘Of course the rest of the area is also part of the scenario, but we do not have any stages there’, Chris adds. ‘It is a small festival so we want people to concentrate on one area. Thanks to the huge space of the full area we will have the camping area also nearby. This way our guests will have a full-time festival atmosphere.’
‘Whole United is about inclusion, not exclusion’
Electronic music 24/7. That is what people can expect for the weekend. ‘There will be no interruption – it is full-time’, Chris ensures.
A safe space for queers who want to celebrate electronic music. A welcoming concept in a time where exclusion of queer people still is served on a daily agenda. As we all know, society should learn from its own mistakes, queer culture is trying it by being extremely inclusive towards everyone who treats it with respect and love. Although there are of course parts in the community which are fighting back with ignorance and hatred. Those people seem to not understand the purpose of such events like WHOLE. It is about inclusion, not exclusion. When I asked Raquel and Chris what they think for example of gay men who want to exclude straight women from the festival, telling them they are not part of the community, both get mad.
‘This is total bullshit’, Raquel answers quickly, while Chris adds that she is a straight woman herself. ‘Our festival is for everyone. But the critique goes out to festival in general – they do not label themselves straight, but they are and they are not welcoming everyone.’
‘We want to welcome everyone. No matter if you are straight or gay. For us it is about including everyone who compromises with our policies and ideas.’
‘Queer means to be inclusive and excluding straight people is the wrong attitude’, Chris says. ‘This is not just a festival for dudes. How can you be a queer person and exclude women?’
‘Such comments annoy me a lot’, Raquel adds. ‘Especially when you are one of the organizers. This is not even heterophobia – it is simple sexism and misogyny. Everyone is welcomed to our festival.’
Listen, folks – a lesson to be learned here. Spread love, not hate. Being inclusive does not mean to let everybody enter in your sacred scene. Those who are not open enough for it will not join anyway. So stop dissing people who are walking side by side with us (shout out for all the superwomen out there, we love you)!
Some might be afraid of losing some sacred underground vibe which people are often proclaiming for certain events.
‘The idea of what is underground and commercial is a bit problematic’, Raquel admits. ‘My feeling is that people in Berlin are really afraid of being labelled as commercial and struggling in being labelled as underground. But in the end – what is underground after all? People are just too concerned about the question. We do not want WHOLE to turn into this super-commercial thing. We want it to be cozy. We would not do a festival for 30.000 people because right now it just does not fit our concept.’
‘For me being underground is more related to your actual attitude’, Chris claims. ‘Of course most of the collectives we are working with are part of the underground scene in Berlin and that is great. But WHOLE is not a very commercial festival because we are not super branded. For this year we are having just local sponsors, we would never sold ourselves out. We are doing this for the community. WHOLE represents the entire community to get together.’
So let’s meet at Ferropolis to not only celebrate what makes us different, but also what makes us equal. For the sake of good music and a naked swimming in the lake!
THE WHOLE United Queer Festival runs from August 24-27. There are still some tickets left via the festival’s website.