“ Participate in the games night, book festival, concerts, and numerous other activities put on at the festival. „
York Lesbian Arts Festival is a *mostly* annual event based in York. It is four days of events, book signings, readings, writing workshops, poetry. In 2008 there was also a concert at York Opera House. This was an evening with a variety of music and comedy from various acts. I went along in October 2008 as a volunteer photographer so although I went along to work, I pretty much sat in on events all day so saw the running of the whole event. 2009's event was unfortunately postponed due to funding issues and the recession. 2008's event was held at mostly at the York Racecourse although there were two or three venues in total. The event, despite it's name was open to all, though the club night was just for females or transgender females.
**Booking and pricing**
As I went along as a volunteer, I attended the festival free of charge. However, each event was between £15-£25, though you could buy a pass to the whole four days worth of events for a mere £75, which works out at excellent value.
You could book online or via phone, neither of which I have any experience of doing for YLAF.
This was an amusing evening, tables were set out for the audience with a 'love theme', candles and roses galore. Slightly cheesy but actually more classy than anything. There was a compere who was excellent, and things such as a 'Mrs and Mrs' competition, quizzes and a fantastic singer.
There were some excellent discussions with question time for the audience, readings from stories. All the authors were gay/bi women and wrote on many different themes. The most famous authors there were Val Mcdermid and Stella Duffy. The discussions ranged from deep and moving, to lighthearted and laugh a minute. There was plenty of time for audience members to ask questions, and to get ideas from the authors.
This gave a chance to members of the audience to come and have their moment of fame, to read poetry or other literature they had written. Again, this ranged from deep and thought-provoking to a song about a cat (?!) This was a great way for people to get involved.
This was held at the York Opera house and was compered by the wonderful Belinda O'Hooley who has since become a friend. (I even gave one of her kittens a new home!) Her sense of humour is amazing. There was American singer-songwriter Erin Mckeown, with her gorgeous voice and lyrics, a band called Greymatter who had very moving songs, and fantastic comic acts by Claire Summerskill and Jen Brister. This was truly one of the best mix of entertainment I have seen in one evening.
This came on a par with the concert, this was held at the York Racecourse. Although it was a slightly disappointing turnout, the entertainment was outstanding. Comedy song acts and female-to-male transvetites ran the show, and there was even an impression of Stevie Wonder from a lovely lady in a wheelchair. Diversity is an understatement word to use... this show had everything. A club night followed with the editor from Diva Magazine DJ-ing. There was a mix of young and old here and an eclectic mix of styles of people mingling together.
This was a free concert held in the city itself in a community centre. This had SUCH a community feel to it, there were performances from Belinda O'Hooley and her singing and life partner Heidi Tidow, which was excellent and really quite moving in some points. There was also a ska band and readings from women with experiences to talk about. There was also a history collective of women's movement and the gay culture in York through the times in the next room. The hall was completely packed with people spilling out the door, they clearly didn't estimate the popularity of it.
The racecourse was a great venue for this, quite stylish and large, with many different rooms to have the events in. There was also lots of stalls with a gay theme to them, with lots of lesbian literature on sale. There was plenty of promotions and deals. There was also many stalls representing different companies such as UNISON, the police, and companies that offer fertility treatment etc. The parking etc at the racecourse and the distance from town seemed reasonable.
The atmosphere was fantastic, I have never been in a mostly lesbian environment with such an educated, diverse mix of women, but it was fantastic. It was honestly like being in a little friendly bubble for four days. I was so sad when I had to go home. People were so friendly to each other, chatting, offering help and advice. Perhaps this was because I was a photographer so it was easier to break the ice though I witnessed other people meeting each other randomly and the chatty atmosphere went on all weekend.
This was a weekend I will honestly remember forever. I have made close friends that I met during that weekend. It is a fantastic place to meet people. The entertainment was also fantastic and the value for money with the weekend pass is great. The city of York is also a great place to be for a weekend so the location of this event is fantastic too. I feel it could be better if they aimed it so more young people turned up as the majority of women during the day were 40+.
I would recommend this to any bi/gay/gay friendly woman who wants to meet people in a great environment, and to learn, discover and hear some fantastic literature and entertainment.