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Solo Features

Almost time for aLAF

Since its inception in 2003, lesbian arts festival aLAF has been making its mark as it pursues its mission to foster artistic and creative expression that promotes lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer women’s visibility and identity.

While ‘having a laugh’ is the inspiration behind it, aLAF actually stands for ‘a Lesbian Arts Festival’ which is essentially an annual celebration of gay women’s music, theatre, comedy, drag, film, visual art and more. Taking place this year on July 4th-6th in various Dublin city centre venues, it promotes lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) women’s creativity as work from all over Ireland, Europe and the world is showcased in an extensive range of events, performances, exhibitions and workshops. It’s all about portraying the scope and diversity of modern lesbian culture, with performers, artists and audiences having in the past travelled from as far as the USA, Canada and Australia for the occasion.
It all began in 2003 when a group of like-minded women had a desire to launch an arts festival in Dublin that would be similar to those that take place in other cities around the world.
“This is the sixth year of a Lesbian Arts Festival,” aLAF coordinator Liz Burns told Solo. “Basically it came about through a group of friends sitting in a bar one night, who thought it was about time that lesbians started to create their own alternative and creative space. Some of the women were already involved in music, theatre and comedy so it just evolved from there.”
“The idea behind the festival is to provide an alternative, creative and fun space for lesbians, which is not being provided in the predominantly gay male scene,” she explained. “There is a lot of creativity out there that is not being tapped into with many gay women already involved in their own theatre, burlesque performance, drag king and comedy acts. So the idea is to invite these women to perform over a three-day period, as well as create alternative spaces for lesbians to meet, socialise and have fun. We are also interested in making links internationally and every year we bring over bands, performers, comedians, filmmakers and writers from abroad to take part.”
aLAF is committed to honouring its mission in a number of ways. The festival might come just once a year but in the meantime work is done to improve access to LGBTQ women’s art to a lesbian audience and provide a focus for developing that audience. Furthermore, aLAF encourages the LGBTQ commercial sector and the community to support lesbian artists and cater to the growing demand for work by women, or of interest to women, and it promotes or stimulates initiatives that support existing or potential LGBTQ women artists. And it strives to entertain, stimulate, engage, amuse and challenge the many lesbian, gay, bisexual transgender and queer women around the world.
Run and developed entirely by volunteers, aLAF is a not for profit organisation and all funds raised from events are invested back into the festival and other aLAF activities. According to Liz Burns, this innovative event is a grass roots one, organised completely by a voluntary group of women that changes over the years depending on people’s energy and availability.
“Currently there are about ten women involved in running this year’s festival; this includes festival coordinators, like myself, to actual event organisers. Anyone is free to get involved. I think that’s what makes it successful – the festival can change and adapt and hopefully not get stale. We keep it to an annual event – it used to be every April but now we’ve moved it to July. Festival meetings usually start from a five to six month lead in to the festival and we have them in the gay resource centre Outhouse. Obviously we need to fundraise for the festival so we usually organise a pub quiz or other event to raise funds for the festival, plus we have secured some small grants and sponsorship from businesses, which is greatly appreciated.”
So what is planned for the 2008 event? Well, with the fundraising theme in mind, the countdown to this year’s aLAF begins on Saturday, June 7th with the Big Lesbian Pub Quiz II, which will take place in The George. Hosted by Licky Rake, tickets cost e40 per table of four and can be pre-booked by contacting info@alafireland.com. Meanwhile, one of aLAF’s most pioneering events is the photography exhibition, which will be on show at Filmbase on Curved Street in Temple Bar for the duration of the festival weekend. This year’s show carries the quirkily titled theme ‘Kiss and Tell’ and entries are currently being accepted until the closing date of June 26th.
“This year’s ‘Grrrl Rock’ in The George is promising to be one of the highlights of the festival,” said Liz Burns. “We have three bands lined up – the headline act is New York rappers Bunny Rabbit. We also have UK band No Bra as well as our very own Dublin rapper, Ophelia. And writer Karen Mcleod is flying over from the UK to do to do a reading/performance from her excellent first novel In Search of the Missing Eyelash on Sunday July 6th in Panti Bar on Capel Street. This will be followed by a comedy night entitled ‘Funny foreign birds!’, which shouldn’t be missed. The club night on July 5th will have London drag kings, a great selection of DJs and quirky video installations. So don’t miss it!”

aLAF takes place on July 4th-6th, 2008 – for full festival programme go to www.alafireland.com or www.myspace.com/alafireland. The pub quiz fundraiser is on Saturday, June 7th in The George at 6.30pm. All are welcome!

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