Queer Zagreb Festival: 2004
Author: Jonty Skrufff
Sunday, May 9, 2004
"The Queer Zagreb festival is trying to challenge hetero-normalcy (straight conservative culture) through art, theory and activism. Due to many circumstances, queer people in Croatia are barely visible and the festival is trying to change the perception of that invisibility. The festival is slowly creating a safe zone inside the city." Queer Zagreb Festival organiser Zvonko.
With only ten years passing since Croatia fought a sustained and bitter war with their neighbouring former Yugoslavia statelet Serbia, it's perhaps unsurprising that when you tell people you're going partying to the Zagreb Queer Festival, everyone says 'take care.' And when a Google search turns up a tale of skinheads ambushing the city's first ever Gay Pride march, taking care (and challenging hetero-normalcy) takes on a whole different significance.
However, digging deeper on Google, it rapidly becomes clear that while the neo-nazi boot boys indeed tear-gassed and beat dozens of the marchers two years ago, last year's Queer Zagreb passed off peacefully, in fact, almost without incident. Clearly, Zvonko is already succeeding in creating his safe zone. I'm also comforted to be going out mob-handed, flanked by a journalistic phalanx from Gay Times and Attitude on one side, and an even more intimidating posse on the other; a crack squad of DJs from London's electro-disco club du jour The Cock.
Including London's original gender bender hero Tasty Tim, S Expresser Mark Moore and their great mate scenester Princess Julia, the crew presents a formidable force of electro and eyeliner backed by Queer Nation male model type Luke Howard and upcoming Cock resident DJ Rokk.
Arriving in Zagreb on a glorious spring day, I'm immediately struck by the warmth of both the sunshine and the people. From club promoter Sergej (our host and the man whose vision has prompted the trip) to the airport staff and even hotel doormen, everybody seems happy to welcome tourists and even more impressively, all seem to speak English. As a city, Zagreb is also architecturally striking (churches, monuments and Austrian style squares dominate the centre) and pleasantly bereft of the fast food chains and franchises that have homogenised much of Western Europe. The combination feels old fashioned, yet intriguing, almost mysterious way; like the people, there's clearly a lot more just beneath the surface.
"The club reminded me of a Spanish 80s disco- I liked it. The crowd were also really responsive to our show, even though they'd never heard our music before." Luke Howard, The Most.
Midnight on Friday and the largest club of the weekend is packed, for local heroes GNU Girl Power Lounge, a trio of girl rappers with laptops, and The Most, Julia and Luke's London electro-pop band. Though the party's supposed to be queer, garage diva Barbara Tucker's apparently dragged lots of gays off to her show across town, leaving a (pleasantly) surprisingly mixed crowd, with lots of girls. Everybody's up for it and Luke and Julia go down a storm, Luke's pleas for everyone to come down the front and dance, being enthusiastically acted on throughout the half hour set. The only incongruous aspect is the large group of uniformed police clustered around the door, who remain on duty throughout the night (they're there in case any thugs turn up to attack the party). Cops in the clubs will be a feature of all three nights, though in the event, all they do is look bored, save for occasional excursions up to the dancefloor, where they gaze curiously at the clubbers dancing.
"Like all great fag events, Queer Zagreb attracted girls and straight people," Mark Moore.
Mark Moore and Tasty Tim have flown in today uniting the whole Cock crew for Saturday night's party. This is held at Tockica, a tiny low ceilinged room where our host Sergej regularly throws parties, though tonight he's set a cover charge to discourag Tags