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Back You are here: Home Sex, Gender & Sexuality Diversity - [Archived] GLB Camp Betty: A festival of radical sex, gender & sexuality politics

Camp Betty: A festival of radical sex, gender & sexuality politics

CampBettyCamp Betty is a radical political festival on sex, sexuality and gender, to be held in Sydney over the long weekend in June. It is about creating spaces to reflect on queerness, politicising spaces and issues, and creating connections between different communities and individuals. The festival is open to everyone under the rainbow (all sexualities, sexes and genders are welcome) with a program including workshops, parties, discussions, food, art, dress-ups, panels and spontaneous happenings. Cath Davies gives The Scavenger a run-down on how it all began, how you can participate, and what you can expect from Camp Betty in 2011.


15 May 2011

The beginnings of Camp Betty can be found way back in Melbourne, circa 1962, which a convoy of gay men gathered together for a secluded picnic on the Queen’s birthday holiday weekend.

As homosexuality was illegal at the time, the event was held in secret to avoid harassment and prosecution. Nonetheless, the picnic became an annual affair, growing to attract thousands of people each year and featuring a theatrical entrance by the ‘royal family,’ as well as a ‘royal parade.’ The event finally lost momentum when Victoria decriminalised homosexuality in 1981.

In 2007 a group of queer Melburnians, dissatisfied with an increasingly conservative political and sexual climate, decided to reclaim some of this tradition, holding the first Camp Betty (named somewhat tongue-in-cheekily after the birthday monarch) – an extravaganza of DIY organising, activism, discussion, debate, networking, creating and celebrating.

Now in 2011 the festival carries this revamped event north to the harbour city, welcoming anyone interested in sex, sexuality and gender to come and participate.

So, just what can you expect at Camp Betty? “Camp Betty is a DIY festival,’ says collective member Fi. “While there is a core of dedicated volunteers on the collective, the success of the festival relies on people getting involved and doing stuff. We are currently recruiting more volunteers to help with the actual running of the weekend, from helping with registrations, setting up and cleaning up at events, providing directions and other information, and generally being there to assist with whatever needs doing.

“Helping out is a great way to be a part of Camp Betty, to meet other festival goers and help ensure the success of the weekend. If you want to roll up your sleeves and be part of the team please send us an email and we’ll be sure to find something for you to do.”

The Red Rattler Theatre in Marrickville is the Camp Betty HQ, and proceedings start here on Friday 10 June with an evening of short presentations and slideshows. Participants are given five minutes to talk about what matters to them, their activism and ideas and passions, or to promote anything they will be presenting over the weekend.

The program of panels and workshops begins on Saturday morning, and continues at the Red Rattler and other venues in Sydney’s inner-west including Midian, Dirty Shirlows and Plump Gallery.

What’s on?

This year’s program considers themes of oppression and privilege, celebration and empowerment, and navigating bureaucracy and systems – plus a whole lot more.

Panel discussions already confirmed include femme diversity, inclusion and exclusion in queer spaces, sex work and activism, consent, queer sex, radical action and electoral politics, and policing and experiences with the police system.

Workshop topics include polyamory, cruising and beat sex, DIY sex toys, a stripper school, butch manners, love letter writing and independent publishing. “More panels, workshops and activities are being added every day, so be sure to keep checking  online to see updated program information,” says Fi.

A Mad Hatters Tea Party will be held for people to share experiences of coping with mental illness and non-neurotypicality.

There will also be a special spoken word event featuring a dialogue between trans, intersex and cis women, and some space will be left in the program for spontaneous activities, talks and discussion groups.

“All of the workshops and panels are being run by people who have an interest or knowledge in these particular areas, and want to share this with others,: explains Fi. “The festival provides space for this sharing to happen, and for valuable connections to be made between individuals and communities who might not otherwise engage in this way. We encourage everyone to come along and get involved – you only get out of it as much as you put in.”

Evenings are filled with social activities and entertainment. One of the highlights of the program will be Saturday night’s Blue Betty party, a night of erotic installations, saucy performances, titillating tunes, go go dancers and smutty literature readings.

Other night-time pleasures include  the POC The Mic spoken word/hip hop event, and a live music event. The festival concludes on Monday 13 June in the afternoon with a picnic, DIY zine and craft fair, children’s activities, and a debrief session to discuss the happenings of the weekend and where Camp Betty should head next.

Camp Betty is a low-cost festival, registration being available for $10 or $5 concession, including a copy of the program and entry to the opening night event (larger donations are always welcome of course).

Saturday and Sunday lunches will be available on a donation basis. Most activities and workshops will be free or by donation, and nobody will be turned away from the festival due to lack of funds.

The evening activities will also be cheaply priced, and include concession rates for the unwaged/studying/just plain broke.

Some billeting is available to cater for out-of-towners, and anyone needing a place to stay is advised to contact the collective promptly.

Camp Betty aims to be a safer space, and as accessible as possible for everyone, and copies of the safer spaces policy and accessibility information are located on the website.

Camp Betty Festival 2011 takes place 10-13 June. Further information about the event can be found on the Camp Betty Sydney 2011 website, Facebook page, and by following the Twitter feed. If you have any further questions, or would like to volunteer your time, please contact the organising collective at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Cath Davies is a gentlefag and scholar, dancing bear and rabblerousing raconteur.

Image: Courtesy of Phil Soliman. Royal Riot fundraiser for Camp Betty.

 

 

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0 #1 indi 2011-06-13 04:19
"Camp Betty aims to be a safer space, and as accessible as possible for everyone"
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