Before 2020 happened, I used to organise lots of queer and trans community events. My events were often haphazard, sensual, and artistic, aiming simply to set the audience free. We did that by mingling cabaret, spoken word, and multidisciplinary art party, often around a central theme of an open mic.
There was no salary, no payment for organising these events. It was the people who would tell me afterwards that they felt like a part of a community, or that they now felt comfortable identifying as trans, that was my reward. We were carving out space, to breathe and to create, and it felt good.
At the start of this year, I was building up to my most ambitious event yet: a day-time artists market at Fitzroy Town Hall to celebrate trans day of visibility on 31 March. After 6 months of planning, it was going to be my big finale before quitting events to focus on my career.
Anyway, we all know what happened in mid-March so... you can guess how this story ends.
Except it didn’t. My swan song was utterly canned, that was for sure, but I was about to learn that the story had only just begun.
When all of that went down, I took a risk and put Trans Day of Visibility online. With 2 weeks of planning, we hacked together a livestream platform and broadcast an evening of pre-recorded performances live from my living room.
Screenshot of Between Mirrors Band (Nicholas Gray & Irene Zhong) - Campfire Stories June performers, Melbourne (VIC).
If there’s one thing that nobody talks about in the queer events scene, it’s how much grassroots organisers put themselves at risk. Public liability, lateral violence, stress, burnout… it’s demanding, relentless, and unforgiving.
But suddenly I found myself in a whole new narrative: one where I could create community without leaving the house, without compromising on my mental health, without even putting on pants! Ha, pants. Who even wears pants these days? My home style is 80s-aerobics-meets-rococo-ruffles. Just try and imagine that, I dare you.
From the very first stream, Campfire Stories was undoubtedly the same spirit. The vulnerability of the open mic, the authenticity and bareness of expression, and the enthusiasm and vivacity of the audience, it was all there. In some ways, it was even stronger than before, because we were reaching people at their most comfortable, their most intimate setting: their home.
Screenshot of Gemini (Hera Direen) - Campfire Stories July host, Hobart (TAS).
So where will this story go from here? I have no idea. But what I do know is that we can create whatever the fuck we want, and we will always have ways to find and celebrate each other.
- Teddy Darling
Campfire Stories is an open mic and queer community gathering, streaming live on the first of every month. It is a collaboration between louche eccentric Teddy Darling and nonbinary artist Artemis Munoz, generously and lovingly sponsored by Nikki Darling and guest hosted by Gemini. The next gathering is on 1 August, subscribe for your free link to join, or register your interest to submit a video story.
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