As we approach Lesbian Visibility Week, it can feel challenging to be a LGBTQIA woman in the UK. Not only do we feel hidden, but because of a small minority of others, lesbians can be associated with being anti trans (please note the vast majority of us are supportive of our trans siblings). This often means we fall to the bottom of the pile when it comes to support and recognition both from within and outside the community.
It was out of sheer frustration, I co-founded Out and About last year, a community that connects LGBTQIA women and non-binary people through shared experiences. Our focus is to both create and curate inclusive, quality activities and events across the UK.
Last April I was introduced to The Little Retreat, a glamping site in Pembrokeshire, Wales. I travelled from London to see the founder, Amber Lort-Phillips, initially to plan a small weekend retreat last September. After two days I returned determined to build Out & Wild, the UK’s first Wellness Festival for queer, questioning and curious women and those who are non-binary.
This year marks 50 years of having Pride in the UK, and a former Board member of Pride in London, I love these events, and the fact there are now over 140 in the UK. But most Prides take place in crowded city centres, and they have a big focus on drinking. After 2 years of lock downs, we felt there was a need for something difference.
As two queer women, my co-founder, Becky, and I, also felt frustrated at the lack of quality events and spaces for LGBTQIA women and those who are non-binary in the UK. Most Prides and other LGBTQIA large scale events feel very gay male focused.
When we researched what queer women wanted, we heard is that they were frustrated by the lack of spaces for LGBTQIA women (2 bars in the UK) and wanted more than just dating and friendship apps as ways to meet others. Research showed that 79% wanted to connect via shared experiences and unsurprisingly, after the impact of COVID, many were interested in wellness.
What most wanted was a fun, inclusive, safe, and supportive space, to reconnect with themselves and with others. It’s a sad fact that 40% of women under 40 have been sexually assaulted at festivals and 38% of LGBTQIA women have faced physical or verbal abuse in pubs, bars, and clubs.
We ran a small pilot event at The Little Retreat in September 2021, and it was a real hit, with many who attended now involved as curators for this year’s Festival or coming as attendees. What was lovely is to see how many people took part in new activities (wild swimming and yoga were big hits) and how friendships were formed.
Out & Wild Festival is a Wellness Festival, focused on connecting those who attend by shared experiences. The days will be filled with dozens of activities, including wellness, sport, spoken word and interactive workshops. In the evening there will be music, comedy, and fireside chats. We will also have a silent DJ set on the Friday and Saturday night.
Highlights include free daily guided swims, paddle boarding delivered by Canoe Wales, breathwork sessions from Luisa Bradshaw White, accessible exercise classes from This Girl Can, 5 aside football, book readings from queer authors and a great mix of local and national music artists.
All of this takes place on a site rated by media titles including Forbes, The Guardian, and National Geographic, with stunning views over the River Cleddau.
We are also keen to offer a fun, safe and supportive festival to all queer women and those who are non-binary. This obviously includes trans women. The location, next to a very small village, provides just this. And whilst we are designed by and for LGBTQIA women, we welcome all allies that come with an inclusive attitude.
We know many women and those who are non-binary may travel solo, so we will have daily meet ups and of course we recommend getting involved with all the experiences, as they will be great ways to meet new people.
You can camp, glamp or bring your campervan. We offer weekend tickets that include accommodations options, or you can stay off site. And we also offer day tickets for those who live more locally, or just want to check us out whilst holidaying in Pembrokeshire. Knowing that we live in challenging times, we have worked with partners to ensure most activities are included in the ticket price and food and drink prices are fair.
In line with the wellness theme, we will have, alongside a trailer bar a pop up alcoholic free bar, run by Drop Bear Beer, who are launching Wales’s first AF brewery (and happen to be a queer female couple). There will also be meat, vegetarian and vegan pop-up dining options.
For 2022 we will be delivering a boutique Out & Wild Festival for around 400 attendees, but we love the fact that the space allows us to grow up to 3,000 attendees. We are grateful to have received three years’ worth of funding from The Welsh Government, aligning with their focus to be the most LGBTQ friendly nation in Europe. We are also supported by HER app and Swim Wales and have a media partnership with Pink News.
The reaction to Out & Wild has been amazing, from partners, acts who attending and of course the women and non-binary people who we are targeting. We cannot wait to for all that attend see how special this amazing site, to feel safe, supported and most importantly visible.
For more information check out Out Wild Festival 10th-13th June 2022, https://www.beoutandabout.co.uk/out-wild-festival