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Going out in 15 years

The queer theme is not just activism but celebration.

How will we go out in fifteen years? Will big festivals and nightclubs remain the dream venues? Antwerp Pride Magazine caught up with Neal Leemput (31; undecided) and Yanis Berrewaerts (27; he/she/they) to find out the latest trends.

Neal is a well-known playwright. His latest production is Concept X - The Beginning, a play about nightlife, and he has also been Secretary of Queer Affairs at The Studio since 2018. Yanis is a versatile talent: graphic designer, drag Angel 666, deejay at All The Lovers and Send In The Clowns. The latter is a gender-free or -fluent event at The Studio. Even though Neal and Yanis differ hope and already four years of life ... their experience of nightlife is already very different. Neal grew up with the famous Antwerp club scene: d-club, Red&Blue (today: Cargo Club, nvdr.) or the Hessenhuis. Yanis found his way earlier in De Studio.


Conformism

Yanis studied fashion when he was 19-20 years old. He went to the parties of Bacon and Drag Me To Hell. 'That's where people dress and dress up more. It's more gender-free and -fluent.' 'Generation Z, meanwhile, is on a completely different level,' observes Yanis. 'So free-thinking? I couldn't even imagine that back then.' Yanis now experiences less meat judging. 'There is less fishing for the next prey. There is more communication and consent is more important. Although maybe I look at that differently now because I have a lover.'

Yanis notes that straight friends are more likely to go to queer parties. "They like the 'I don't give a fuck' atmosphere. For Neal, this is recognizable. 'But I did have a hard time at d-club. I found that being normatively gay just didn't bother me then. I went with friends to have fun and didn't care as much. Only later did I question that. Poppy gay parties still exist, by the way, think Woodpop. 'For H.I.M., I feel - with my 'flat chick breast' still a little too insecure,' Neal laughs. 'I might have to do something with that fitness subscription first.'


From transvestite to drag

Attention to gender fluidity in dating is growing. There is quite a "drag wave," Neal and Yanis note. 'You have to give RuPaul credit for that,' Yanis says with some reservation. 'After all, RuPaul's Drag Race is not free of controversy. The program is very demanding on the contestants, verging on exploitation, and RuPaul long rejected cis and trans women as queens.' Nevertheless, RuPaul caused a turnaround. Where drag used to be mostly performing art, "a transvestite show," drag has now become more of a lifestyle. The audience is not usually expected to come to a drag show in drag, but at today's drag events, they do. 'You can see the difference during an evening at the former Que Pasa or at an evening Send In The Clowns,' Yanis said.


Fluid identity, fluid audience

By the way, there is no hard dividing line. Going to H.I.M does not prevent you from going to a Drag Me To Hell. One event where multiple audiences come together is the Unicorn Festival. There you see early twentysomethings to forty-somethings who want to have another good party. And the future? The duo has no crystal ball. Going back to the old days is out of the question. 'But in fifteen years we will probably be the conservatives with old-fashioned ideas,' Neal laughs.


Still, a prediction? 'When we look at the people of Youth For Sex, for example, say our queer scouts, we see that the queer theme is not only activist but is also a celebration, a celebration,' Neal says. Less activist? Because being queer is self-evident to those young people.


What the club?

Momentarily lost north? Below is a (too) brief description of the aforementioned

parties:

  1. All The Lovers: party concept with pop music, from commercial to alternative.

  2. D-club: dance bar in the former Antwerp-Dam train station. The club has been closed since 2019.

  3. Drag Me To Hell: alternative party concept in De Studio.

  4. H.I.M.: (un)regular party offering multiple styles of music at the same time. Male club atmosphere, T-shirts like to go off.

  5. Send in The Clowns: drag night with party in De Studio.

  6. Bacon: alternative party that always pops up at surprising times and locations. Mostly in Antwerp. Techno music.

  7. Unicorn Festival: annual open-air festival on Linkeroever with room for different music styles, from pop to techno.

  8. Woodpop: Party with pop music at the now 25-year-old Red & Blue, now known as Cargo Club. Lures some nostalgia for parties of the early 2000s.


Small-scale, cozy and early evening


Erik Vanberghen (39) has been organizing All The Lovers for about four years: a small-scale queer party in Antwerp, usually on a Sunday. He grew up with late '90s dance bars where people danced relatively early in the evening. Erik argues that there is definitely an audience for that kind of party: "People

don't necessarily feel like starting to get ready at 10 p.m. in the hope that around 1 or 2. in the morning,' says Erik. 'I see a demand for parties that start at 7 or 8 p.m., where there is effective dancing as early as 9 p.m. and with an ending around 2 a.m. or so. I don't just hear this from peers. I hear this from younger people, too.'

In Brussels there are already more thés dansants, as it is then called. 'In Berlin, it's quite normal to go out from noon until 8 p.m.. Then you can still go home, drink a lot of water and get up the next day without a hangover,' Erik notes. Erik sees room for diversity. 'Big clubs

take their attraction out of anonymity, which can lead to more flirting. We've done big parties with All The Lovers, but small scale is more our thing. A friends-together feeling. Of course with room for new faces. Keep an eye on his social media. Erik is working on Secret Lovers, a more alternative, indie pop/rock version of his parties. All The Lovers he describes as "sugar pop. All The Lovers is a direct reference to Kylie Minogue.


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