8 October 2010 by Jennifer
I did go to the Big Bi Fun Day back in May, and I thought I’d write a bit about it here.
* That is, I seem to remember looking round and counting up and making it about that many. If anyone has a more accurate/official figure, then I’m happy to be corrected.
The general flavour was mellow and conversational. It was perhaps rather like the last day of a BiCon – lots of sitting around and sharing snack food and saying hello to different people as they wandered by.
The blurb had said
It is not a BiFest. This event is not intended to be an introduction to bisexuality. However, new people are welcome to come along.
and also suggested it was a place to
catch up with friends
I did have the sense that reconnecting with friends from across the country was a big part of what people enjoyed about the day.
I think this description was well crafted for priming people to know what to expect and to decide whether to go. Personally, I don’t think I’d have enjoyed it much if I’d gone as a newcomer, though some people might have found it OK. Depends how comfortable you are with going up to people you don’t know and introducing yourself.
And yes: events like this don’t substitute for BiFest. They are a different kind of contribution to the community – less about outreach, and more about nurturing ourselves and our friendships.
For me a huge positive of the event was the way children were included, in an elegantly low-effort way.
By “low-effort” I don’t mean “inadequate effort”. What I mean is that the effort was primarily in family-friendly choices, and the thinking about them, rather than in additional child-specific facilities. For instance, it wasn’t in a venue with a lower age limit, such as a pub.
One child-specific resource was a fence around the garden, with a gate which toddlers couldn’t open. That’s a great help to parents of small children with a tendency to exploration. (And I know this was one of the advantages of this venue which influenced Sanji to choose it.)
Other than that, the ents/resources available were as follows:
Craft materials such as paper, card, pens, glue and sequins. (Yay sequins!)
Some “things to make” printouts, e.g. origami instructions.
The garden as a space to potter around in (and to a lesser degree in this sunny weather, the building itself).
Going on to the park afterwards.
and, most importantly
This combination worked well, I thought. And the park and garden and crafty things were enjoyable for non-parent adults too!
When I posted in 2008 about children at BiCon, some of the responses I got had a flavour rather like “But why should we have to bend our BiCon all out of shape to make it child-friendly?” Yet I had said even then: almost anything you provide with children in mind, some adults will enjoy too; a lot of it doesn’t have to be extra effort.
So a thing I really appreciated about this event was the way it demonstrated a not-all-bent-out-of-shape inclusion of families, accomplished primarily by imaginative thought, rather than by loads of extra work and/or money.
On the day, the whole thing about using the upstairs seemed to me relatively inconsequential. As it turned out, the weather was good, and most people stayed outside on the grass for most of the time. And then there was a spacious indoor hall including the craft tables, as well as a downstairs kitchen with yummy food in it.
I literally don’t remember seeing anyone go upstairs. Maybe a few people did, and I just didn’t notice, but it was certainly unnecessary in terms of participating in the main bits of the event.
I won’t entirely categorise my reservations as a communications issue, because if it had been raining, and/or if a lot more people had come, then the uses of the indoor space would have had more effect in shaping the flow of people. But in practice, the main social space was outdoors.
Speaking from a position of not having actually done either, I’d hazard a guess that it’s less work to run one of these than to run a BiFest. (Not implying that either is trivial, just saying BiFest is the more complex enterprise.) No workshops to organise, no need for official welcoming, and, because it’s optimised for people who are already part of bi friendship networks, no great need for outreach-y publicity. I suspect there may well be groups around the country who aren’t in a position to do a BiFest, but could take on organising something similar to this, if they wanted to.
So, although many of us already thanked Sanji for her work and our one enjoyable day, I’d also like to raise three cheers for her inventive powers. To my mind, this day was more than itself: it was the pioneering of a useful prototype, neatly complementing the other kinds of event in the UK bi calendar.