“L Fest is the UK’s only lesbian music, arts and comedy festival. Its ethos is to provide a safe, fun, interactive space where people can come and be themselves for the weekend, without fear or prejudice.”
Cindy Edwards, Festival Director, is no stranger to events management. Running Stanstock Sevens Women’s Football Tournament for eight years, the event attracted hundreds of women who enjoyed football, camping and evening entertainment. From this, the idea for L Fest was born. But L Fest is not exclusively for lesbians; it welcomes everyone who supports the festival. The average age of attendees is 42, as well as families with young children, couples, solos and friends.
When a child asked: ‘Mum, can I go to L Fest every weekend? Everyone has two mums and nobody gets picked on,’ Cindy realised “the children’s area was much more than keeping them entertained on a play level, it’s such an important thing for them to be around many other kids, who share the same family set up.”
“We do not exclude men; those that attend (less than 1% of festival goers) are there to help because they support the festival, whether it’s my brother on the door, or the wonderful staff at the farm.”
L Fest is now in its eighth year, having grown from the two hundred women that attended the first festival, to over one thousand, in 2017. “We have moved the event around, starting in Shrewsbury, then moving to Uttoxeter and Loughborough. L Fest 2018 will be in North Wales, with a fantastic site on a farm on the seafront, in Llandudno.”
What can a first timer expect? “A fantastic time! The ticket holders are by far our best marketing tool, with many coming to the event once and then it’s the most important date in the diary for the following year! There’s music, arts, dance, theatre, workshops, cabaret, sports, DJs and a whole load of women, in the middle of a farm field!”
L Fest presents a diverse music and arts programme. It nurtures up and coming/unsigned acts, providing a springboard to their careers. “It was great to see Lucy Spraggan open our main stage in 2012 as an unknown artist, then come back four years later as the Lucy Spraggan everyone knows and loves.” The Arts Programme includes author readings and panel discussions, which have showcased some of the top lesbian authors, including Sarah Waters, Stella Duffy and Jackie Kay.
“Many new authors have started on the stage as unknown, who now have grown an international fan base, like Kiki Archer.” Laughing Cows Comedy always gets a wonderful turnout at the end of a hectic weekend. “I’ll always remember Barbara Nice, a sixty-year-old comedian saying she was going to stage dive and crowd surf at the end of her set; she surfed the length of the room!”
Cindy is currently ranked at number 40 on the DIVA Power List. “It’s wonderful to be nominated for awards. Knowing that people recognise the hard work I put into running the event is an amazing feeling. I know how important it is for people, it’s more than just a festival, its a lifeline for some.”
Festival-goers stay in touch across the year and make a real difference to their community. “In 2014 two young girls in Ireland were beaten up walking home, as they were holding hands. L Fest ticket holders created a Gofundme page, which paid for the girls’ tickets, passports and flights to attend the festival.”
L Fest is by no means a one-woman enterprise; there is a large team that ensures L Fest happens, each year. Cindy says, “I set up the event and pull it all together, working all year round, but there are many people who help to make the event happen. The L Fest Crew are volunteers who programme, coordinate, market and promote the festival. We have such fantastic camaraderie. Apply at firstname.lastname@example.org.”
Is summer sun, sea and women an appealing combination? If so, then L Fest del Mar (now in its fifth year) may be for you! “L Fest on a beach … what’s not to love? With my background working in the property business in Spain, I knew the perfect location. We take over a whole hotel with two hundred women, with pool parties, live music, European DJs and fun days out. See www.lfestdelmar.co.uk for all the details.”
L Fest: Fri 13 – Mon 16 July 2018
L Fest Del Mar: Fri 1 – Fri 8 June 2018
All images by Cathie Heart