Rainbow connection: Inside track on Asia's hottest LGBT festival
Asia's hottest LGBT festival promises a spectrum of events, and everyone's invited, writes Kate Whitehead
HONG KONG’S LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) Festival Pink Season is bigger and more inclusive this year, with a bumper line-up that is thoughtfully curated and backed by the Hong Kong Tourism Board in the hope of attracting an international audience.
The two-month celebration, believed to be the largest event of its kind in Asia, opens on September 12, and is the pink umbrella for a host of cultural events, parties and family fun. Organisers are keen to show that the LGBT community has more to it than just drag queens and nightclubs.
“Of course that’s a massive part of it,” says Pink Season events co-ordinator Bess Hepworth. “But as people diversify and families are created, so comes an evolution of what they want to be involved in. The sports side is a part of that.”
She says this year’s festival has shifted to include events organised by the non-LGBT community. “We’ve connected with the straight alliance that are running events and we’ve partnered with a few, for example, Tickled Pink and Liars’ League.”
TOP 5 GAY PRIDE EVENTS
Out in the Open
October 6, 2pm-6pm
This family-friendly day at the beach is open to all. The sand will be sizzling, the music thumping, and the area buzzing with food and drink stalls and activities such as beach yoga. “One demographic that is growing is the rainbow family – LGBT parents and their children – and there’s a need to create more opportunities for parents to gather and create a support group,” says Hepworth, who will bring her partner and young son to the event.
Mr Gay Hong Kong
October 19, 10pm-late
Armani Privé, 2/F Chater House, Central
This high-profile pageant is all about picking a spokesman for the gay community – someone with a great personality and character. And, of course, good looks help. Last year’s winner, Benjie Caraig, has been flying the flag for Hong Kong and last month was named first runner-up at Mr Gay World in Antwerp, Belgium. As with all Mr Gay winners, Caraig is serving as ambassador for Tongzhi Tsai, a campaign against homophobic bullying in schools. “The winner of Mr Gay will be a Red Ribbons Angel ambassador for Aids Concern’s safe sex and HIV/Aids awareness campaign,” says Pink Season’s sports officer Henness Wong.
October 20, 10am-6pm
Hung Shing Yeh Beach, Lamma Island
In its eighth year, this is a monster junk party. The fleet of boats will moor together off Hung Shing Yeh Beach – the power plant beach – and revellers in Speedos can hop between the boats. In previous years some junks went all out with water slides. For those who prefer to stay on dry land, there will be a party on the beach.
“Different communities are encouraged to have a junk and this year we are really pushing for junks to be decorated and flamboyant,” says Hepworth.
Pink Sparks Volleyball Tournament
This volleyball event was a huge hit last year and it’s back again with six teams competing for the Pink Season Cup – half from the gay men’s team Superleague and three from other local leagues. “It’s a competition, but really it’s a friendly match. We want to connect with lots of sports organisations,” says Wong, adding that donations collected on the day will support Superleague’s dream of representing the city in The Straits Games.
Hiketilla Pink Season Walk
October 26, 10am-3pm
South Lamma Island
This is a fun day out on Lamma Island co-organised by Pink Season Sports and Hiketilla. Hikers will begin in Sok Kwu Wan and walk to Lo So Shing Beach, with an optional extra of going on to Yung Shue Wan and having lunch. It’s an easy walk and everyone is welcome. A Satsanga Hike will take place on October 20.
TOP 5 PARTIES
September 19, 10pm-2am
The Hong Kong Lesbian and Gay Film Festival’s opening night party promises to tickle the senses with a heady mix of fashion, music and entertainment. Top tunes include Nusounds’ Erotic Moods, models will wear fashions by Six Lee and the Opera Gallery will showcase New York graffiti artist Seen. Plus there’s plenty of dancing. Proceeds from the night will go to the HKLGFF and Aids Concern. A HK$350 advance ticket gets you into the party and one opening night film at the festival.
November 5, 9pm-2am
Les Peches is the networking event for lesbians, bisexual women and their friends – the ladies’ answer to Fruits in Suits (another Pink Season event, see below) – and will host the season’s closing party. Expect dancers in cages and plenty of dancing. The HK$100 ticket includes a free drink.
Fruits in Suits
September 17, 7pm-10pm
The L Place, Central
The networking group for Hong Kong’s gay business community celebrates its ninth anniversary with a party that helps kicks off Pink Season. Since 2004, LGBT businesspeople and their friends have been supporting community events such as Mr Gay Hong Kong and anti-discrimination campaigns. The September events will be even bigger than the regular monthly Fruits in Suits networking event.
Big Gay Quiz
October 13, 7.15pm-10pm
Volume Beat, Sheung Wan
The Big Gay Quiz night is a regular fixture on the Volume calendar with a special edition for Pink Season, “All Things Pink”. Organisers are expecting a big turnout and recommend reserving ahead of the event by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org. There are great prizes up for grabs.
October 12, 10pm-late
Volume Beat, Sheung Wan
This is the night when no one holds back. It’s the third annual gathering of drag kings, queens, princes, princesses, courtesans, drag fans and friends. The costumes will be wild, and the crowd even wilder. Organisers promise frolicking and oblivion. Don’t say you weren’t warned.
TOP 5 CULTURAL EVENTS
Hong Kong Lesbian and Gay Film Festival
September 18-October 5
Big double billings mark the opening and closing nights of the film fest. The screen fun kicks off with Behind the Candelabra – the story of Liberace (played by Michael Douglas) and his young lover Scott Thorson (Matt Damon) – and Concussion, which picked up the Special Jury Award at the Berlin Film Festival’s Teddy Awards. There are two sizzling French films for closing night: the uncut version of Stranger by the Lake and Blue is the Warmest Colour.
October 11, 9.30pm-10.30pm
Takeout Comedy Club, SoHo
Improvised, unscripted humour courtesy of local English-language comedy troupe People’s Liberation Improv – the audience gets to call the shots and the sketches are made up on the spot. The group runs under the slogan: “You say it, we play it!” Adults only. Entry fee is HK$120. You can bring your own drinks. “We’re really excited to have this comedy troupe with us, it’s a wonderful mutual collaboration,” says Hepworth.
Liars’ League: Gay & Straight
September 9, 8pm
The Fringe Club, Central
Seven members of the live storytelling group will explore the theme of “Gay & Straight” through their original fictional stories. A special musical performance will intersperse the readings. Admission is free.
Tongzhi Literary Meeting
September 19, 7.30pm-10pm
Culture Club, SoHo
Two writers share their work at this quarterly gathering of the literary group. Former military man and author Nigel Collett reads from his work in progress, titled “E.M. Forster and India”, about the English writer’s fascination with the country. Brian Yeung Lap-ming reads from his blog about life in the Russian city of Sochi. Everyone is welcome and it’s a cash bar.
Jean Genet’s The Maids
November 6-9, 8pm-10pm
McAulay Theatre, HK Arts Centre, Wan Chai
Drag artists La Chiquita and Fabiola Asustadiza star as housemaids in this play by French dramatist Jean Genet. The maids love and hate their madame with a passion, and they delight in impersonating her, indulging in a sadistic game of dress-up and writing anonymous letters to the police to denounce the woman’s lover – until things get out of hand.
TOP 5 BARS/CLUBS
LG/F, 83-85 Hollywood Road, Central
The hippest gay bar in town, it’s got a fun vibe and is known for a great line-up of DJs. Plays a broad mix from 1980s tunes to trance and everything in between.
B/F, 65 Hollywood Road, Central
In a back alley off Hollywood Road, this is the newest gay bar on the scene. The bar is long and narrow with an industrial feel with sleek, minimal design and comfy sofas at the back.
33 Jervois Street, Sheung Wan
Formerly Rice Bar, this gay bar welcomes the straight community, too. Feathers on the walls and ceiling and a jungle-type decor help create the zoo-like effect. The drinks menu includes an extensive cocktail list.
Basement, 1 Hollywood Road, Central
Hong Kong’s long-standing gay bar is still going strong and attracts a mix of Westerners and locals. There is a “conversation room” for those who want a break from the pumping house music.
1 Pak Tze Lane, SoHo
Tucked away down a laneway off Peel Street, this gay-friendly member’s only bar has style in spades. The HK$888 annual membership gets you a bottle of Veuve Clicquot, but you can have one free visit before you decide if it’s your kind of place