Tomorrow night Wotever Iceland will be hosting an evening at Gaukurinn, labelled Rainbow Friday, where queer performers will take to the stage, followed by some heavy DJ-ing to get the dance floor bouncing. The event is a part of the so called Wotever Nights that are becoming quite popular in Reykjavík.
“The name comes from the fact that these nights are open to everyone and the invitation usually reads: Ladies, gentlemen and wotevers,” says Alda Villiljós. Alda and Andie Nordgren are a part of Wotever Iceland and every month in Iceland they organize so-called Wotever nights; nights that are specifically marketed to the alternative queer scene, but everyone is welcome.
This forthcoming Friday they will be hosting a Wotever Night at Gaukurinn, where there’s no entrance fee and an extended happy hour until 22PM for those with membership cards within the LGBT+ community, local or international. The theme of the night is Rainbow Friday and Alda will fill the dance floor with queer beats as DJ Villiljós. In addition to that there will be some live performances from queer artists.
Andie and Alda say that a big part of Wotever is to showcase queer talent on Wotever nights. “One of our aims is to promote our queer culture,” explains Alda. “It’s more than just Eurovision and drag. We want to promote queer artists, whether it be spoken word poetry, music, interpretative dance, cabaret or other forms of expression.”
Alda feels that this type of venue is needed here. “Homosexuality is at a socially acceptable level in Iceland and there is certain entertainment and venues aimed towards that group. But if you are somehow out of the norm you don’t have anywhere to go. At the Wotever nights we create a safe space where people can come and be themselves,” says Alda and we go on to talk about this idea of the safe space.
“One of our aims is to promote our queer culture … We want to promote queer artists, whether it be spoken word poetry, music, interpretative dance, cabaret or other forms of expression.”
“Safe space means different things for different people. For alternative queer people it just means that you can go to a place and expect not to get harassed and get asked weird questions. I would for example not expect to get questions about my mustache at a Wotever night but at a bar I would anticipate people getting weird about it,” says Alda.
Andie agrees and adds that if some sort of scene would escalate involving prejudice or queer slur the people attending the Wotever nights could step in. “If something happens you have total support. We can’t stop someone walking in off the street but at least you can guarantee that you have at least ten people to back you up and you can immediately talk about it to someone if something were to come up.”
Alda says that’s a huge part of what Wotever in London is about, but that’s where the Wotever brand was originally founded by producer and artistic director Ingo Cando in 2003. That’s also where both Alda and Andie were introduced to it. “I used to live in London a few years back but I wasn’t really involved with the queer scene. I can’t remember who told me about Wotever but it took some time for me to go and experience it,” says Alda, who had an amazing experience at their first Wotever night.
“I was at university and had just turned in my thesis about the gender variant visual artist Del LaGrace Volcano that I really admire. I heard that they were speaking at a Wotever night so I went there on my own. I was really nervous and I didn’t know anyone. I sat down and sparked up a conversation with the person sitting next to me. I told them that I was totally starstruck because I was such a fan of Del LaGrace. This person knew Del LaGrace and introduced us,” says Alda with a smile. “Everyone is so welcoming and super friendly at these nights – so long as you don’t judge other people.”
The story of Andie’s first time at Wotever is nothing short of unbelievable. A scene out of a movie some would say. “I sort of made a date to go with a girl that I had met at a tech conference. I was waiting for her outside Angel Station in London and she didn’t show up. I waited for 30, 40 minutes and then texted her but didn’t get a reply. I eventually went to Wotever on my own and had a great time. But once I heard from that girl some two weeks later it turned out that she had had a heart attack on her way to meet me and almost died on the subway,” Andie recalls.
“I went to visit her almost every week in the hospital but the freaky thing was that she didn’t remember me and just woke up to find these texts on her phone. We had a very interesting experience of getting to know one another for a second time.”
Common ground for queers
Alda and Andie are both genderqueer and feel that it’s good to have a venue where you can share your experience, even though they don’t feel they are met with a lot of prejudice in their day to day life.
“Like the topic of bathrooms. I go to women’s bathrooms in airports, clubs and so on. I don’t mind it that much but it’s still stressful and it does startle people when they think there’s a man in the ladies’ room. People respond differently when they encounter something new and sometimes I have the
energy to push it and sometimes I don’t want to deal with it. I just want to go to the fucking bathroom. When I can’t be bothered to explain myself I go to the handicap bathroom,” says Andie and Alda agrees.
“It’s nice to go some place where other people have similar experiences. You can see yourself in others and people get it,” Andie adds.
“The starting point for Wotever is the wish to see yourself mirrored and to meet other people that are like you – the middle, the in-between, the non binary. The driving force is that you see yourself in a culture that comes from this sort of queer space,” says Alda.
Given their wonderful experience with Wotever in London, Alda and Andie separately contacted Ingo from Wotever a while back because they both had interest in establishing a Wotever community in Iceland. “We are being trusted to bring Wotever to Iceland,” says Andie and adds that they don’t have to follow specific rules. “There are no formal guidelines. There’s a mood to Whatever, there’s a style and there’s an approach.”
“It’s nice to go some place where other people have similar experiences. You can see yourself in others and people get it.”
Wotever nights have been held in Iceland every month for a year now and have steadily growing, with the biggest one having over 200 guests at last Reykjavík Pride. Alda and Andie say it’s important for the Wotever brand to grow in Iceland. “It would be cool to have successful good events that promote queer artists,” says Andie. “And it would be amazing if we can get to the point where Ingo is in London with Wotever nights every week,” they add.
Both Alda and Andie are feeling pumped for the next Wotever night this Friday. “Everyone is welcome and we don’t ask for queer credentials at the door. There is a core of some 10-20 people that usually show up to Wotever nights but I’m hoping that number will grow even more. So see you all tomorrow,” Alda says with a laugh.
Main photo: pixabay.com