SOC’s Gay&Straight parties
From 2010 to 2015, SOC organised Gay & Straight parties on several locations in Sarajevo. The idea to start organising the parties came from Vanja Matić in 2010. At first they were held in a club called Podroom, relocating later to FIS Club in Sarajevo. SOC organised 75 parties in succession during the abovementioned period. Since then, the parties have become an occasional occurrence. Lejla, Naida, Dina and Jozo sat down for a chat to recall the highlights of the parties and how they contributed to building the LGBTI community.
Chat moderator: Masha Durkalić
Masha: How did the parties come about? What happened first?
Dina: By the time I started working in 2010, two parties had already taken place. Podroom was the location. We didn’t have a say in setting the date, the owner of Podroom did it. He kept scheduling us for Thursday. Lots of people attended, but they were pissed because they had to work on Friday. The DJ was also hired by Podroom, so we had no say in the music either. At first I worked as a steward at the entrance, together with Arijana and Ivan.
Lejla: You know what, I never noticed you standing at the door 😛
Dina: I once invited a friend from university. She was a steward twice. We even got tipped 😀
Naida: Hahahaha, from the crowd coming in?
Dina: Yeah, from the crowd. They’d pay the 5 BAM to get in and leave 1 BAM for us.
Naida: Not a bad gig after all 🙂
Dina: We really didn’t want to take the money, we kept telling them “We’re actually paid to do this!”
Masha: What was the turnout for the parties at Podroom and what was the atmosphere?
Dina: There were lots of people. They weren’t afraid. The bouncers in the club used to roll their eyes, but the people coming in were psyched! I remember this one time two guys got into an argument and one of them started to leave, but his partner caught up with him on the stairs, pinned him against the wall and started kissing him. Ivana and I blushed and we really wanted to watch but it felt awkward.
Masha: But you kept watching!
Jozo: Hahahaha 😀
Dina: The bouncers frowned, but didn’t say anything.
Jozo: They were stunned 😀
Masha: Lejla, what do you remember about the parties in Podroom?
Lejla: That it was really fun and people danced a lot. I didn’t know anyone and that made it more interesting:) I remember hooking up with a girl 🙂 Those were the times 🙂
Dina: We soon discovered FIS. Saša contacted the owner and pitched the idea.
Naida: Q had organised parties in FIS before.
Dina: The FIS management gave us free rein to set our own date and play our own music.
Masha: Do you think the parties allowed members of the community to get to know each other. For two years after QSF nothing happened. Was this an opportunity to start new relationships?
Dina: Definitely. Lots of new relationships blossomed. Although there were also some old ones that fell apart, hahahaha.
Lejla: Oh yeah, I can speak from personal experience. This has always been a really important aspect. You could just tell that people were drunk on this sense of freedom.
Naida: People still crave these parties today, you can imagine how much they wanted them back then.
Dina: A lot of people used to leave their emails so we could invite them for the next one. The mailing list kept growing.
Masha: So, most of the work on trying to connect the community happened at the bar?
Jozo: That’s right. Many people won’t attend any other events, but they’ll gladly hit the bar any time 😀 Some just need a little liquid courage to loosen their tongue, and that’s totally ok 🙂
Naida: This is how I connected with other people when I worked at SOC. The alcohol, the music and the feeling that you were in safe space really made you let go. It just felt like home turf, which is how others get to feel every day of the week.
Naida: FIS was the perfect location. It had an outdoor patio, so in the summer you could dance, make out, talk and mingle there.
Dina: And you didn’t have to worry about an idiot attacking you.
Lejla: Yeah, you could just make out without worrying about a blow to the head with a glass bottle.
Masha: So, FIS was the place for parties. Were there any notable love scenes? 🙂
Jozo: The lesbians would sometimes cause drama. And the gay guys would just point over to their boyfriends and that meant you were going home empty-handed hahahah 😀
Lejla: I mainly stood on the stairs, watching. If I happened to hear a song I liked, I’d come down and dance. On the nights when I worked as one of the stewards, there would always be someone kind enough to cover for me while I busted a few moves or hooked up with a girl 🙂
Dina: A girl was trying to hit on me once and I said “I’m straight” and she was like: “Every girlfriend I ever had claimed to be straight”. So I said: “But I’m in love, does that count?” and she replied: “Now, that one actually does count”. And off she went…
Masha: How nice of her! How did the parties influence your work?
Dina: It was a great way for the community to gather, get new contacts and, eventually, build a group of people who are still regulars at SOC’s event. We also recruited future co-workers 🙂
Naida: When I started working in SOC, I was a regular at all parties, regardless of who organised them. Okvir had already started doing their thing, after that came Qsport, so I visited other friendly places and I’d chat people up as we were dancing or waiting in line for the toilet. I’d tell them SOC was organising an event, slip a business card into their hands, dance a little, and they’d show up at the event. I did this because I wasn’t really familiar with the newer generations, so I was trying to get around as much as I could 🙂
Jozo: Oh boy, I remember we used to call FIS “Lady Dampness” since it was always so smoky in there!
Lejla: Dina, didn’t you once fall asleep at the entrance, or was it someone else?
Dina: Hahahaha, it was me! They played electronic music, and for some reason electronic music puts me to sleep. I worked as a steward that night and I simply dozed off, hahahaha 😀 I think Saša sent me home, and you stayed to watch the door.
Jozo: I think people who came to FIS were empowered by the experience and got to know each other. So they started attending other events as well.
Lejla: Yeah, sometimes we’d meet people at other places, at a non-LGBT event, inform them about the parties and they’d show up. It was wonderful.
Masha: I think the parties attracted a lot of people, not just LGBT, but also straight people.
Dina: That’s right, a lot of straight people attended the parties, even straight couples.
Jozo: I remember lots of foreigners used to attend during SFF… For them it was the best party in town.
Dina: Some just wanted to check it out and ended up liking it, especially women.
Masha: Because everyone wants to dance! I think the parties where one of the go-to events in Sarajevo if you just wanted to dance.
Lejla: Yes, that was a really important part of it, that you could just dance without anyone staring at you. Back then, we had the energy to organise the parties. We didn’t work as much so we had time to unwind and attend the party in the evening. Sometimes, though, we’d work all day long and then work at the entrance in the evening as stewards. But we didn’t mind. We loved it. At least I did. It was hard work, but it was fun.
Dina: It became really hard when we started organising the parties twice a month. We were keeling over with exhaustion, but we had to stay there until the very end, stay sober because we were in charge and had to keep an eye on everything.
Jozo: I remember I’d sometimes leave the last penny I had at FIS. But it was worth it, so I was never sorry 😀 However, the parties became a big burden after the attack on Merlinka in 2014. After that, we started notifying the police, asking for their presence every time.
Lejla: Since they were commercial events, we had to set aside money for them. And it wasn’t cheap, plus we had to hire security guards. They never understood that we weren’t hiring them because it was a commercial event, we did it for security reasons: not because of the people partying inside, but because of the jerks on the street.
Masha: How long did SOC organise the parties?
Jozo: From 2010 to 2014.
Lejla: It’s quite a long period for a continuous streak of parties.
Masha: And then you stopped?
Lejla: We just didn’t have the strength to continue and we also had problems with the management of FIS. The work at SOC had really picked up, and we simply couldn’t do it all.
Naida: Others had also started organising them. Having parties of any kind is all that matters.
Lejla: We thought someone else would pick up the baton. It doesn’t matter who organises the parties, they just need to exist. It’s a great way to hang out, build a community and exchange experiences. It would be lovely to see some of the younger ones do it. We’d be happy to share all our knowledge and experience, so they could organise something, like Zbeletron in Zagreb.
Masha: SOC still organises parties occasionally?
Lejla: Yes, occasionally. The last one took place on 13th May at The Loft.
Jozo: We’re just too busy, and there’s a huge sense of responsibility towards those who attend.
Lejla: On the other hand, we know how important the parties are, so we compromised and decided to do them a few times a year, plus during Merlinka.
Naida: Also, there’s the problem of finding the right location.
Jozo: I think there are people who could do a really good job of it. I live to see the day when all the different folks in Sarajevo who do LGBT-related stuff are able to give each other a helping hand. Masha: People from other towns used to attend parties in Sarajevo, right?
Dina: Yes, a lot of them. I know a whole group of people from Tuzla, they used to come in just for the occasion.
Lejla: People from Zenica were regulars!
Masha: So, the need is still there, but the parties require robust logistics and organisation, and not everyone is up to the task.
Lejla: That’s right.
Dina: We’re expected to do it, because our parties were the best.
Naida: There are more organisations/initiatives now, but people are afraid to take up that kind of responsibility, although so much effort has gone into improving security.
Masha: Yes, responsibility and security are the key issues. Attending such an event is still pretty dangerous here.
Jozo: Yes, unfortunately.
Lejla: It was no less dangerous six years ago, but we didn’t give up. We organised them and I honestly hope the parties continue. I hope the situation is sorted soon.
Masha: Time for final remarks, impressions, conclusions. Go ahead. J
Dina: We really need the parties, the right location as well as young people who could take it upon themselves to organise them. That’s the conclusion.
Naida: I just feel there was more soul in everything back then. We were bolder, ready to just give it a go and see what happens. The young and the old attended the parties. It didn’t matter what music was playing, because you were having a good time, it felt like you were home. You’d kiss and dance without a care in the world, because everyone knew it was just once a month, so you’d make sure to be there.
Jozo: The parties in Sarajevo were great. I’d like to see them again. It’s important for people to get together and get to know each other. A message for the newer generations would be: feel free to take up the reins!
Lejla: The party offers all kinds of things: empowerment through talking to other people, wild fun, great kissing, bad or phenomenal sex, beautiful love stories, friendships and a massive hang-over that not everyone can cope with gracefully the next day 🙂