Folsom Europe 2020 is cancelled, but a replacing program is being made. Alphatribe talks to Daniel Rüster, Founder of Folsom Europe about the impact of Covid-19 on Folsom Europe and what that means for Berlin as European fetish capital.
When did the board decide to cancel the 2020 event?
In the weeks after Darklands we started to receive several questions from visitors who had planned a trip to Berlin for Folsom. Many countries started to cancel mass events at that time. At first, we thought September was still far away and we paused our planning for a while to see how the situation would develop. Soon it became clear that the situation was worse than imagined and that even September would not be an option to hold a mass event such as Folsom under safe conditions. Somewhere at the end of April we decided to cancel the event although originally, we gave ourselves until June to make that call. Around the same time the government ruled against big events as well. Folsom Europe’s destiny was sealed.
What are the consequences of that cancellation for Folsom Europe?
First of all, there is a lot of sadness. From our side and from the visitor’s side. But this is an issue everyone has to cope with these days all around the world and not only for events. Although we’re all very much missing the social contact, friends, culture and traveling. The entire gay community is suffering, not only here in Berlin. It’s difficult not to be able to visit our safe places and see our ‘family’. But the board strongly supports the safety and wellbeing of people who wish to visit Berlin for Folsom comes first. In that matter we stand side by side in the battle against this virus.
Then there’s the financial consequence. Folsom Europe has two part time workers in their office which is shared with the Pride committee. Those workers and the office have to be paid next to the regular cost for internet, the webmaster, etc … Luckily, we had not yet signed any contracts with suppliers for the street fair so the loss there is very small.
But without the street fair or the ads we normally sell in our program guide, we’re missing out on very much needed income to keep the organisation going. That’s why we’re thinking about news ways to collect a little income and secure the continuation of Folsom Europe into 2021.
What initiatives are we talking about?
These are different times so we’re going to try new things. Normally you can always ask your sponsors and partners, but they are suffering as well. So that’s not an option. Bars, clubs, events make us come together and form the community backbone. All that is currently down. Even breweries that are usually a major sponsor are now in big problems.
We’re trying to be creative and ask the community to help us out. I’m sure a lot of people will be happy to help us in these difficult times.
Some of the ideas we’ll be rolling out soon:
- Ask for donations
In return we will publicly thank donors online and on the next street fair.
Even small amounts of 20 euro are very helpful to get through the next months.
- Special gift packs
We are going to put packs together of unique things you can’t buy normally. For instance, entry-packs for the volunteer and VIP area at Folsom 2021. A small amount of those will be on auction.
- Private tours for smaller groups
We’re still working on these, but an example could be that after a fetish brunch you go shopping and sightseeing in a small group, including special store hours or conditions.
We’re going to auction donations from sponsors or collector items such as signed posters from famous artists.
- There are also ideas about some kind of virtual initiatives taking place during Folsom Europe and Folsom Street Fair. Right now we are coördinating details with our mother organisation Folsom Streets events in San Francisco and friends from a Spanish leather & fetish club.
- We’re also looking into cooperating with other organisations to see if we can benefit from a mutual initiative. We’re chatting with colleagues around the world to see how we, as a community, show ourselves in the coming months. Keeping the connections with the community alive sort of speak.
- Last but not least there’s also a T-shirt and/or baseball cap in development to support the 2020 edition that was cancelled.
Many people have already booked their trip. Is it worth coming to Berlin anyway?
Berlin is always worth a visit. There will probably be quite some visitors as museums and theatres are slowly opening within the rules of social distancing. But of course, people visit Berlin for the bars where they can meet people. Recently the city of Berlin has announced allowing bars to open again from 2 June on. But only if they offer table service to ensure social distancing. Gathering at the counter of hanging at the bar won’t be possible. The infection and hospitalization numbers are rather good in Germany and as such the government is taking small steps in easing the lockdown measures. Bars and clubs are the last ones to open though.
Berlin is the capital of fetish shops in the world and those are all open already. Besides museums and sightseeing that will be worth a trip. Maybe bars can do terraces by that time. Restaurants have opened already so your definitely settled for a good meal.
Is there a new date confirmed for next year?
Yes, there is. Folsom Europe 2021 is planned for the second weekend of September just like previous years. We’re very hopeful that there will be vaccination available by then. No guarantee for that of course but we have no reason to be pessimistic at the moment.