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MAGNUM talks to MILKSHAKE about Family, Pride and Safe Spaces

Interview: Matthew Carney | KnapHouse

David Levi Benjamin, Photo Milkshake Festival

David Levi Benjamin, Photo Milkshake Festival

This year to celebrate Pride, Magnum partners with Milkshake Festival to embrace our Being True to Pleasure philosophy and to support Safe Spaces – which are increasingly important for the LGBTQI+ community. Milkshake started out as a one day festival in Amsterdam and has evolved into a lifestyle brand that welcomes lovers from all over the planet. The festival itself is now famous for creating a space to unleash full creativity and experience radical freedom.

We sat down with Milkshake founder Marieke and members of the Milkshake family, to discuss self expression, being queer, what Pride means in 2021 and how festivals like Milkshake are more important than ever for creating safe spaces for the LGBTQI+ community and beyond. This is exactly why Magnum has partnered with Milkshake for several years.

Marieke Samallo: Founder of Milkshake and chair at For All Who Love Foundation and Table For Ten. she/her

Eli Express, Drag performer, queer/bisexual, trans non-binary, autistic. Mental health and body positivity activist. they/them

David Levi Benjamin; Queer performer and ex professional dancer, currently studying, motivated to share knowledge on Queer life and identity, and involved in Milkshakes non profit organization, he/him

Eli Express, Photo Milkshake Festival

Eli Express, Photo Milkshake Festival

1. Milkshake is a creative space to feel free to express yourself, how’s your experience been?

Eli - I went to Milkshake for the first time with my mother who initiated it, we both went in full pink, her in her lesbian dress with women kissing each other on it, and me in weird make up. It was my first year of doing drag, I was not out as trans yet but I knew I wasn’t cis. Being there amongst so many beautiful creatures fully expressing themselves and seeing so many performers I looked up to was so amazing. Milkshake felt like I was in a space to feel free and people were cool with me being me, a space where we can also respect each other's differences and hold each other accountable, to be the best person they can be.

David - I share the same experience. Milkshake is a big co-creation. It has grown so much, a community of beautiful souls in the making, you feel the energy and you understand where people come from all in one place. There are so many young people finding their identity at Milkshake, and we even saw this when we went to Brazil and London as Milkshake. For me what’s special is sharing experiences with older performers looked up to, meeting peers there, doing our make up together. I get chill bumps now.

Marieke Samallo, Photo Milkshake Festival

Marieke Samallo, Photo Milkshake Festival

2. What is a safe space for you?

David - Like Eli said, it’s a space we are all accountable for creating, we’re all responsible for our behaviours, even our words. For example Milkshake, is one big community with lots of different sub groups and each stage has a different vibe, different music styles, different generations, and parts of the community coming together with mutual respect. I love seeing this.

Eli - But also it’s important to recognise, not everyone is like Milkshake, the queer community are not always safe in spaces which claim to be safe spaces, like in nightlife.

David - Yes, we need to look out for each other, especially in queer spaces where people should be free to express themselves. We are all there to make a party but we can be sometimes operating in our own bubble, we should look around, take responsibility and contribute. We are all responsible for the space and the atmosphere, we all need to check ourselves at the door.

Eli - Yes and you can’t assume who is queer or not in a lot of spaces and we should also respect our non queer allies if they are also bringing love into the space.

David - labeling something as a ‘safe space’ is not a one-time thing. A safe space is not a static concept but constantly evolving. It is not for the club or company to decide if something is a safe space or not, it depends on the people who are present at the moment. We need to constantly include different perspectives, we are not all the same within LGBTQIA+ and we’re constantly changing.

Eli - Yes, within activism, what you are doing is constantly learning and unlearning. We have to keep progressing. LGBTQI+ is not to be generalised, for the people who need to be listened to and protected the most. We should be responsible and make sure we’re not just taking up space.

Photo Milkshake Festival

 Photo Milkshake Festival

3. As Global Pride is now starting, what does it mean for the LGBTQI+ community in 2021?

David - It’s still very binary thinking, only a place for gay or lesbians. What about intersectionality, what about black trans women, who are so vulnerable, it needs a queer intervention. We should feel the urgency of Pride. And one thing the pandemic has exposed, is that there are structures that don’t support the most vulnerable in our community. Nightlife is still the only place sometimes our community feels supported.

Eli - As an activist, I always remember that pride started as a riot, we should always remember that amongst the celebrations. In terms of community, at Pride I still celebrate and I feel validated by the people I’m with. However, there are people who only take it as an opportunity to party, which I don’t connect with.

Photo Milkshake Festival

Photo Milkshake Festival

4. Like Milkshake, Magnum celebrates people daring to be true to themselves, to be “different”, how do you experience this day to day?

Eli - In my day to day, through expressing my trans, queer, non binary self, I see that there’s so many misconceptions and judgement. When I wear a mustache for example, it confuses people, people don’t understand my queerness, or what non binary can look like. Often I get negative comments and shouted names, but to be honest, I stay positive about it all because I know i’m normalising being queer, and when queer kids see me I know i’m making them feel like they are not alone. Even with my anxiety, I do it so others feel more confident and valid. We have to normalise looking different.

David - I am cis so i have the privilege of not always being seen as “different”. My persona on stage is different than off stage, which sometimes can be a mind fuck. But being on stage with makeup and dancing, I feel truly free and I never experience so much freedom as when I’m breaking all the assumptions of who I am supposed to be.

Photo Magnum Milkshake Festival

Photo Milkshake Festival

5. Milkshake is 10 years, what do you wish for in the future?

Eli - We can grow as a family. Genuinely as a family. We all appreciate the fact that everyone is there and making sure we treat each other with respect and love in the process, I miss that in a lot of places. That’s the vision, to be as bright as it can be.

David - If I reflect, let’s be honest our community critiques a lot, but if we all contribute and create with openness and love, these new inputs is what we need to continue doing. And we need to continue to amplify the most marginalised voices.

There’s no easy way to summarize this explosion of creativity and performance so why don’t you check out the Milkshake 2018 After movie?

In order to help people access Safe Spaces and celebrate diversity fully, this year Magnum will be donating tickets for Milkshake events to RegenboogGroep, LGBT+ Asylum Support and TransUnited and will contribute directly to Milkshakes non profit foundation - All Who Love Foundation.

“For All Who Love Foundation is a foundation in which we support or organize charity events or projects to support the LGBTQIA+ community, people with a disability, elderly and project against racism” Marieke Samallo: Founder of Milkshake

“Mini Milkshake is for 1000 disabled people at the Milkshake venue on the Friday before Milkshake. Last year Milkshake we sold ‘For All Who Love Boxes’ and when a product was sold, we’re donating a T-shirt to the disabled kids who missed out on Mini Milkshake 2020 because Covid” Marieke Samallo: Founder of Milkshake