The issue of LGBT has become one of the most talked-about issue in the 21st century. Throughout the years, people have become more creative in expressing their feelings and ideas especially when it comes to LGBT issue. People create films, music, stories, even studies that focusing on LGBT, making it not-so-taboo anymore for people to talk about it or even live with it.
Finnish Comics Society has their own way of expressing their ideas of LGBT in Finland. Helsinki Comics Festival or Helsingin Sarjakuvafestivaalit is Finnish Comics Society’s biggest project which was founded in 1971. Welcoming the festival that will be held on the 5th to 7th of September 2014, I was very happy to received positive response from Irene Dimitripoulos, the production assistant of Helsinki Comics Festival, and asked her several questions regarding the festival that brings up Germany and Queer Comics as this year’s themes.
When I first read their website, I thought it’s a really interesting decision for them to chose Queer Comics, highlighting comics related to LGBT issues, as their theme. So why LGBT over many things that can be brought up? People of Finland will celebrate the 40th jubilee year of the national human rights NGO Seta – LGBTI Rights in Finland, which there is going to be a panel “Comics as a pioneer in norm criticism” in the festival, making it a natural decision for them to choose LGBT comics as this year’s Helsinki Comics Festival theme. Other than that, the fact that equal marriage rights are frequently discussed in the Finnish media today, and the Finnish parliament will vote on the matter decisively this autumn make this year the right moment for Finnish people to bring up LGBT as a topic, especially for such a big event like Helsinki Comics Festival.
There will be exhibitions with works of the Finnish artists Touko Laaksonen, a.k.a. Tom of Finland – who is the most famous Finnish artist in the gay community – and the Moomins creator Tove Jansson. Tom has received much public attention this year in Finland and abroad. His works are going be highlighted at the festival. He has had an important influence on other comic artists. His illustrations and comics have affected heavily to whole iconography and interpretations of gay fantasies and fashion. Contemporary LGBT comic artists such as American Howard Cruse and Spanish Sebas Martín are also invited as guests of honour in Helsinki during the festival.
© Tom of Finland
This year’s guests include Anne Elizabeth Moore (USA), Philip Schaufelberger (Switzerland), Olivier Kugler (Germany) and the Finnish comics artists Tiitu Takalo, Kati Kovács, and Emmi Valve. Each year, one Finnish comic artist is also invited to design the look of the festival and this year’s festival artist is Joonas Rinta-Kanto who’s known for his Fok_It! comic strips.
The festival is held in the city centre at the Lasipalatsi Square. Additional stages and venues are also located close to the heart of the festival, and the satellite programming and exhibitions are spread out all over Helsinki. The programme of the festival contains for a comics market, Small Press Heaven, artists, exhibitions, discussions, presentations, interviews, live drawing performances, competitions, animation, kids’ events, and clubs. Also, there will be street food, a new café and music stage. This year, the festival is going to be more digital and comics will be readable online during the festival. Plus, there’s a record-amount of exhibitions, guests and programme for the whole family. Apart from the clubs festival entry is free of charge. People of Finland, you definitely have an event to brag about.
From Irene’s answers, I get the image that this festival will give us the opportunity to see LGBT not as a serious issue to argue about, but as something to see the other side of. Other than that, this festival seems to be a great place to relax, enjoy some artworks, and have fun with your family and friends in the late summer of Finland. But then, what is exactly the targets of the festival? Finnish Comics Society wants this year’s festival to highlight minority artists as well as critical and political comics. In general, the festival wants to promote comics’ position in the cultural field of Finland. Furthermore, it also wants to support a better networking between the comic artists and publishers both in Finland and abroad.
© Howard Cruse
With such an interesting concept, I can feel that this year’s Helsinki Comics Festival is the right place to celebrate, understand, and see LGBT in different ways and style. This festival will be able to give whoever comes and experiences the festival different views toward LGBT. The much more interesting ones.
If you happen to be in Helsinki this early September, Helsinki Comics Festival definitely is a must-attend event.
They are here to give you more information about this event:
Helsinki Comics Festival http://www.sarjakuvafestivaalit.fi/in-english
Finnish Comics Society http://sarjakuvaseura.fi/fi/in-english
Comics Center http://sarjakuvakeskus.fi/in-english
Finnish Comics Info http://finnishcomics.info/
Elsa Hestriana, 2014.