You’ve likely heard of Ibiza, the European paradise part of the Balearic islands of Spain, famous for its massive clubs, beautiful beaches, and circuit parties every weekend from May until October. The thought of “Ibiza” might conjure images of frat bros sporting Party With Sluts T-shirts or scarily attractive straight women in monokinis dancing by a DJ booth. But did you know that there’s a festival on the island specifically for queer women? Thanks to festival founder Carine De Mesmaeker, Ibiza is home to Velvet Ibiza, Europe’s biggest festival by and for queer women.
During the first week of May, hundreds of queer women will touch down in Ibiza for five days of DJs, pool parties, sport tournaments and more. This year will mark the 7th anniversary of Velvet Ibiza. The festival is known for its music, showcasing the hottest queer women DJs from across the globe. The lineup and activities of the festival are carefully curated by Velvet Ibiza’s founder Carine De Mesmaeker.
De Mesmaeker got her start working as a DJ in the 1980s in Brussels, Belgium. Her passion for queer nightlife quickly developed into her opening her own nightclub, The Gate, in 1999. Five years later, De Mesmaeker ditched the club for her own special event, Velvet Sixty Nine. The Brussels-based party is hosted four times a year, attracting up to 1,000 women. De Mesmaeker’s success in Brussels gave her the impetus to go global. In 2015, De Mesmaeker started Velvet Ibiza, the island’s first festival for queer women.
Over the last 7 years, Velvet Ibiza has quickly become a hotspot for queer women across the globe. The festival offers the opportunity to escape our monotonous routines and build relationships across generations, cultural backgrounds, and borders. Tired of running into your ex at Dinah? This five-day lesbian party draws an international crowd, with LGBTQ+ women traveling from all over the globe for one big celebration.
Sure, there are the requisite bikini babes and EDM, however, partying is just one aspect of the festival. Velvet Ibiza offers an inclusive social space with a variety of activities that appeal to diverse attendees. Think of it more as a summer camp for queer women, 5 days and 5 nights curated with the hope of creating memories and building an international community of queer women.
“There’s a lot of diversity in attendees,” De Mesmaeker tells GO. “We have women in their 20s to women over 70 years-old.” The festival boasts bookings from the United States, Germany, Belgium, Spain, Russia, Morocco, France, South Africa, Italy, Australia, Slovenia, Finland, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Luxembourg, Mexico, the Netherlands and more.
“A great community has formed through the festival. There’s a base of people who return every year and it becomes like family,” says De Mesmaeker.
The most important goal of the festival is to create more social spaces for queer women. De Mesmaeker recognizes the need for transnational spaces in that they give opportunities for women to connect and be happily out in a setting unconstrained by heteronormativity.
“Of course, we’ve won rights to marriage in many parts of the world,” she says. “But there’s undoubtedly still a shortage of social spaces.” Because of that, she says, the festival isn’t just a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but a critical and joyful way for queer women to take us space in the world, to cut loose and have fun in a safe environment.
With her extensive experience in organizing parties, De Mesmaeker hopes to create an unforgettable experience for attendees, many of who traveled from the U.S.
“I slightly follow the experience of Tomorrowland,” she says, of the biggest festival hosted in Belgium. “When you arrive there, they give you an experience. I want[ed] to create that.”
Velvet Ibiza takes place in a resort overlooking the beach at the east end of the island. Attendees stay in bungalows that surround the pool where the majority of the activities take place. Guests can start their day with an outdoor yoga class overlooking the ocean and DJs begin mixing by the pool early afternoon. Resort activities like water polo or beach volleyball also commence. De Mesmaeker knows the Velvet experience is transformative precisely because of the activities that encourage guests to mingle and create long-lasting memories (and possible romances).
“I’ve created a couple of my own activities like the famous Duck Race, where everyone competes to win a bungalow for the following year. And of course, we have a Las Vegas-inspired wedding chapel so everyone can go home with a marriage certificate.”
This year the festival will also host DJ workshops for guests interested in learning the basics, as well as a number of other activities from sea kayaking to hiking, which allows women to create their own experience and see what Ibiza itself has to offer.
In the evening, the festival moves to a local club exclusive to Velvet attendees where women dance into the night. The festival takes pride in its impressive lineup of DJs, featuring some of the most talented and respected queer women in the industry. Some of the top DJs on the lineup at Velvet Ibiza this year include DJ Lady Chus, DJ KASPA, and Jennifer Cooke.
On an island that’s arguably otherwise dominated by commercial parties for straight people, and festivals that have massive budgets and production costs, successfully creating a space for queer women in Ibiza is huge.
“I think it’s been hard for us as queer women to take up public space,” De Mesmaeker says. “For that, I wanted to carve out some space for us on the island.”
She says Velvet Ibiza is all about inclusivity and creating unforgettable memories, camaraderie, and unbreakable bonds that last a lifetime. It is a magical place where attendees can let loose, enjoy amazing music and entertainment, and be surrounded by a supportive community that has fought long and hard to be able to establish a space in Ibiza for our community.
Few events for us offer a beautiful island vacation, water sports, a music festival, and the promise of cute women in swimsuits from around the globe. In all, Velvet Ibiza is more than just a festival, De Mesmaeker promises. It is a life-changing opportunity that celebrates the diversity, community, and power of queer women.
Velvet Ibiza will take place in Ibiza, Spain, on May 2-7. For bookings or more information about the festival visit Velvet Ibiza.
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