Flow Festival flexes its muscles with drag, opera and art

One performance not to be missed features drag queens and voguing from black and racialised queer artists.

File picture of Flow Festival 2018 / Credit: Samuli Pentti, Flow Festival

If you haven’t been to Flow Festival recently, things have changed.

The event, at a disused power station in Helsinki’s Suvilahti neighbourhood, used to be known primarily for its music and food – a rollicking good time for tens of thousands of people revelling in the feelgood hipster atmosphere of one of Finland’s biggest cultural spectacles.

These days, Flow has expanded from an already-packed three day festival and overflowed into the preceding week with appetizers of art and opera, to whet the palate for the weekend’s main course.

On the menu are international stars like Solange Knowles, The Cure, Robyn, Neneh Cherry, Tame Impala and Erykah Badu; starring alongside homegrown artists Ville Valo & Agents, Alma, Chisu and dozens more.

Drag artist Anna Konda performs in My Neck My Back / Credit: Haley Le

Diversity and representation take centre stage

Always known for showcasing unique acts Flow Festival turns the spotlight on the intersection of gender and racial identity by featuring My Neck My Back, a celebration of diversity and representation.

Two years ago Helsinki-based fashion designer, queer artist and writer Ervin Latimer got together with friends from Ruskeat Tytöt to create something special for Helsinki Pride.

What started out as a casual “Queer / Person of Color Picnic” morphed into a club night where LGBTQ+ people of colour and other minorities could perform, be paid and also be seen.

“We wanted something unapologetically black and queer that shows that there is so much non-white LGBTQ+ talent in this city and country if you just bother to look” says Latimer, who is studying towards a Master of Arts in fashion and textile at Aalto University.

Voguing competition during My Neck My Back performance / Credit: Haley Le

Messy, sweaty and gritty drag on display

Ervin Latimer’s drag alter ego Anna Konda is the host of My Neck My Back and will be introducing six other performers alongside two DJs at Flow this weekend.

The act consists of drag performances and vogue runways that melt together to be “one delicious bundle of diversity and representation”.

The “messy, sweaty and gritty” experience of My Neck My Back cannot always be planned to the very last details, and often things unfold at their own pace.

“There are no set times for performances, everything happens very fluidly and on the spot. Sometimes I’m about to introduce another drag performance, but I can’t because there is an impromptu vogue battle going on among the club attendees” Latimer tells News Now Finland.

Drag artist Anna Konda performs in My Neck My Back / Credit: Haley Le

My Neck My Back was the first event in Helsinki and Finnish Pride history to be created especially for LGBTQ+ people of colour, and performing at Flow brings the experience to a new, wider audience.

“Performing at Flow means a lot. I’m please to be a part of the diverse cast of performers thay have at Red Garden this year” says Latimer.

“I think our message and energy is so different to anything else in Helsinki that it’s going to be a lot of fun to bring that to the audience of Flow, especially considering that most people have never heard of us nor knew that something like this already exists in Finland, not just on Rupaul’s Drag Race or Paris Is Burning” says Latimer.

The wide mix of acts to hit the stage of Red Garden at Flow this weekend include sets from DJs Wekesa and Sasu Kauppi, and glitter-filled rave-ups from La Persé feat Ray Noir, and uncensored ideas expressed by Fecal Matter.

“There is nothing like our party in Finland. It’s a DJ set, it’s a drag show and it’s a vogue ball all in one. Don’t miss the blood, sweat and wigs that the dance floor will be drenched in and come see the tricks we’re going to pull from our sleeves and tucks” Latimer adds.

My Neck My Back serves tens across the board at Flow Festival’s Red Garden on Saturday night at 20:30

File picture from Flow Festival 2018 / Credit: Riikka Vaahtera, Flow Festival