Connie Walden, a first-year Literary and Cultural Analysis student at the UvA, has done what many other students have not even considered attempting. She has undertaken the task of organizing an open mic event! So, I sat down with Connie to talk about herself and the event she is organizing – “Transrijk” – at Vrankrijk which takes place on November 9th.
After taking a seat, ordering a glass of wine, an Oedipus beer, and discussing the various new assignments we are required to submit, the interview took full swing. With many conversations about activism, the importance of communities, and New York City, we overtook the roaring of cars and motorbikes and flew through an hour of talking about anything and everything.
Could you tell me a bit more about the open mic?
So, I am hosting an open mic at Vrankrijk, a former squatted budling, turned community center next to the PC Hoofthuis; with an event called “Transkrijk”. It is an open mic for Trans and Non-Binary performers, or anyone at all in a gender-expansive way, to come on stage and share whatever they want to share in five minutes. It can be music, a dance, a drag performance, a cover of a song/original song, poetry, or the latest chapter of their novel; they can dunk slim on themselves if they want to. Anything they want, five minutes is theirs.
Have you organized such occasions before, since you’ve mentioned that you have helped out at events in Brooklyn?
I specifically have never actually hosted an open mic myself before, although I used to work at a space where I would have to set up and teardown events. I used to work at a bookstore called “Bluestockings” in New York, which is this Queer, Feminist bookstore, run and owned by sex workers. Because I would often be the only person working there, I would oversee that the events happened, although I wouldn’t be the one running the events myself.
Have they influenced this bigger event that you are now organizing?
In recent years, in New York specifically, there has been a sudden explosion of new events for Trans people to basically find community and share a space with each other, and perform with, and for each other. I am mostly modeling this event off of an event in Brooklyn called ‘Gender Experts Party’. It’s really lovely seeing this Trans-literary renaissance – this bohemia – that is being formed in Brooklyn and New York. So, when I came to Amsterdam I did a lot of research, beforehand, to see if there was anything like that around, and there isn’t nearly as much. So, I asked for advice from this phenomenal person – Octavia Leona Kohner – who used to organize and host many events in Brooklyn, on how to find such events, and she said just organize it yourself.
Since you speak so fondly of Octavia, I was wondering whether there was anyone specific that inspired you to organize the open mic?
Oh, definitely Octavia! She’s one of the funniest people I know. Also, my friend Cat Fitzpatrick, who is the founder of a publishing house in Brooklyn called “Little Post Press”, which is owned and run by Trans Women. So that was a big inspiration for me as well, just seeing this new publishing house erupt.
Have you ever participated in any open mics yourself?
Plenty of times! I remember the first dozen or two dozen times I performed an open mic, I was super anxious and really wanted to look cool and impress people. But, you know, as time has gone by and I perform, either poetry or a song, I find that I am more absorbed and more of a warmth to the people that are listening. It has definitely changed a lot. There isn’t as much pressure anymore, just me getting to be fun and creative in front of people.
And how is the experience, since I, personally, have yet to take part in one?
Well, it makes me feel good, but it also feels like I am contributing towards something. On some individualistic level, sure, what you are doing is that you’re performing for yourself. But, on the other hand, there is a big value in performing as part of a community and making your art be in service of the community. In the course of performing and setting up events, you start to realize that it’s not just personally gratifying, but it’s also helpful and draws people out! You start seeing how Queer artists take space, which encourages me to take space.
Since you mentioned music earlier, do you have any bigger projects in the works, if you would like to share of course?
I’m not really working on anything musically right now, but I am working on a few essays; one is about Nevada by Imogen Binnie (2013), which is this modern classic Trans novel. I might also perform sometimes if I can, but musically no, not really. The concept of a project for me, musically, is weird. I just have a cup of creative energy, and it has to fill up really slowly before it’s ready to pour; just pulling different observations and ideas.
What do you hope people take out of this event?
That more events like these happen! I don’t want to be the only one. I don’t want it to just be me doing this, and I don’t want it to be a one-time thing. I want to see more, especially Trans-Non-Binary specifically centered events and occurrences because even back home in New York there is not enough of this. There should be a lot more! I want to see messy shit. I want to see people be messy and be themselves in all the fun, horrible, and hilarious ways it is to be Trans.
And last question… do you already have people performing and how can people sign up?
Oh, I have no idea. Sign-ups are half an hour before, so I’m not going to reserve spots for people, it’s just going to be whoever shows up, it’s part of the community thing. You gotta show up! Just come and do stuff!
So, if you have the time, do show up at Vrankrijk in support of a phenomenal Trans and Non-Binary open mic event on November 9th at 21:00. Because, as Connie so energetically stated, “you gotta show up!”