DARKLANDS 2023 | Programme and schedule

The Waagnatie event hall in Antwerp will once against host Darklands, the kink and fetish festival formerly known as LeatherPride Belgium. The dates? Tuesday 7 to Tuesday 14 March 2023, with an emphasis on the weekend of Friday 10, Saturday 11 and Sunday 12 March.

So after Darklands 2022, the kink and fetish festival mostly but not exclusively geared towards gay and bisexual men returns to its March date. Colder, but also cosyer as attendees tend to spend more time on the premises.

This year’s theme is ‘Outer Space’ so expect Star Wars, Star Trek and other sci-fi references in the interior design, the names and activities. 

What is Darklands anyway?

Darklands is a festival for people with kinks and fetishes. Mostly geared towards men who have sex with men (MSM) but Darklands makes efforts to be more gender(fluid) inclusive. 

During the day Darklands is a trade fair. Shops, brands and other commercial initiatives promote their products. Think of (sex) toys, clothing and other gear. 

On several stages, there are elections such as Mr. Leather Belgium, Puppy Europe, Handler Europe, International Mr. Bootblack, International Mr. Rubber and Mr. Superhero Fetish Europe. But there are also performances, interviews and (sexual) acts. 

Puppies and handlers.

And then there are the playrooms, the play areas or the darkroom. Where people cruise and have sex. 

At night, there are huge dance parties and there is more sex. 

This sounds off-putting. I can see you grimace. Yes, it takes an open mind to attend and to enjoy. 

Inclusion

But oddly perhaps, Darklands is very friendly and gentle. Darklands is an incredible safe space where you will not be judged for who you are, what you are, what you wear, what you like or how you look. Darklands is a much safer space than many other LGBTQIA+ events where there is often judgement for being too queer or on the contrary not queer enough.

That is the magic of Darklands. And yes, you can easily attend without having sex. Consent is king. 

“Trans+ including, but not limited to, Trans males (a man who was assigned female at birth), Trans females (a female who was assigned male at birth), Non-binary (an umbrella term for people whose gender identity doesn’t fit comfortably within ‘male’ or ‘female’) etc. are more than welcome in our spaces during the daytime events”, the festival guide says on page 172.

“Our parties are designated as male-centric and are for those comfortable in a male-centric space. Therefore anyone who is encompassed within this designation is welcome to attend our parties including cis men, trans men, masc and androgynous presenting non-binary people, etc.”

“Trans women, cis women and those of other non-masculine identities are very welcome to join the Darklands daytime festival, or any of the designated mixed parties.” 

“The daytime festival is open to all. Due to the nature of the parties at night are specifically male-centric and are for those comfortable in a male-centric space. Trans women, cis women and other encompassing identities are very welcome to join any of the mixed parties offered at Fetish Café on both Friday and Saturday.”

Also, some events have sign-language interpretation. Something made possible by Red & Blue, Antwerp’s gay dance club. 

Darklands.

Safe(r) Space

“At Darklands you can be your true self”, Darklands states. “It’s a place where people learn, dance, play, talk, meet, and do so much more. But it can also be a challenge for people who are sensitive to external stimuli like sound, light, crowds.”

Darklands created a new space in the Community Tent for everyone who could use a moment of tranquillity. The Safe(r) Space gives you the chance sit and enjoy a moment of silence. In this area, you can isolate yourself from all the stimuli of the festival. Sit back and regain yourself: there’s no loud music, no flashing lights, no alcohol, no sex – just peace and quiet. 

“Our guests come to Darklands to celebrate their sexual identity and often engage in more intimate moments. But we want to be clear: Darklands is not the place for unacceptable sexual behaviour.” 

“No means no and this must be respected by all visitors. In cooperation with PUNT.VZW and Sensoa, we have established a checkpoint where you can get advice if a line is crossed for you. The checkpoint will be open during the daytime festival at the Sensoa stand. Here you will find a professional caregiver who is there to listen and help you if necessary. If the checkpoint is closed, you can always go to the first aid post for support and guidance. 

“Take care of yourself and look out for others around you. Respect everyone’s limits and always remember: No always means No!”

Health Corner

Sensoa is the Flemish expertise centre for sexual health. Besides its policy work, they also work on the field, mainly towards men who have sex with men. 

“At Darklands, we as field workers have a booth at the Community Centre where we are available during the day to inform people about sexual health and answer questions about PrEP, chemsex, MPX, HIV & STIs, testing, among others.”

On Saturday and Sunday, Sensoa will give workshops on PrEP and chemsex: be sure to register. 

We also test with Swab2Know, an HIV saliva test whose results you receive after 3 working days via a secure website. 

At our booth, there are separate areas for conversations that require more time and privacy. If necessary, we can refer you to the Safe(r) Space/ SGG hotline.  During the parties on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights, we hand out condoms, lubricant and latex gloves at the entrance to darkrooms. 

Darklands.

New in 2023

There are several novelties voor 2023.

  • The A-Stay Hotel becomes Darklands: The Hotel. It’s sold out.
  • There will be a new entrance area with the very necessary lockers called ‘The Rebel Outpost‘. A clear wink to Star Wars.
  • The former entrance area and tent is now the Community Tent with space for clubs and organisations.
  • There will be a third stage, hosted by the brand MR Riegillio, called The House of Riegillio
  • 18 new brands at the Vendor Market.
  • The Interstellar Bar.
  • The Outpost Bar.
  • The Community Bar.
  • The First Aid Base. An actual first aid area.
  • Hardplay Area in the playroom, for the harder work. 
  • The Age Play Area, hosted by ABUniverse, is there to cater to AB/DL’s. 
  • JustFor.Fans film are for ‘content creating’.
  • Showtunes Live.

17 host hotels

Seventeen hotels offer packages for Darklands.

  1. A-Stay aka Darklands: The Hotel.
  2. Astoria Hotel Antwerp.
  3. B&B Hotel Antwerp Centre.
  4. B&B Hotel Antwerp South.
  5. Hampton by Hilton Antwerp Central Station.
  6. The Ash.
  7. Ibis Antwerp Center.
  8. Ibis Budget Antwerp Central Station.
  9. Ibis Budget Antwerp Port.
  10. Hotel Indigo Antwerp City Centre.
  11. Lindner WTC & City Lounge Antwerp.
  12. Mercure Antwerp City Centre.
  13. NH Collection Antwerp Centre.
  14. Novotel Antwerp.
  15. Premier Suites Plus Antwerp.
  16. Holiday Inn Express Antwerp City North.
  17. Tryp Hotel Antwerp.

No ticket needed for ‘open bar’ Outpost Darklands

In 2022 guests were able to enjoy the outdoor bar and visitor centre next to the festival venue. In 2023 this concept will get an upgrade and, in line with the theme, be named: The Rebel Outpost.

“As we are moving back to a possibly little less warm period compared to last year, The Rebel Outpost will be moved to a new huge 1500m2 tent complex in front of the festival venue.” 

The complex will house the wristband exchange, box office and lockers so you can use your locker during a visit at The Rebel Outpost. 

The Rebel Outpost is a gathering place next to the festival which you can visit without a Darklands ticket, free of charge. It houses two bars, a food truck and a variety of activities that we will unveil in the coming months. It will be open on Wednesday from 6 – 9:30 pm. And from Thursday to Sunday daily from 10 am – 9:30 pm. 

Top or bottom?

Guests can now ask for free wristband stating if you’re top or bottom. Or both.

Citywide programme 

Festivities start on Tuesday 7 with the ‘Big Bang Party‘ at The Boots. From Wednesday 8 March there are more and more activities.

The festival proper starts on Thursday 9 with an evening session for the Day Festival and the Mayhem Party. Fusion is for Friday 10, Rage for Saturday 11, Fury for Sunday 12. On these days, there’s also the Day Festival.

Mr. B, The Boots , Club Random host different events. Amuz hosts the ‘Beyond Classic’ concert. 

Festival programme

The festival programme is filled with showcases, interview and elections. Pages 42 to 49 of the Festival Guide give you the exact schedule. The elections are on Saturday. 

Pages 52 and 53 list all the socials. Pages 54 to 59 list the masterclasses.

Next to the main stage, artist Jan Scheirs will host and exhibition

Outside 

Some activities take place in the open air.

  • Ivana’s Crazy Bus Tour on Saturday.
  • Fetish City Walk on Friday and Saturday.
  • Puppy Walk on Sunday.

Catering options

There are several catering options.

  • Main Bar.
  • Riegillio’s Trading Post Bar.
  • Interstellar Bar.
  • Riegillio Outpost Bar.
  • House of Riegillio Bar.
  • Mr-S-Leather Bar.
  • Community Bar.
  • Alpha Deck Bar.
  • Darkroom Bar.
  • House of the Heart Restaurant.
  • Take-out options.

There are ‘official dinners’ planned. See pages 66 and 67.

Chocolates for France

Darklands and chocolate company In Choc offers chocolate for French visitors. See page 86. It’s a way Darklands wants to thanks France for offering monkeypox (mpox, MPX) vaccines to MSM from Belgium, at the time when Belgian authorities and LGBTQIA+ organisations were falling short. 

Darklands.

Darklands 2023

Queer Antwerp

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