Salomé’s Safe Spaces
To celebrate Pride week in Amsterdam, we invited our friend and designer Salomé Bernhard to share the safe spaces that make her feel ‘right in her body, like being a fish in water’, and how important they are to her and her community. These havens allow the LGBTQIA+ community to articulate their identities without alienation or fragmentation, read Salomé’s personal experience with these three special spaces: Café Saarein, Vrankrijk and Skatepark NOORD.
My name is Salomé Bernhard, I’m a designer and illustrator based in Amsterdam. I’m used to going back and forth between computer work (technical 3d drawings) and handwork (power tools, CNC machine), enjoying building what I design.
My illustration work is like a diary. I enjoy drawing scenes in 3D, as close as possible to reality, paying attention to small details that make all the difference. All the scenes are represented with an isometric point of view that invites us to take a step back to contemplate and appreciate the beauty and romance in the most common scenes of our everyday life.
I’m also organizing queer as fuck parties with friends named Club Transmission and have fun playing drums in a DIY feminist post punk band called Big Pleasure.
After living 6 years in Amsterdam, I feel lucky to say that I’ve found a few safe spaces that I love. I remember struggling in the begining, not knowing where to go, going to different lesbian parties without feeling completely myself. To meet people, I joined a queer choir in 2018. It doesn’t exist anymore but there is a new beautiful one, you can check their instagram page here. That was a turning point for me. There I met a group of people with whom I have strong, and beautiful relationships still today.
Once you have found the spaces that feel right for you and where you can feel supported, accepted, loved, free, yourself, sexy, flirty… it feels right in your body, it feels like finally being a fish in water and that feeling is priceless.
My life without these spaces would be completely different. I’m talking about bars, parties, but also queer skating/climbing/football/basketball gatherings, open mics… every time that chosen family, that community comes together it’s touching, it’s needed and it feels good.
We experienced their absence during the several COVID-19 lockdowns in the city, most of these gatherings were canceled. Less gatherings in general also meant less or no gatherings at all within the BIPOC LGBTQIA+ community for a while which was difficult.
Thankfully people in the community are full of ideas and queer gatherings started to pop up everywhere in the city. I almost felt overwhelmed by the amount of possibilities we had all of a sudden (a luxurious problem). The feeling of FOMO started again!
This illustration series highlights three of my favorite safe spaces in Amsterdam. Each place is represented by a detail that refers to a memory: a regular friday night at Café Saarein, the rainbow rail at skatepark NOORD during the New Wave’s session (for women, queers, trans, non-binary only) and the table soccer at Vrankrijk on WTF Queer Wednesday nights.
Hanging out at Café Saarein
I started to go regularly to Café Saarein after the COVID-19 lockdowns. I first went there to support mainly, as there aren’t many lesbians bars in Amsterdam so me and my friends thought it’s better to go there instead of going to a random bar. I actually quickly fell in love with the people working there, the crowd and the atmosphere. It’s a place where I also feel comfortable to go alone and have a drink at the bar, talking with the regulars. It feels like being at home now, it’s special. Because it’s been open for so many years now, there are people who have been coming for the last 20 years, mixed with the people who dare to enter for the first time. I’m always quite touched witnessing this.
Tits hummus is my favorite snack there. They actually don’t call it that… but they do serve their hummus in the shape of two half circles with two olives on top of them. Friday nights at Saarein are for playing board games, drinking, and sharing gossip with your friends. You can also join a killer pool party: there is a black board on the side of the table, you can write your name down with three crosses next to it. Every time you miss pocketing a ball, you lose a cross. The goal is to be the last one with the most crosses. You have one shot each time, and it doesn’t matter if you pocket a striped or solid ball. It’s a perfect game to get to know people’s names, and avoid awkward conversations because you are doing something all together.
You can also watch the games when the female national football team is playing on a beamer there. The bar is full of people in orange shirts and the atmosphere is amazing. The queer football collective and Lez-Link-Up also started to organize open mics. It’s such a perfect safe space to dare to share a song, a poem, a drag performance and it always feels very warm, supportive and loving.
The table soccer at Vrankrijk
There is always a surprise when you go to Vrankrijk on Wednesday nights. The space is run by volunteers, you can have vegan dinner for €5, and around 22:00 there is always a performance (live music, dj, open mic, erotic poetry, burlesque…). Sometimes they also organize parties on Saturdays. It’s the first space in Amsterdam where I felt comfortable. I started to go alone there, grab a drink at the bar and play table soccer. It was so important that the table soccer was there because I used it as an ice breaker, exactly like the pool table at Café Saarein. It was a way to connect with people. You start the game by introducing yourself and shaking hands and you often end up with a nice story, a hug and sometimes the phone number of the people you played with.
If you take the blue team you end up with a broken defender who looks more like a mummy than a football player, full of tape. And because the floor is not level, playing with the blue team can feel like swimming against the current. But it’s part of the charm. After visiting a few times alone, it became a regular destination for me. After a while you get to know the regular crowd, the new faces, the volunteers. They were closed for more than two years (during the pandemic), I missed it a lot. I’m going now more than ever, it’s a weekly appointment with my friends, to go at least for dinner and check what the night has to offer. I feel I can be myself there, and I also enjoy seeing other people daring to be themselves too, it’s beautiful.
Skateboarding with New Wave at skate park NOORD
The New Wave sessions are so important. I heard about them thanks to the Queer Skating Club Amsterdam . It was one of the few queer gatherings we had last (2021) summer. I went there quite shy with my teenage board. There were only a few people skateboarding, most of the people were roller skating, but we quickly gathered and started to do some tricks together. In a few hours I learned four new tricks…it felt amazing. People suggested that I join the New Wave session every other Thursday in skate park NOORD . I had never dared to go to a skate park before. These sessions are only for women, queers, non-binary and trans people, which makes you feel safer and welcome in the skate park. Skateboarding is such a male dominated sport that I never felt very welcomed as a woman. It’s stupid but as a beginner I do loose all my confidence and I don’t feel good if I’m in a skate park full of only men. I slided on that rainbow rail the first time I joined these sessions. People were in line trying to slide on it, encouraging each other. It felt so empowering. It changes so much to skate with a group of people that are supporting you. You dare to try stuff you would have never done alone. People give advice and tips to each other. It’s such a nice place to be.