There was nothing quite like the atmosphere and festivities at the Oban Lesbian Weekend. I’ve heard people call OLW a cross between a festival and a package holiday, but that doesn’t even come close to expressing the incredible experience to be had here.
A steady stream of guests arrived at the main venue, the Argyllshire Gatherings from 4pm on the Friday, welcomed by enthusiastic friendly crew as they gathered. The event reception area had a bar, a solos corner to help those arriving alone to meet others also arriving alone, and a sober corner, for those choosing not to drink.
45% of guests came alone but no one was solo for long!
For the first few hours a couple rounds of speed mating was done as well as some other ice breaking games to encourage people to find someone they hadn’t spoken to and initiate conversation. These simple methods helped make people feel welcome, along with the plentiful crew who mingled and chatted to those looking a little lost. No one was on their own or feeling anxious for very long.
An atmosphere of understanding and care was abundant. For those that purchased buffet tickets the large multi-function hall with the feel of a re-purposed church hall gone rainbow, emphasisd by its wooden beams and decor, hosted the buffet food, which had a clearly signposted vegan section and gluten free section.
After dinner, DJ Trendy Wendy got everyone in the mood with music making people glue to the dance floor, even for those a little shy to start.
The following day, the main festivities began with a variety of three different styles of cruises. The wildlife cruise was full of enthusiastic guests regardless of the Scottish weather fleeting between blazing sun and intermittent down pours, a few had the right idea with waterproofs, but there was no stopping these lesbians enjoying the beautiful scenery and the open waters. The interesting guide information from the captian and the lucky glimpses of wildlife made everyone’s day!
There were also various different hosted meals throughout the weekend of varying budgets. Some women went to the famous, green seafood shack, Maz (OLW’s founder)’s family business, where they dined on world famous prawn sandwiches or seafood platters. The Oban Bay Hotel had fine dining options or fancy pizza’s, which some women chose to share, while they dined by the sea. The Oban Bay also catered well for our vegan and gluten free friends. Manor House provided the full high end dinner experience for 14 women a night. Everyone I spoke to agreed that the hosted meals were a great way to meet new friends over dinner.
Saturday ended with one of the highlights of the festival, a Scottish ceilidh, which I’ve been told is the only ceilidh worldwide to be held specifically for LGBTQ+ women and non-binary people. The atmosphere was electrified with the spinning and dancing of the ceilidh, whilst those familiar guided the unfamiliar and it didn’t matter if you got it wrong, just make it up as you go, as long as you were having a good time dancing to a mix of traditional and modern ceilidh music. The ceilidh band adapted well to the room ensuring the guests had a good chance of getting the dance moves before each dance began. The joy and fun in the room was catching.
Sunday had a variety of workshops including a talk and viewing of Rebel Dykes film, and a book workshop, with a reading from Wendy Hewlett’s “Witches & Whiskey” novel. The more adventurous guests took a beautiful hike along the Island of Kerrera, to enjoy the tranquil scenery, stopping for a well deserved cuppa at the incredibly unique tea rooms, before exploring the Gylen castle ruins and the breathtaking views.
Wiild swimmers even braved the adventurous waves of the enclosed rocky bay, with first aid trained crew there for safety. Kerrera is a beautiful escape from our modern busy lives, worth every step and easily a beautiful day trip.
OLW crew also ran a complementary taxi service from the centre of Oban to the Kerrera Ferry terminal, which was appreciated by those of us with disabilities or who were tired after our hike.
Sunday evening ended with another lively party courtesy of DJ Sandra D and her performer wife, Alabaster Queen. They enticed those tired legs onto the dance floor for one last hooray before we parted ways on Monday morning. Sunday night also hosted the raffle, where OLW fundraised to support local mental health charity, Argyll Wellbeing Hub and Leap Sports.
For the long weekend Oban became home to a festival of friendly, enthusiastic lesbians, enjoying one another’s company and feeling safe to be entirely who they are and accepted. Bonds and connections were made that transcend the weekend’s festivities. The atmosphere of validation and unity was not quite like any other I’ve experienced.
My personal advice to any one anxious and worried about going to Oban Lesbian Weekend. It’s an amazing experience, the crew are understanding, many feel the same themselves and no one is left alone and anxious.
This coming from someone who has social anxiety, watched Oban Lesbian Weekend’s first year be advertised, then all the photos and activities as it happened quietly wishing I had the courage to buy myself a ticket to go!
Instead this year I threw myself right into the deep end and committed to joining the crew as a photographer for the weekend. I spent many moments terrified of what I had gotten myself in for, but the experience was undeniably worth every anxious moment I had in the run up to the event. I know reviews are not normally this personal but I wanted to reach out to all those feeling the same and reassure them. It’s worth it and you won’t be alone, you will be embraced into what can only be described as an extended family. You have to be in it to win it and I feel like I won!
For earlybird tickets for Oban Lesbian Weekend, September 13th 2024 CLICK HERE
Join the Oban Lesbian Weekend Facebook group HERE