Just a Little Lovin’ 2012 – A larp about aids in the 80’s

Just a Little Lovin 2012 - Men walking

“1982: It was the summer AIDS came to New York City” Photo: Karin Ryding

Just a Little Lovin’ is a larp about friendship, desire and fear of death. It tells the story about a group in or close to the New York gay community during the early 80’s and the impact of the HIV-virus.

A larp about friendship, desire and the fear of death

In June 2012 I produced Just a Little Lovin in Stockholm together with Anna-Karin Linder and Miriam Lundqvist trough Lajvverkstaden. The Norwegian designers who also ran the game in Oslo during 2011, Hanne Grasmo and Tor Kjetil Edland was co-producing. The larp had 60 participants from 9 countries.

Just a Little Lovin' - Crazy in 1982

Partying like it’s 1982.

Just a Little Lovin‘ tells the story about two groups of friends celebrating the 4th of July during the early 80’s in the midst of the upcoming HIV-crisis. One group is a big circle of friends in the gay community and the other group consists of cancer survivors and their close ones. Main themes are HIV, the LGBT-scene and alternative America during that era. The larp consisted of three acts. Each act took place during an annual 4th of July celebration and covered one year in the 1980’s

I am very humble to have had the opportunity to work with Hanne and Tor Kjetil and that they took their fantastic larp to Sweden. They are probably among the top larp designers in the world. I am also glad that I went on this journey together with Miriam and Anna-Karin from LajvVerkstaden for the amount of work they’ve put in, and being able to have their truly amazing skillsets in this production.

– All participants will experience the three main themes of the larp; desire, friendship & fear of death.

– The organisers shall make the participants feel safe enough to step outside their comfort zone, both as larpers and as human beings (…)

Just a Little Lovin’ – Vision

Just a Little Lovin - Flag

Every day the star was hailed to the Star Spangled Banner. Photo: Karin Ryding

Designer thoughts

I asked the Norwegian designers three questions each:
Why did you organize a larp about AIDS in New York set in the 80’s?
Why did you use the themes desire, friendship and fear of death?
Any other thoughts about why you organized the larp?

Hanne Grasmo
This is the only epidemic disease in our lifetime that put up a mirror of sudden death for our generation, and at the same time links death to desire. We wanted to frame our story in the special 80ies gay environment in NYC, to lift these two themes and combines them with friendship. Also because the party culture of that time was ecstatic, and our story is about how Death suddenly arrives in the middle of the party.

Even if the story is from the 80’s we wanted to say something about our own life, our fears, what we long for and how we get along when a crisis appear. We picked the most crucial emotions of our culture/circle of friends and blew them up with the backdrop of AIDS. Another reason was that we wanted to explore how we could use sexuality as a tool and engine to tell stories of other emotions than horniness, because we know how strong feelings and insights sexuality might bring.

We wanted to make a gay/queer larp to battle the heteronormative larp culture, and to highlight the most important event in modern gay history. And we made it because we love to work together and make people feel and think and experience events that create big impact.

Just a Little Lovin' - Hank the janitor

Hanne Grasmo, designer of Just a Little Lovin’ as the character Hank the janitor.

Tor Kjetil Edland
We wanted to organize a larp about the arrival of AIDS in the Western world because we felt that this was a disaster of magnitude seldomly experienced in the rich world today. It hit a section of society that was often branded as “other” by mainstream society and seen as a problem of that group and not of society as a whole. And after the arrival of anti-retroviral medicines this epidemic has receeded from public consciuosness. Another factor was that the type of crowd we depict in the game is not so far removed from our own. If this had happened today it could have been us and our friends.

These themes are pretty fundamental to the human condition and we assumed they were relatable for all the participants. We also wanted to investigate them as linked themes, not seperately – death that arrives in the middle of the party.

We also wanted to do a larp with a majority of gay characters as that hadn’t been done before. Several queer/ play with gender larps have been done in the Nordic tradition , but not an expressively gay one.

Just a Little Lovin - TK

Tor Kjetil Edland, designes of Just a Little Lovin’ as the character, Tony who was a well known DJ

Player thoughts

For me, this game was really powerful. I spent a few days as the butch dyke and cancer survivor Sam. The play I had about friendship, desire and the fear of death really moved me. And made me think. I laughed, I loved, and I cried during the game. I loved it.
Elin Dalstål 2012-06-16

I still can’t decide if it’s madness, emotional vampirism, or the most awesome thing I have ever participated in.
Mikolaj Habryn 2012-06-15

JALL succeeded to bee not just an artsy larp but also a persuasive game. This was probably my best larp experience ever – heartbreaking, mind-opening, and life-changing. Larps may not change the world directly, but they can surely change people.
Annika Waern 2012-06-16

Just a Little Lovin - Barbeque

4th of July celebration in 1984.

News articles

Leve lajvet (Swedish)
(Long live the larp – English with Google translate)
Josefine Pehrson – Svenska Dagbladet

Leka med döden (Swedish)
(Playing with Death – English with Google translate)
Emil Åkero – Kom Ut (Published by the The Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights)

HIV, kärlek, axelvaddar och bleed (Swedish)
(HIV, love, shoulder pads and bleed – English with Google translate)
Josefin Westborg – Inlajv

Lajv på blodigt allvar (Swedish, about the 2011 run)
(Dead serious larp – English with Google translate)
Johanna Koljonen – Fokus

Leve lajv - Article in Svenska Dagbladet

Blog posts

Just a Little Lovin’ 2012 – Game report
Elin Dalstål in Gaming as Women

Just a Little Lovin’ and techniques for telling stories in larp
Game researcher Annika Waern

Reflections on the experience as a first time larper
Mikolaj Habryn

Just a Little Loving, larp event report
Just a Little Loving, play report
Nathan Hook

Other articles

In the book States of Play, published for the larp conference Solmukohta 2012 both the articles “It is about Time” by Eleanor Saitta” about the construction of time in the game and “Larp and Aesthetic Responsibility” by Tova Gerge, which described the debate in the culture section of Expressen previous to the first run of the game in 2011.

You can download the book as a pdf on the Nordic Larp Wiki.

Just a Little Lovin 2012 - Flyer

The flyer for Just a Little Lovin 2012

HIV in Sweden

The Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights this year pushed a campaign as well as the blog Hiv 30 år i Sverige (Hiv 30 years in Sweden – English with Google translate) to inform about the history about what happened as well in Sweden as in the rest of the world. And also to open up discussion about prejudice and strange laws that still exists today.

The author Jonas Gardell also released the first book in a trilogy as well as the drama series connected to the book called Torka aldrig tårar utan handskar (Newer wipe your tears without gloves). The book and tv-series portrays the situation for young Swedes in the 80’s when aids hit Stockholm.

Det var som ett krig som utspelades i fredstid. Och det var de som älskade mest. De av kärlek besatta. Det var dem som frosten tog.

It was like a war in peace time. And it was the ones who loved the most. De ones obsessed with love. They where the ones, taken by the frost.

It is still available to watch on SVT-play for a couple of weeks. Don’t miss that oppurtunity. It is probably one of the most well made series I have seen in long while. As well as one of the most important. As Gardell puts it: “If your not emotionally moved by these destinies you are made of stone”.

Torka aldrig tårar utan handskar

Torka aldrig tårar utan handskar – The TV-series by Jonas Gardell

Closing words

And all of the participants who came, loved, lost, partied like it was 1982-3-and-4… and who made it all possible by great effort and also by challenging their own comfort zones.

This I will take on with me in so many ways.

Just a Little Lovin - Petter

Myself as the character Reginald, the naive young broadway dancer, in 1984.


One more thing, Just a Little Lovin’ will be held 5-10 August 2013 in Denmark.

6 thoughts on “Just a Little Lovin’ 2012 – A larp about aids in the 80’s

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