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New directions for Capital Pride

By Mer Weinhold on April 11, 2016

As winter slowly draws to a close some of us are looking ahead to warm weather and summer festivals such as Pride in August. Fierté dans la Capital(e) Pride has ambitious plans for the festival’s second year under new management, planning a wide variety of events with the aim of bringing out a range of attendees.

For those unfamiliar with the surprisingly exciting history of Ottawa’s Pride festival, it’s a complicated story. In 2014, the previous organizational group behind Pride declared bankruptcy, in part due to the festival growing astronomically in a short time (from 35,000 to 70,000 to 100,000 attendees in just 3 years). Since 2015 was to be the 30th anniversary of Pride in Ottawa, the community strongly wanted to recognize this momentous occasion.

Photo by Christine Skobe, from the Apt613 flickr pool.

Photo by Christine Skobe, from the Apt613 flickr pool.

As Capital Pride 2015 took shape, some community members were concerned that the festival excluded certain marginalized groups. They voiced these opinions to the organizers but felt that their concerns were not being addressed. This response led to the organization of a parallel Anti-Capitalist Pride, which focused on free, accessible community events and featured a more political bent.

Since 2015 was the first year for the new organizers, there were challenges in putting on a festival of the same size and quality as previous years. Time and energy were focused on making the festival happen, rather than being inclusive in every possible way. Having learned from the controversy of 2015, Fierté dans la Capital(e) Pride is hoping to make this year’s festival welcoming to a much larger portion of the queer community.

“We’ve reached out to specifically recruit people for the Board who were parts of the groups who felt excluded in 2015. We’re striving for diversity,” said Tammy Dopson, Chair of Capital Pride.

Photo by Jessica Ruano, from the Apt613 flickr pool.

Photo by Jessica Ruano, from the Apt613 flickr pool.

The lineup of events has also expanded with the goal of providing safe, welcoming spaces for more people. The ‘Fresh Zone’ is a dry (alcohol-free) stage area where youth, families and people in recovery can enjoy concerts and performances. As a result of efforts to broaden the diversity of performers who will be featured, Capital Pride was proud to announce that over half of the 90+ acts they’ve booked are made up of indigenous people, people of colour, or trans* people.

The organizers are especially excited about QueerCon, which is a new kind of event for the festival. It’s a one-day conference on August 19th about queer arts and culture, where queer writers and artists will give presentations and engage with their audiences. Leading up to the event, Capital Pride will be hosting workshops on everything from zines to cosplay.

“We’re trying something new — no one has ever done this kind of event at a Pride festival, as far as we know,” said Dopson. “It’s part of our focus on queer culture and heritage this year, based on feedback we got from 2015.”

For those of us who aren’t into traditional Pride events for whatever reason, it’s encouraging to hear about the upcoming changes. Capital Pride is aiming to offer something for everyone, and to welcome a wider variety of attendees in 2016. If you like to plan ahead, mark your calendars for August 15–21.

Fierté dans la Capital(e) Pride 2016 is currently recruiting volunteers for a variety of positions.