It hardly seems like a year has passed since the last Capital Pride. The festival is back and bigger than ever, with some new faces at the helm and some exciting new events in store. On June 11, organizers announced the much-anticipated details for 2014.
This year’s theme is Free to Love, which organizers say reflects the freedoms won and enjoyed by the LGBT community in Ottawa while also representing solidarity with those throughout the world who have not yet been granted full human rights.
“I think what we really wanted to encompass with this [theme] is really looking at the state of human rights on a global level,” says Luke Smith, Capital Pride vice-chair and director of communications. “That was really shaped out of our international focus this year.”
To kick off the festival on Aug 15, organizers have partnered with the Museum of Nature to hold a Pride-themed Nature Nocturne. The Nocturne events have been gaining popularity in Ottawa, transforming the museum into a party space and offering adults the chance to check out exhibits in an atmosphere geared to grownups.
Capital Pride has also partnered with comedy club Yuk Yuk’s to offer a Comedy Cruise featuring drag queens and standup comics performing live aboard the Empress of Ottawa. Official rainbow flag raisings will take place throughout the city on Aug 18, culminating with a flag raising at city hall accompanied by remarks from Mayor Jim Watson.
Many of Pride’s best-loved events are also back, including the family-focused Picnic in the Park on Aug 19, the return of the Laugh Out Proud comedy event, which includes the Capital Pride Cruise, from Aug 21 to 23, and the Rainbow Party on Aug 21. The annual Human Rights Vigil will take place on Aug 21 and will feature transgender activist Stephanie Battaglino as guest host.
This year will see a stronger focus on family and youth-centred educational programming, including the Free to Learn lecture series. The series will include a discussion called Diversity of Gender and Sex with Youth, featuring speakers from the Ten Oaks Project who will engage with parents and educators on the issues facing gender-independent children and their families. There will also be a panel discussion on Pink Dollars, and Rainbow Summits activist Cason Crane will participate in a discussion of the progress made by the LGBT community in the world of sports.
Another new initiative this year is the addition of international film nights, presented in partnership with the Swedish, Argentine, Dutch and American embassies and the ByTowne Cinema. Throughout the month of August, international films will be screened showcasing queer culture from around the world, including To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar and Mia, an Argentine film that follows the journey of Ale, a transgender woman who must find her voice.
Smith says the educational content, which he developed in partnership with education coordinator Alexandria Nuttal, will promote discussions within the community. “What I’m looking forward to with the lecture series is having some of those uncomfortable conversations,” he says. “It creates an opportunity for some really interesting conversations.”
A perennial highlight of the festival, the Capital Pride parade, will once again make its way down Bank Street and through the Village, ending up at city hall for the Community Fair at Marion Dewar Plaza. The fair will feature a main stage produced by event planning company House of SAS showcasing the talents of queer artists including DJ Stephan Grondin, rapper Cazwell, trans recording artist Amanda Lepore, and RuPaul’s Drag Race contestant Adore Delano. A major highlight is an Ottawa edition of RuPaul’s Drag Race: Battle of the Seasons, taking place live on Aug 23.
Helen Kennedy, executive director of Egale Canada, has been announced as the parade grand marshal. She will be joined by Ten Oaks founders Holly and Julia Wagg as community-builder marshals, lifetime-achievement marshal Murray Lavigne, youth marshall Elliot Werhle and international marshal Cason Crane, as well as “out icon” Elvira Kurt.
Pride festivals across Canada this year are somewhat in the shadow of WorldPride, which happens in Toronto from June 20 to 29. But rather than compete, organizers say they’ve tried to plan a Pride that is complementary and gives those unable to travel to Toronto a chance to experience some of the magic. “I feel like Ottawa is very unique in that it has a very big family focus,” Smith says. “And for those who don’t have families, we also have RuPaul’s Drag Race here, which is absolutely fantastic. I’m very excited to see Adore Delano on the stage. That’s going to be fantastic.”