People laughed, exchanged names, made new friends and shouted about the official rules of Uno Feb 25 at Woody’s. The evening provided a change of pace from what patrons might expect on a night out in the Village, drawing community members around a long table in a separate section of the bar to play board games.
The idea came to Eric Cashmore, a 30-year-old HIV activist, when he was trying to think of a way to bring people from all the sub-groups in the community together. “There is a lack of community events that are open to everyone,” he says. “You don’t have to be HIV-positive, trans or a certain ethnicity to join.”
He says he organized the event independently rather than through a service organization because he wants the doors to be open to everyone. He says organizations are required to describe the specific group they cater to in order to receive funding for programs, but he does not want the games night to exclude anyone who wants to join.
Between rounds of Catch Phrase, Kirra Hillier says, “We are a community, but we’re a segregated community. This is an opportunity for everyone to get out and meet different people.” Hillier, who works at the Second Cup in the Village, says Cashmore has opened the doors and made everyone in the community feel welcome to attend.
Guests were encouraged to bring their favourite games to the group’s first event, which was attended by approximately a dozen. Cashmore relied on a Facebook group and word of mouth to let people know about the event. He plans to make posters to draw a larger crowd in future.
Cashmore says Woody’s has been a great support since he pitched his idea to general manager Dean Odorico. In addition to providing the space rent-free, the bar also offered their daytime drink prices, which usually increase at 8pm on weekdays.
Initially, Cashmore proposed a two-week pilot to Woody’s, on the terms that the event would continue to run on a weekly basis if it was successful.
Odorico is excited to host the games night, however, and has decided to make it a permanent event, on Tuesday nights. “You don’t see a lot of this anymore,” he says. “This is a throwback to nicer times with face-to-face interaction.”
The board-game event takes place at Woody’s Tuesdays at 6pm. Admission is free and all are welcome to attend.