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Dyke March board doubles in size

Society 'a well-oiled machine': Trigger

RETURNING FOR ANOTHER YEAR. Dyke March and Festival Society directors Trigger (left to right), Sam Levy, Michelle Walker and Karen Ayotte will stay on the board for another year. Credit: Sarah Race

The Vancouver DYKEMarch and Festival Society (VDM) voted four new members onto its board of directors at its annual general meeting, Apr 20. All four members of the previous executive renewed their commitment to the board as well, bringing the total number of directors back up to eight.

In the weeks leading up to the annual general meeting, some community members had expressed concern that the VDM’s board of directors might be dwindling. In 2005, the board had eight directors; that number had dropped in half by the beginning of this year.

Outgoing president and VDM co-founder Michelle Walker says the board is excited by the prospect of bringing new members into the organization and feels confident they will “infuse the group with new energy and enthusiasm.”

“What the group lacked in size [in 2007], it has more than made up for in passion and commitment,” she says.

“We’re small, but we’re mighty,” says festival director Trigger. The rest of the 2007 board echoes this sentiment and voices confidence in the Vancouver event’s continued success. The Toronto Dyke March is run by only a pair of coordinators, they point out.

Staunchly devoted to the Vancouver queer community in spite of currently residing in Toronto, Walker will return to the board as this year’s vice president. Stepping into the president’s role will be Sam Levy, who brings two years experience on the board to the position.

The two plan to work together closely and share the majority of the work, but agree that it is in the best interest of the society for the president to live full-time in Vancouver.

Four-year veterans Karen Ayotte and Trigger will return to their positions of treasurer and festival director respectively.

Levy describes the board’s organizational process as “generally really organic and flexible,” and the meeting was conducted in a casual style that demonstrated the “energy, love and purpose” that is delineated in the VDM vision statement.

Joining the four returning directors are long-time community volunteers Carole Moon, Colleen Smith, and Emilia Nielsen. In addition, previous VDM board member Marlas Silvestrone returned to the organization.

These new and returning recruits will take their positions as general directors, whose responsibilities encompass volunteer coordination, promotions, and general organizational tasks divided among board members throughout the year.

Smith, Moon, and Nielsen bring an abundance of non-profit experience to the seasoned board; between them they boast previous involvement with Abbotsford Pride, A Loving Spoonful, The Centre, and the University of British Columbia’s Gender Performances Research and Reflection Group, among other volunteer organizations.

Explaining their interest in joining the board, all three spoke of wanting to give back to the community, and linked their previous experiences of the dyke march to their desire to help it run.

The VDM is “a well-oiled machine,” says Trigger, adding that organizing the dyke march and festival is a multi-year process, run best when those involved stay on for more than the event season itself.

Trigger’s report on last year’s festival emphasized the variety of talent the VDM aimed to showcase. “The younger generation was introduced to some great music and artists who have been visible and around for many, many years,” she says, “and the audience was introduced to some younger talent that’s up-and-coming.”

Financially, the society is “always in the black,” according to Ayotte. She says her mission since the VDM’s inception has been to retain enough money each year to put on the following year’s festival — even in the case of inadequate fundraising or other fiscal emergencies.

“It has always been my goal, and the goal of the board for each year,” she says, ” to have our cash situation grow a little bit from the previous year.”

The VDM’s financial report shows that organizers were able to keep costs steady in 2007 in spite of unique challenges like the civic workers’ strike and an unsuccessful venue change for one of their fundraising nights.

“Park clean-up in 2007 was a bigger task before the event and our volunteers pulled together and helped us make the space clean and safe,” Levy noted in her year-end review. She and the rest of the board acknowledge that the event’s success largely rests on volunteers.

“At this point there are some people who have been volunteering for years,” says Walker.

The board reported that holding a small number of yearly fundraising events has not only reduced directorial stress, but has produced better results overall. They also highlighted the importance of their community partnerships with

Flygirl and Girlgig Productions, noting that their per-head donations helped compensate for lost revenues when multiple dyke-oriented events were held on the same night in 2007.

Organizers will meet again before their next fundraising event, and more frequently as the day of the march and festival approaches. Anyone interested in volunteering at one of the fundraisers or on the day of the march itself is encouraged to contact the board via its website.