Two years after the Vancouver Dyke March and Festival Society faced almost certain demise due to low funds and a lack of community interest, the organization seems to have reinvented itself.
The Dyke March Society, which turns 10 in 2013, now has a two-thirds full board and a plan to partner with WinterPride to co-produce women’s events for Whistler’s Gay Ski Week in February.
The partnership and fundraiser will help kick off celebrations for the “Dyke Decade,” says Dyke March president Theresa Wilson.
“As an organization we feel really comfortable about the relationship [with WinterPride], and we hope it is the first of many years,” says Dyke March treasurer Michelle Fortin.
Fortin says WinterPride co-producer Ken Coolen suggested the Dyke March organizers get involved last summer. The board jumped at the opportunity, Fortin says, and will now host two après-ski events: speed-dating and an evening of “naughty games” and karaoke.
Fortin says hosting the events will cost the organization $100 for a special event licence, $25 for each event liquor licence and many hours of volunteer time. The percentage of revenue split between the Dyke March and WinterPride has not yet been determined.
“We are thrilled with the value, passion and the excitement the Vancouver Dyke March will bring this coming season,” says Dean Nelson, executive producer of GayWhistler, which produces WinterPride.
“The festival continues to evolve year over year, and we see a greater importance in integrating key community groups into the fabric of WinterPride and giving those groups an opportunity to raise much-needed funds and awareness of their organizations,” Nelson says.
“A couple of years ago, when they were going through their struggles, I was the person who said that we really needed to work to make sure that the Dyke March and Festival happened,” Coolen says.
“I know that they had struggles, as all non-profits do over the years,” he adds.
“It’s really exciting to be able to give back to a grassroots community group,” Nelson says.
“It’s all about helping community,” he says. “If we’re able to help this organization, it helps everybody. We’re really excited about the new energy that this community organization can bring to our festival.
“This is another way of WinterPride to be inclusive,” he says. “We’re really looking forward [to] this being a new sense of rejuvenation for women’s programming at WinterPride.”
Coolen and Nelson say they’ve always marketed WinterPride as all-inclusive, but the number of women attending the event has been low in recent years.
“It’s been a challenge for us with lower attendance,” Nelson admits.
“It’s what we’ve always wanted. We just haven’t been successful,” Coolen agrees.
“Everyone has always been about the gay men, and what we really need is to make the events for everyone,” Nelson says.
For the past four years, Flygirl Productions has been contracted to host women’s events for WinterPride. Flygirl co-producer Leigh Cousins says the company is fine with GayWhistler’s decision to ask the Dyke March to produce the women’s events instead.
“We’re all still friends. There is no clandestine animosity of any sort,” Cousins says.
“The boys wanted to go a different route, and that’s why we’re not involved,” she explains. “It’s fine. It’s Ken and Dean’s festival and they have every right to go about it the way they want.”
“I think it’s a great opportunity for the VDMF,” Cousins adds. “It’s their 10-year anniversary as an organization coming up, so they need to put together some capital, and it’s a great opportunity for them to do that.”
“We really love Flygirl, but we’ve been talking more about what we can do to really give back to the community,” Coolen says.
The Dyke March Society heads into its Jan 10, 2013, annual general meeting with six of nine seats on its board filled. Organizers hope to fill all nine seats at the meeting.