A City of Toronto official didn’t want the Church Street Fetish Fair holding demonstrations in public view.
The fair ended up moving its demonstration stage from Cawthra Square Park to the Beer Store parking lot across Church St after the city’s parks and recreation department refused to grant a permit to a stage that wasn’t completely covered by a tent.
“Screw that,” says Cam Lewis, the fair’s executive director. “I don’t believe that something as simple and as much a part of the gay culture should be back in the closet. Instead of the closet, they wanted to put us in a tent. I bet nobody else has to do that for their stage.”
Lewis says parks permit officer Jaime McCaig insisted the stage had to be completely out of view to the public and that someone had to check IDs before anyone could enter.
“If it was a live sex show I would have understood,” says Lewis, “but there was no frontal nudity, no blood, consenting adults. Walking up and down the street, you saw more stuff than would have been seen on the stage. Plus we still had our signs that said there’s an adult act going on.”
The stage was the site for demonstrations on such activities as fire play, corporal punishment, humiliation, rope bondage and mummification.
The fair, in its fifth year, held similar demonstration stages in Cawthra Square Park its first two years.
Lewis says the fair had no problems with the Beer Store or in getting permits from other city departments for the Aug 17 fair held on Church St. But he says licences for use of Cawthra Square Park have to be obtained specifically from the Parks, Forestry and Recreation department.
“It’s a community event that’s backed by the businesses in the area,” says Lewis. “It’s the only park in the area and it’s not that great a park.”
Lewis says the parks department did allow a puppy play demonstration to go ahead in the park.
“It doesn’t make any sense,” he says.
David Wootton, the coordinator of the Church Wellesley Village Business Improvement Area (CWVBIA) — which runs the fair — says he doesn’t think the parks department is homophobic.
“I understand why the Fetish Fair would feel that way, because they were refused for no real reason,” he says. “I don’t personally believe it was homophobic. We had the support of other people in Parks and Recreation but Jaime McCaig would not budge. It came down to one individual. He was the gatekeeper. Was that where the homophobia came from? I don’t know.”
McCaig did not respond to a request for an interview.
Wootton says moving the stage led to sound problems and negatively affected the attendance.
Wootton says he’s confident CWVBIA will be able to work with the parks department on other events and on next year’s Fetish Fair.
“It comes down to having information upfront,” he says. “Parks and Recreation thought it would be a four-sided tent originally. It needed to be communicated about each act on stage. Jaime McCaig built up an idea of what he personally thought it would be. Maybe it was the mention of mummification.
“I’m using the park for Halloween, for Christmas, for Nuit Blanche,” he says. “It all has to be about communication and working together. We won’t have a problem with the park anymore.”