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First-ever BC Prides Summit held

"We heard the aspect of networking loud and clear": Coolen

Back row (left to right) Warren Becker (Edmonton Pride), Bernard Leclair (VPS), Derek Trudel (Pride Prince George), George Durocher (Salt Spring Pride). Front row: Ron Dutton (BC Gay and Lesbian Archives), Valentine Crawford (Pride Prince George) Credit: Sarah Roberts

“As individual groups we’re small lights, but as a collective we get brighter” is one delegate’s description of the bonds formed at the first-ever BC Prides Summit.

The landmark gathering of the province’s Pride organizations is now set to become an annual event, according to the Vancouver Pride Society (VPS), which hosted the inaugural conference from March 11 to 13 at the Holiday Inn on Howe St.

The VPS stepped into a mentoring role to share practical guidance with smaller Pride groups on fundraising, insurance, volunteers, entertainment, archiving and human rights.

The 40-strong audience included representatives from Prince George, Salt Spring Island, New Westminster, Dawson Creek, Vancouver Island, Whistler and the Okanagan, as well as Alberta.

Vancouver Pride president Ken Coolen believes the summit achieved its goal of “keeping in touch with the grassroots of Pride.”

“It gives us the opportunity to take resources and things we have learned over the years and share those with newer Pride organizations of various sizes,” Coolen said.

“This was as much a benefit to Vancouver Pride as it was to the regional Prides because it allowed us to connect to so many people and continue to give back to the broader Pride community on a larger level.”

During the interactive sessions, delegates expressed the need for more communication and sharing of contacts between groups.

“This summit speaks to the genuine desire to connect with and support each other,” Island Central Pride chair Bill Swales told Xtra. “We’ll have more clout, more power and more ability to move forward and create momentum.”

Finances and volunteers are key issues for Swales’ group, based in Vancouver Island’s Comox Valley, as it prepares for Pride events in August.

“This year we’re adding a Pride committee and hopefully taking it to the next level,” he said. “Hearing what everybody else is doing — the successes and the challenges — is really important in terms of developing our own strategy and remembering the vision.”

In the opening presentation, Vancouver Pride sponsorship coordinator Caryl Dolinko shared techniques for attracting donations: “Ask regularly, ask often and ask by name.”

Insurance broker Bill Hughes discussed liability; he was followed by Qmunity executive director Jennifer Breakspear and VPS general manager Scott Blythe, who encouraged groups to appoint volunteer coordinators.

VPS board member Terry Costa suggested ways to keep entertainment affordable, such as collaborating for block bookings. “Your patrons can also be the entertainment,” he added.

BC Gay and Lesbian Archives founder Ron Dutton reminded delegates that their events are part of history and to keep records of them. “You’re going to change the fabric of your community and the vehicle for that is Pride,” he said.

In the final session, Coolen and the VPS’s Shawn Ewing and Raigen D’Angelo outlined ways to incorporate awareness of human rights and homophobia into Pride celebrations, such as a moment of silence and maps of international progress.

Issues surrounding prejudice in smaller communities resonated with the Northern Pride Centre Society, following vandalism of its centre at the University of Northern BC in Prince George.

“That’s indicative of the general attitude there,” secretary Ley Fraser told Xtra, adding that the summit had been particularly valuable for the fledgling society, which launched late last year.

“Starting out as a new centre, we don’t have any resources and we do all our own fundraising,” she said. “We’re also learning a lot about new positions. For example, we don’t have an archivist.”

Coolen said the VPS plans to distribute more information, including a list of Prides across BC.

“A lot of people don’t know there’s a Pride in Prince George or in Dawson Creek, for example,” he noted.

“We heard the aspect of networking loud and clear; people want to be able to reach out to each other.”