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No new board members, no Dyke March

Board will know if event is a go by May 4

The Dyke March's Michelle Fortin said the organization wants to develop a succession plan to encourage women in the community to join the board. She hopes a younger generation of dykes will eventually take the reins in planning future events. Credit: Brittney Kwasney photo

The 8th annual Vancouver Dyke March and Festival will go ahead only if more people join its board of directors, event organizers say.

The Dyke March Society, Vancouver Pride and an estimated 50 people gathered at the WISE Hall on April 27 to brainstorm about what, if anything, could be done to save the only women-focused Pride event, held annually in East Vancouver.

“We have a decision to make as a board in terms of how to move forward with the event this year,” said Dyke March director Michelle Fortin. She urged concerned community members to volunteer their time to the event, become board members or donate funds to keep it going. Scraps of paper were handed out accompanying a request for people to jot down their contact information if they were interested in joining the board and were told that organizers would follow up.

Fortin said six or more new board members are needed to join the existing board for the event to proceed this year. If the numbers aren’t there, the Dyke March board would commit to staging an event in 2012, she assured.

Fortin said there will still be some kind of women-focused event, like a dyke walk, organized for the 2011 Pride weekend.

“You have a board that really wants to put on a festival; this is something we love,” Fortin added.

It was “really heartening” to see the number of people who showed up to help save the march, considering that the only people to attend the Dyke March Society’s Feb 19 AGM were a few board members, she noted.

“What we want to do is develop a succession plan to encourage other women in the community [to join],” Fortin explained.

She hopes a younger generation of dykes will take the reins in planning future events.

While most participants seemed keen about helping to save the march, others wondered what commitment to the board meant in terms of time. One town hall participant questioned the energy of the existing board.

“I think the bottom line is that the board is tired,” said Kona, who organizes many popular dyke-centred events in the community.

Fortin agreed. “The board is tired, because there’s not a lot of involvement from the community.¬†We don’t have anyone under the age of 30,” Fortin pointed out.

“I want to get involved,” 29-year old Grace Hiebert said. “They want young, excited energy, and that’s what I’m about.”

The Dyke March needs a shot in the arm, she added, suggesting that the event should be more like a carnival with street acts to “inject new life into it.”

It could take a cue from the downtown Pride parade with its flamboyancy and energy, Hiebert said.

“We cannot lose the Dyke March,” declared Marigold Rondeau, who has attended the event for the past six years. “It’s important to have women events and family events and something on the Drive.”

“I think the Dyke March is extremely important to the broader queer movement,” added lesbian city Councillor Ellen Woodsworth, who also attended the town hall. “It claims Commercial Drive and it says that there are dykes doing this and making a statement about what it means to be queer and be a woman.”

During the town hall, participants came up with ideas for generating funds, talked about their visions for what an ideal event would look like, and proposed making greater use of social media tools like Facebook and Twitter to spread information and generate interest in the event.

Fortin said the board is confident the city would still come through with grant money for an event this year. She also noted that the Pride Society had offered fundraising assistance.

Organizers said they’d know by May 4 if the march and festival would take place. The next board meeting is scheduled for May 12.