1 min

Off with a bang

Stonewall festival mixes politics and partying

Credit: Kevin Teneycke

The Stonewall celebration came roaring back to life in Vancouver the Jun 25-27 weekend after years of dormancy. And in the process, it set new precedents and records-not the least of which drew hundreds to city hall.

After years of neglect-or, worse, adversarialism-emanating from the municipal centre, queers were invited in the front door Jun 25. And 14 of our activist leaders, mostly drawn from the 1970s and 1980s, sat in councillor’s seats and regaled the audience with tales of the early years of Vancouver’s gay and lesbian movement.

In the end, the importance of individual recollections-interesting as most were-was outweighed by the very breakthrough of the event itself: city councillors Ellen Woodsworth (the first out lesbian city councillor in Canada) and Tim Stevenson inviting our community into the bowels of civic power. And then paying homage to our pioneers, our history, our emerging political strength and personal freedom-while Queen Elizabeth II (aka Bill Monroe) presided in the Mayor’s chair.

“This city hall is your city hall,” said Stevenson. “Many of you, many of us, have fought city hall. For a long time. And now that has changed.”

And Woodsworth reminded people that the Canadian government legalized some gay sex two months before the riots in New York. The move “rippled down in New York and throughout the world.”

MP Hedy Fry brought a message from the Prime Minister. Canadians “embrace the principles of tolerance, fairness and compassion while abandoning prejudice,” wrote Paul Martin, three days before the election.

Saturday saw the revival of a Stonewall Festival in Grandview Park for the first time in six years. Though attendance was sparse, participants told Xtra West they hoped to see it grow year by year as Vancouver Pride Society better gets the word out. That evening, an “era dance” at the WISE Hall proved popular, especially the belly dancers.

And Sunday’s tea party at the Scotiabank Dance Centre (officially named Appreciation: Honouring Our Elders) featured the Glass and Stained Glass choirs.