A year ago, Xtra reported that Pride Cornwall 2009 had been cancelled due to a host of logistical and financial problems.
In the year since, shifts have taken place in the makeup of the governing board and its approach to the annual event, which happens on Labour Day weekend. Longtime Pride Cornwall organizer Paul Aubin agreed to talk to Xtra about the state of things heading into the 2010 Pride season.
“We were pretty much on the verge of collapsing about a year ago, but there was a local, grassroots initiative to try to save the organization. That was very encouraging. A number of people came forward to offer their services… and we ended up electing a new [board] in October of last year,” says Aubin, who has been one of the key organizers of Pride Cornwall since the event’s inception in 2005.
Unlike most Pride committees across the country, Pride Cornwall’s board now consists mostly of volunteers in their 20s — something that 41-year-old Aubin finds inspiring. With a new board in place, the organization began to host fundraising events in late 2009 in the hopes of bringing Pride back to the city.
The good news? Pride Cornwall 2010 is happening — if on a smaller scale. Organizers plan to put on a gala and silent auction on the Saturday of Labour Day weekend, which will act as both a celebration of the community and a major fundraiser for Pride. The one-day Pride festival that has taken place in years past is being put on hold until 2011 and, in the meantime, the board is undertaking a volunteer drive.
“That way, we have time to put this together and do things right. I’m trying to be as positive about this as possible without sounding too Pollyanna-ish,” says Aubin. “It hasn’t quite turned out as well as we’d hoped. The last few fundraisers we’ve had have been small but enthusiastic. The people who have taken part in our events have thoroughly enjoyed themselves; the events have just not been as popular as in the past. That’s the reason why we want to go a little bit smaller.”
Aubin wonders if high local unemployment and financial strain might be working against community cohesion and fundraising. He also cites apathy on the part of locals about participating in Cornwall’s gay community, the high number of closeted homos in the region and the continued exodus of gays who are fleeing to bigger cities for personal or financial reasons as possible reasons for the often-scant turnout at gay events.
“It’s a myriad of things and, over time, people’s priorities change. I think one of the reasons that we were so successful in the first few years [of putting on Pride] is that it was so new and so different. We had never had a gay Pride in Cornwall before,” says Aubin. “Now, there are more straight people coming out to our events than gay people. But it’s not unique to us — if we can take any comfort in this at all, it’s that we’re not alone.”
The Pride Cornwall board is not alone in its tenacity either. Its members plan to put everything they’ve got into this year’s fundraising efforts and get the word out far and wide to potential Pride attendees and volunteers.
“It’s just a matter of keeping our fingers crossed and hoping that people will respond,” says Aubin.