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Pride Toronto to wheel out the big names

New media, indie acts and history to round out the festivities

Credit: (RJ Martin)

With Pridefestivites set to blast off Jun 15, Pride Toronto is gearing up for a celebration that will expand into new territory and media and welcome big-name musical headliners.

More than 130 artists will perform during the three-day festival in Toronto’s Church and Wellesley neighbourhood that caps off Pride Week. This year’s acts include the indie favourite the Indigo Girls, gay anthem icon Martha Walsh of the Weathergirls, mod-darling DJ Lady Miss Kier of Dee-lite and raunchy New York City rapper Cazwell.

“It’s always great to have a big name,” says Lenore MacAdam, co-chair of the Pride Toronto board of directors. “People get excited about it and we’re excited to work with them, but it’s not all about the headliners. It’s great to have the music come from the community.”

Some of this year’s acts, including the Indigo Girls, will play on a massive new stage sponsored by TD Canada Trust across from Wellesley Station. The Wellesley stage will be the largest of all, with an audience capacity of more than 3,000.

But Pride isn’t just about music, says MacAdam. There are also plans for video art installations at Spin Gallery, on the Pride video screen at Church and Hayden and on TV monitors at selected TTC subway stops.

Also presented on the Pride video screen will be Pride And Remembrance, a series of short documentaries by filmmaker Nancy Nicol, about the history of queer liberation in Toronto and sponsored by Xtra.

For the lettered brain Pride Toronto launches a new partnership with Word On The Street this year. Queer authors Sky Gilbert and Wayson Choy and motivational swimmer Mark Tewksbury will be among those reading from their recent books under the Proud Voices banner on the north stage Sat, Jun 23.

Also on the literary front, spoken-word artists will spar for three rounds in the Pride Poetry Slam on Tue, Jun 19 at the Now Lounge. At stake are cash prizes and the chance to perform at the YoYo ‘Mo hip-hop stage Fri, Jun 22.

“It’s an expansion of our arts and cultural repertoire,” says MacAdam. “There are lots of different ways to celebrate a community.”

Queer women of all genders will also enjoy the second annual Libido fundraiser party for the Dyke March committee. Festivities will include a performance by Bitch, a burlesque show, dance party, drag kings, spoken-word artists, and a kissing booth to raise funds for the Toronto Women Bathhouse Committee. The party is set for Thu, Jun 21 at the Gladstone Hotel.

Pride will also continue its international theme this year, welcoming Rosanna Flamer-Caldera as international grand martial. Flamer-Caldera will lead a contingent of queers from Toronto’s diverse ethnic communities celebrating queer lives throughout the ages and across cultures. Flamer-Caldera is the executive director of Equal Ground, the only mixed queer group in Sri Lanka.

With so many events and stages happening around the city, MacAdam isn’t worried about events getting lost in the shuffle but when asked what event she’s looking forward to most, she holds back.

“That’s not fair. That’s like asking a parent which child they love most,” she insists. “I guess the two events I’m always most excited about are the Dyke March and the parade. They’re the most public, most visible.”

This year’s Pride parade celebration has an operating budget of $1.4 million. Twenty percent of that comes from all three levels of government, 32 percent from corporate sponsorship and the remaining 48 percent from Pride Toronto fundraisers and fees. Pride is also supported by about 800 event volunteers who supplement the work 100 year-round volunteers.