Arts & Entertainment
4 min

Pride trims debt by $65k

Team plucks up professional party planners to assist

COMMON CENTS. Gordon Boissonneault has set his sights on professional party planners to fill a skills gap on the board. Credit: Pat Croteau

Capital Pride is rebuilding a financial reputation it hasn’t enjoyed for nearly 10 years. In the last 12 months, Pride’s board has reduced its crippling debt load of $198,000 to $133,000 and turned another $51,000 into long-term interest-free debts to be repaid to the city over seven to 10 years. The debts would have shrunk even more but they missed out on collecting rain insurance by a few millimeters, says chair Gordon Boissonneault.

While Boissonneault has boosted the festival’s financial reputation — he is a civil servant in the Department Of Finance, after all — it’s Pride’s partying credentials that are their weak link, he acknowledges.

To combat this, Pride has been quietly lining up a host of professional party promoters to organize their events, including longtime Capital City Boys Club promoter Doug Muir, Helsinki manager Catherine Landry, and Chicaboom’s Nicholas Brazeau.

“Pride is like a diamond in the rough. And we’re going to shine it up like Liz Taylor’s rocks,” says Landry.

After a shaky HallowQue’en party in 2006 — albeit, it was Pride’s first year organizing a Halloween fete — Pride fielded complaints about their New Year’s Eve Party, where among a host of problems, a volunteer DJ was unable to reign in her sound system. Drag queens were left with stuttering sing-along tracks and dancers with dead time between each song. The two parties were a minor financial success — each raising over $1000, according to Boissonneault — but neither had the professional polish an expert could have created.

“It’s a lesson we’ve learned: that we’ve got to go out and get people who know how to do this,” says Boissonneault.

Pride is reaching out to get help from folks like Landry. In addition to her work at Helsinki, Landry is a founder of the Holy Fuck parties, which have featured duct-tape clad women strapping on vibrators, on-site tattooing, and live pseudo–porn shoots.

She’s going to be organizing Pride week’s pre-parade Saturday night Rainbow Party. The Rainbow Party was a big hit in the ’90s but attendance gradually dwindled before Pride canned the party in favour of the disastrous Big Shiny Balls.

Meanwhile, rave organizer Nicholas Brazeau has been recruited to plan an upscale fundraiser coinciding with the opening of Pride week and The Phantom Of The Opera’s stop at the National Arts Centre.

Brazeau, a 10-year vet of the Montreal scene, is hoping to build a bridge between Montreal’s and Ottawa’s gay communities. Brazeau’s background is in innovative lighting designs; he began organizing parties when his light shows outgrew the parties he was involved with.

“What I like to do is make your wish come true — something you want, I make it happen,” he says.

As well, one of Ottawa’s most successful gay promoters, Doug Muir, has come into the fold. He says, “it’s about time” that Pride takes help from those with the experience. He’s going to be running monthly Pride Disco Sundays at Heaven, a 500-capacity three-floor nightclub that’s geared toward the straight crowd most of the time. The first Pride Disco is Apr 1, with half of the $5 cover going to Pride. The final Disco Sunday is the evening of the Parade on the last day of the festival.

“I was going to be doing something like this anyway. I approached Gord. I just called him. I said, ‘Would you like half the money at the door?’ He said ‘yes’,” says Muir.

The big bonus of working with folks like Muir is that the Pride committee doesn’t have to deal with party planning — and overhead costs. That’s going to be especially important for Pride this year because their cash is pretty tied up.

“It costs about $45 grand for the fencing, the insurance, the police — all that stuff we can’t really play with, that’s sort of the bottom line,” explains Boissonneault.

Add a modest amount for entertainment and debt reduction and the total quickly climbs to $85,000. To raise that money, Pride depends on revenues from the week’s events, plus a dozen fundraisers throughout the year, including Brazeau’s Phantom party, Muir’s Disco Sundays, and The Swirl & Twirl wine tasting, their single most profitable evening.

As well, a $30,000 city grant is going to be crucial in order to throw quality events, he says.

In February, the City Of Ottawa approved a $1.5-million increase in municipal funding to arts and culture, with about half that money allocated to festivals. Ottawa’s most visible gay festival has been the victim of a financial pinch which usually sees a half-dozen big festival players swallow the lion’s share of cash, leaving a pittance — $1000 last year — for Pride.

“A lot is riding on that grant. They told us we should know mid-March. We were told that our current application looks really strong, so we’ll see,” says Boissonneault.

In the meantime, the Pride committee will be doing what it can. They’re planning a $5 festival entrance fee again, hoping to rake in $25,000 for access to the daytime after-parade party. Also, he’s hoping voluntary restructuring — where a creditor takes 25 cents now for a dollar of debt that could be years away from being repaid — will appeal to more of the people Pride owes money to.

“The big ones were the voluntary restructuring, we approached all of our creditors and asked them to restructure. A good chunk of them did. Not everybody did. That wiped out about $25,000.”

At last October’s Annual General Meeting, the final numbers from 2006 weren’t available — they were waiting on news of $20,000 of rain insurance. In the end, they didn’t get the insurance cash. (Anyone at the Parade could tell you it was raining, but the measurements of precipitation were taken at the airport, 15 km away.)

Pride expects to announce a Special General Meeting this spring, where they will present their audited financials and, Boissonneault hopes, fill out their board, which has three vacancies. They’re still looking for people with administrative and marketing backgrounds.