The Vancouver Dyke March and Festival will go on as usual this Pride, despite a dwindling board and no city funding.
“Our Dyke March will absolutely be going on,” says the society’s president, Michelle Fortin. “Even though we’re small, we’re going to be mighty!”
Fortin describes the past few months as “fun but challenging” as four board members left the organization’s seven-member board, most for career and personal reasons. One board member, Danielle Macdonell, died suddenly in March.
Fortin says the Dyke March contacted the City of Vancouver about this year’s event, but the short-handed board didn’t get around to applying for the $5,000 city grant. The society is now down to $6,700 in the bank — $2,000 less than it had this time last year.
“I think we’ll be fine,” Fortin says. “We did a Diva’s Den [fundraiser] and it was successful, and we also managed last year to save a little bit of money because we didn’t have a beer garden.”
Not hosting a beer garden last year saved the Dyke March money in associated city bills, Fortin explains. “Having a beer garden [the previous year] was fun, but for the money we made it just wasn’t worth it.”
This year’s Dyke March route will remain unchanged, Fortin says. The march will leave McSpadden Park on Saturday, Aug 2 and head north several blocks along Commercial Drive to Grandview Park.
The Dyke March also hopes to have more of a presence at Vancouver Pride Society–hosted events, such as Eastside Pride and Picnic in the Park.
VPS executive director Ray Lam confirms that talks have begun about the Dyke March hosting games or contests at VPS events, but nothing is yet confirmed.
What is confirmed is that the VPS will continue to help alleviate some Dyke March expenses by sharing festival equipment, including tables, chairs, tenting, sound equipment and generators. “Pride owns a lot of equipment, so we lend some stuff out to the Dyke March and other organizations,” Lam says.
Dyke March organizers held their annual general meeting May 11, which the three remaining board members attended, along with nine community members. Of the nine guests, three stepped up and said that, while they couldn’t commit to being part of the board, they were willing to offer their skills to the society in some capacity, Fortin says.
Fortin says organizers now need to raise more awareness, foster more community involvement and forge more partnerships, particularly with businesses on the Drive.
In an attempt to gain more community input into programming, the Dyke March conducted an online survey last fall asking community members whether the march and Diva’s Den should continue and what else the organization could do for annual events. Fortin says the survey garnered approximately 70 supportive responses.
“It was really cool because overwhelmingly, people identified that the Dyke March and Diva’s Den were important and that they wanted us to continue providing neat opportunities for women to connect,” she says.
“Part of the struggle with all non-profit grassroots organizations is succession planning, knowledge transfer and building capacity,” she notes. “The board is working really hard to put on the march, but I think it would be great if the community identified it more as not only something they want to go to, but something they want to take ownership of.”