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Vancouver Pride cuts some events to focus on core, AGM hears

New managers say VPS committed to consulting community, especially marginalized groups

Vancouver Pride Society co-chairs Charmaine de Silva and Alan Jernigan spoke at the annual general meeting on Nov 19, 2016.   Credit: Nathaniel Christopher/Daily Xtra

Vancouver Pride Society board members say they’ve been able to step back from running events on a day-to-day basis thanks to the hire of two new managers earlier this year.

“I’m really happy to be able to say that in 2016, this was the first year that we’ve gone completely through Pride season where the board has been able to fulfill its governing responsibilities, exclusive from its operating responsibilities,” co-chair Alan Jernigan told the VPS’ annual general meeting on Nov 19, 2016.

Events director Andrea Arnot and managing director Kieran Burgess, who were both hired in March 2016, outlined how the VPS is focusing its efforts on event management and community engagement.

“Part of this strategy looks at us to outsource things that perhaps aren’t our strong suits,” Burgess told the 16 members in attendance.

“The most obvious one we did this year was getting rid of the Pride Guide from an in-house publication to working with the Westender,” he said, noting the move helped the VPS “free up some of our resources to focus on things we do best.”

The VPS has also reduced the number of events it produces.

“Last year’s strategy planning meeting, they looked at events that perhaps weren’t making a lot of progress, or weren’t really important to the community, or were running at a massive debt,” Burgess said.

“We looked at what programs weren’t that important to people, and looked at which programs really needed to be maintained, and kind of whittled it down to a focused calendar of events that really were our core events.”

Burgess tells Daily Xtra the VPS focused on the following events in 2016: the Pride parade and festival, the Terry Wallace memorial breakfast, the Davie Street Party, the Pride Run, Walk and Picnic, East Side Pride, and the Legacy Awards.

Events cut from the VPS roster included Laugh Out and the Heat Pride Kickoff T-Dance. The VPS also played a more supportive role in events such as the Youth Dance.

Managing director Kieran Burgess at the VPS’ annual general meeting.
Nathaniel Christopher/Daily Xtra

The VPS has been consulting with the community since Pride, Arnot noted.

“Moving outwards, we’re committed to engaging with the public. In particular, marginalized groups or people who feel they are not represented at Pride,” she said. “People who might not come to Pride events anymore. “

The VPS is running an online survey, and held an invitation-only community consultation in October and plans to hold another in January.

“We will be doing individualized meetings with marginalized groups and people throughout the rest of the season, until we get too busy, which is probably around the end of March,” Arnot said. “We’ll roll all of that into a report, which we will make public about what our plan is, and what our priorities are, for 2017 season and the changes that we would like to make.”

The VPS has established a dialogue with Black Lives Matter Vancouver, Jernigan told the meeting.

“That’s a process that is still undergoing and will never stop,” he said. “The process of engaging with Black Lives Matter specifically, but also other groups that represent marginalized community members within the queer community in Vancouver — that will never stop and there’s no goal post at the end of that process.”

VPS co-chair Charmaine de Silva discussed the success of the Trans Equality Now (TEN) campaign, launched in 2015, which urged all parade participants, politicians and the general public to support the rights of transgender and gender-variant Canadians.

“I think so many people were happy when the provincial government finally decided that it was going to put human rights legislation forward that protected everybody in our community,” de Silva said.

“I really believe that that wouldn’t have happened without the pressure that was put on by this organization with the TEN pledge and the commitment we had that this parade wasn’t going to be where people could be gay-friendly for a day and come out and wave a flag and work actively to make sure that members of our community didn’t have the rights that they needed and deserve.”

Overall, the VPS ended the 2016 fiscal year with an operational surplus of $50,354, compared to a loss of $46,429 in 2015, and $73,865 in the bank.

In 2015, the VPS ended the year with $124,773 in the bank. But the VPS saw an increase in event revenue overall in 2016, which climbed by almost $40,000, from $472,340 in 2015 to $511,627 in 2016.

Executives staying on for another term include de Silva and Jernigan as co-chairs, John Whistler as secretary and Darius Burbidge as treasurer. Directors Bruce Antecol, Michelle Fortin and Rhawnie Vallins will also stay on for a second season, and directors Azza Rojbi and Nicola Spurling were re-elected to begin a new two-year term.