The Vancouver Pride Society’s (VPS) new managing director is looking forward to an era of greater transparency and accessibility for the Society.
“We’ve hit the ground running, we’re learning a lot as we go,” says Kieran Burgess, who previously worked as manager for the Ironman Triathlon in London and the University of Queensland Rugby Football Club in Brisbane, Australia.
Burgess is joined by Andrea Arnot, the VPS’s new events director.
“Andrea and Kieran will work in partnership to produce and promote all our Pride events this year,” the VPS announced in its March 2016 newsletter, introducing the new leadership team.
“As Events Director Andrea will be accountable to the Board of Directors for leading, planning and execution of all Official Pride Events, Community Partner Events, and various special projects for the 2016 Pride Season, including the annual Pride Parade,” the newsletter says. “As Managing Director, Kieran will be accountable to the Board of Directors for fundraising, administration, and financial results for the 2016 Pride Season.”
Arnot, who previously worked as a senior program manager at Richmond Multicultural Community Services, says all Pride events are on track for 2016.
She says the VPS has hired its seasonal staff. “We have our Legacy Awards on June 18 and we still have a call out for nominations,” she says. “June 25 is East Side Pride and that will be going ahead as per usual, and we’re just working on all of our Pride Week events as well, so we’re meeting with the City to start things off.”
Arnot says she has over 15 years of experience doing anti-oppression work and creating inclusive communities for everyone. “I’m a big believer that diversity is not just about culture but gender, orientation, socioeconomic status. Where we come from and so forth,” she says. “I’ve woven that into all of my work.”
Prior to her position in Richmond she worked as human resources coordinator for Abbotsford Community Services. “We did a lot of work around LGBTQ issues, which was very controversial around that time but we did it,” she says. “I’m hoping to get a chance to create a really successful season of Pride events while we’re meeting the goals of the Vancouver Pride Society, and really dig into the community where I live.”
Burgess says the size and prestige of Vancouver Pride attracted him to the role. “I’ve come from a very corporate sporting background, working on large international events and I’ve always had a background in social justice,” he says, noting he previously worked with a gay rugby team in Brisbane to help break down homophobia in sports, and was also involved in the campaign for equal marriage in Australia.
“As for goals for the Society, Andrea and I have spoken a lot about building culture for the year and building the Society into a new era of transparency and accessibility for the events we produce,” Burgess says.
“We’d like to produce a braille Pride Guide, establish accessibility viewing spots along the parade route, and ensure that the events are financially sustainable,” he says.
VPS president Tim Richards says he’s impressed by the synergy and enthusiasm of the new hires. “They are fabulous and they were hired because they filled the requirements for their roles,” he says.
“It took a number of months to get to the point where we hired Andrea and Kieran and we feel that they are going to be absolutely amazing for the organization.”
Richards says Pride attendees can expect to see approximately the same number of events as last year, including all of Pride’s signature events, such as the parade and festival, East Side Pride, the Davie Street Party and the Legacy Awards.
“We’ll have approximately the same and I say that because this year we’ve come up with an idea and are working with partners to do something a bit different,” he says. “We’re really excited about it but I can’t talk about it yet.”
The new hires are part of the VPS’s leadership transition, which began with the resignation of former executive director Ray Lam in fall 2015.
Lam’s resignation followed a summer of tension around the VPS’s mandatory trans pledge and several staff and board resignations, as well as the termination of former volunteer coordinator Melody Johnson, who later filed a complaint with the BC Human Rights Tribunal.
Johnson alleged that Lam failed to offer her support or accommodation after she was sexually assaulted by two men in an alley near Davie Street in May 2015. A draft statement of defence, written by Lam and leaked to Daily Xtra, alleged Johnson had work performance issues and was not discriminated against.
Johnson tells Daily Xtra she and the VPS attended a mediation hearing by the Human Rights Tribunal in March 2016, but she’s unable to offer further detail.
“I can confirm that the meeting did happen but everything in-meeting was confidential,” she says.
Richards says he is unable to comment on the case as well, but says the VPS will issue a statement in the near future.
The VPS will hold its annual general meeting on April 30, 2016.