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Community grant helps Calgary Pride take annual festival virtual

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A flotilla of rafts bearing rainbow flags on the Bow River, a hotel balcony drag show and a Pride History walk and brunch… These are just some of the events that are brightening Calgary streets this summer as part of the city’s annual Pride Week.
 
But of course, with a global pandemic in full swing, this year’s festival is looking a little different. Calgary Pride has been hard at work for months adapting much of the programming for online delivery.
 
At the 2020 festival’s core is the Learning Series; 102 free, online sessions covering a wide range of topics, everything from resume-writing and financial literacy workshops to presentations with titles like “Global Queer & Trans Rights in a COVID19 World”, “Two Spirit Identities” and “Queering the Archives”.
 Someone looking at a laptop with the words Parade Day Kick-off on the screen.
According to Parker Chapple, Executive Director of Calgary Pride, the tough part was finding the right technology for the job.
 
“When we looked at the solutions that we wanted,” says Chapple, “some of the things we looked at were the opportunities for engagement from the broader public, the opportunities for engagement from within our community. Do those opportunities coincide with each other? Can the broader public engage with members of our community in a manner that’s safe?”
 
Among the new technologies the organization has added this year is a dedicated Calgary Pride app – now available on the Apple App Store as well as Google Play. The organization is using Demio software for the Learning Series and is live-streaming events on YouTube, Twitter, Facebook & Twitch, as well as the Calgary Pride website.
 
To help fill some of the funding gaps created by COVID-19, Calgary Pride turned to the Government of Canada’s Emergency Community Support fund. The grants, which are being administered through the Canadian Red Cross and other national organizations, were designed to help non-profits continue to deliver their vital programming throughout the pandemic.
 
Chapple says it was imperative to make sure this year’s event – now celebrating its 30th anniversary – would go ahead despite COVID-19.
 
“At the end of the day we knew our community was being disproportionately impacted,” says Chapple. “We know now that the gender and sexually diverse community is negatively impacted with mental health challenges, and because of COVID we knew that was going to make it worse. For us, being able to create opportunities for visibility, recognition and celebration online and in-person in a way that’s safe, celebratory and connecting… We’re able to help combat those mental health challenges.”
 
Of course, for the larger Calgary community, the Pride Parade has become a staple event of the Labour Day weekend, and normally draws crowds in the thousands. This year, people can continue to show their support for Calgary Pride by watching the live stream of the virtual parade, featuring artists like Kiesza, Ria Mae, alextbh and the Command Sisters.
 
Calgary Pride week runs until September 6th. To join in, go to calgarypride.ca

The Canadian Red Cross is funding the continuation of this work thanks to the generous support of the Government of Canada’s Emergency Community Support Fund granting program.

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