Tuesday, 24 April 2012


Montreal drag icon Mado La Motte greets her public at Mascara which will hold its 15th edition at Jacques-Cartier Pier in the Old Port, where Divers/Cité has moved their festival site for 2012  (Photo courtesy Divers/Cité)
The times they-are-a-changing.

The single most important and influential gay event in the history of Montreal was the police raid of the Sex Garage loft party on the night of July 14, 1990, in Old Montreal, which directly inspired Bad Boy Club Montreal to organize the BBCM’s first Black & Blue circuit party in 1991, as well as laid the groundwork for Montreal’s Divers/Cité Queer Pride March that Puelo Deir co-founded with Suzanne Girard in 1993.

Together, over the next decade, Divers/Cité and Black & Blue would transform Montreal into a choice gay tourism destination, pushing Tourisme Montréal to create a gay tourism template since adopted by tourism authorities worldwide.

In 2007 Fierté Montréal (Montreal Pride) took over the parade and community day previously organized by Divers/Cité, while Divers/Cité continued on as Montreal's internationally-renowned Divers/Cité queer arts and culture festival, which in 2012 runs from August 2 - 5.

But 20 years after Divers/Cité and Black and Blue put Montreal on the international gay map, this year Divers/Cité is moving their festival site from the Gay Village to the Jacques-Cartier Pier in the Old Port.

"Motivated by a desire for growth and by the increasing constraints of its previous site, the organization has made the decision to move its outdoor stages to a space better suiting its needs and the expectations of festival-goers," Divers/Cité explains in a prepared statement. "The recent move of Terminus Voyageur to Berri Street, the reduction of available space in Émilie-Gamelin Park and the sector’s recent vocational changes have made further development perspectives for the Festival in the area near impossible"

Up until last year the City of Montreal was actually pressuring Divers/Cité to move to the city’s new Quartier des Spectacles. The hope was Divers/Cité would move some of its mega-events there, like Mascara, 1 Boulevarde des Rêves and Le Grand Bal.

“We got an order from our board to move [last year]," Divers/Cité's director general Suzanne Girard told me on the eve of last summer's festival. "But we couldn’t because the First Peoples’ Festival – usually held during the summer solstice [in June] – have Place des Festivals [at the same time]. They were forced to do their festival then because Spectra moved their FrancoFolies festival from August to June.”

Thus the move this year to the Jacques-Cartier Pier in the Old Port.

The move will also likely help bolster Divers/Cité's finances. Canadian PM Stephen Harper and his ruling Conservative Party government began cutting funding to gay events across Canada in 2009, when Divers/Cité saw its federal tourism grant slashed by $155,000.

This year's 20th edition of Divers/Cité runs from August 2 - 5. Meanwhile, Fierté Montréal runs from August 9 - 14 in the Gay Village.

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