The current pandemic has devastated Toronto in countless ways. Hundreds of local businesses closed for good and people without a job are scrambling to pay their bills on time. On top of that, it’s the perfect weather for attending an outdoor concert or festival. Sadly, most of Toronto’s biggest summer events are cancelled.
There is one annual festival that we can look forward to in the coming days: Pride.
Pride Toronto is moving forward with a whole month of events ranging. They’ve scheduled educational panels, entertaining performances by local artists, and so much more.
Amber Moyle is the director of development and special events for Pride Toronto.
I had the chance to speak with her about how the organization turned a months worth of live events into a four-week virtual experience.
Q: How did Pride Toronto respond to the numerous cancellations of Toronto’s biggest summer festivals? How did you move Pride online?
A: Before the decision was made by the city, we were evaluating alternative ways so like postpone dates or things like that. We never planned on fully cancelling but we didn’t want to talk about a postponed festival to get everyone’s hopes up. It’s been a slow decline into moving online and the only reason we did that was based off of wanting to support queer businesses. Our top priority from the beginning was artists and then all of the businesses. Luckily we have an incredibly creative team who was able to take their own portfolios and just make it work.
Q: Are you still working on creating more events?
A: We do have an entire month planned outside of the first weekend. The priority for the virtual festival is to try to maintain all of what we call the “staple” items. Things that are known for happening each year, such as the clean and sober programming and family pride. Being forced to move onto a virtual platform allowed us to be a little bit creative in a different way and look at alternative programming we wouldn’t otherwise program. We actually have more programming than we have ever had!
Q: What does the virtual programming look like?
A: The benefit of the virtual platform is that we’ve been able to spread out our programming. Nothing is overlapping. There are things like virtual club nights, human rights panels and training sessions, shopping channels, some other things that are brand new and others that have been adapted for a virtual world. I think we’ve done a really great job of switching up our original programming and then adding new and exciting things.
Q: Can you give me an estimate of how many artists you have lined up?
A: Originally we had planned to schedule fifty artists and performers, but as we continued to build on programming and secure partners that number grew to about one hundred and eighty. And that includes international artists and headliners and things like that. Out of the 180 performers, 175 are local.
Q: It’s great that so many people are willing to participate and keep the festival going! Especially because moving everything online is a huge challenge. I’m curious about the virtual parade; what exactly will that look like?
A: The virtual parade was by far the most difficult thing for us to switch over to an online platform. It was many weeks of figuring it out. It’s basically a mix of pre-recorded content and some live content, and people will be able to participate in it as well using a digital platform like Zoom or Skype. There will also be surprise performances and interactive components, such as a countdown across the city. It’s shaping up to be a really exciting event.
Q: What about Pride in 2021? Any idea of what that could look like?
A: Who knows what the next 12 months will look like. Who knows if we will be able to bring two million people together in person. We have trained ourselves on how to do these types of events, invested in software and technology to make it possible to do this online. I think we’re going to continue with virtual content in 2021. It will be our 40th next year so we hope we can get back to the village and utilize that space as much as possible. Again, there’s a concern about queer businesses, makers, and folks who use the street to showcase their work. The reality is that it might not be possible, so we have to be prepared for whatever happens next.
Q: Okay I have one last question. What kind of Indigenous programming is featured in this year’s Pride events?
A: We have a few Indigenous events happening for sure. We have been working with some community organizers to figure out some digital programming. We also have an Indigenous ceremony happening during the flag-raising on Monday and we’ve been working with the Native Women’s Resource Centre to look at a visual component that will be part of a separate announcement coming later on. Everything is on the website now, and we really encourage folks to check it out as more events come out.
If you’re interested in checking out the full list of events, click here.