BOLDfest in its 15th Year of Lesbian Meetups, Talks and Music

Image provided by BOLDfest

By Rachel Rosenberg

Taking place in Vancouver’s scenic Coal Harbour neighbourhood, BOLDfest is an annual conference heading into its 15th year. Held at the Coast Coal Harbour Hotel, located at 1180 W. Hastings St, this meetup introduces (or reunites) lesbians from Canada and the US.

Pat Hogan and Claire Robson are the festival’s co-founders. According to Hogan, she was inspired by events that she attended in Provincetown and New York City. Hogan’s background was in putting on events for the LGBTQ2+ community in Vancouver, so she decided “on a whim” to put something together herself. “Like a lot of things I do,” she explained, “I just went with it.”

Though the initial idea was Hogan’s, Robson joined BOLDfest that first year as a volunteer. “That first year, we had a different name. Very long winded. Claire is a writer and editor, a very creative person. She came up with ‘BOLD’ (author’s note: stands for Bold, Old(er) Lesbians & Dykes) “and then people were calling it a festival, so that’s how we got the name.”

According to the site, the event is for lesbians over 50. Hogan added, “I’m amazed it’s still going all these years later. Everything is done with volunteer help. There aren’t many venues or events that allow older lesbians come together and celebrate, and it’s important because many of them lived in the closet for a long time.” Conference fees are on a sliding scale and can be paid here, and yes, individual event tickets are available.

Image provided by BOLDfest

I asked Hogan about what sorts of BOLDfest memories are especially meaningful to her. “We used to be at the Coast Plaza Hotel, which doesn’t exist anymore, but they had a beautiful patio where we would hold luncheons. The conference is usually in September, so a bit warmer than this year. Every year we give out the BOLD Woman of the Year Award, and two years we awarded it posthumously to Karlene Faith. She was a criminologist, a professor at SFU and an advocate for women in prison. Her daughter and niece came for the ceremony, and they brought her tuxedo top with her political buttons. We had music and celebrated her, and that is one of my best memories.”

Events range from a boat cruise to curated day and evening activities. On Thursday, the conference will be opened up by Amanda White, Indigenous elder, member of the Haida Nation from Haida-Gwaii. According to Hogan, White is a “knowledge keeper for the Vancouver Indigenous Education Department of the Vancouver School Board, and we will have her opening the conference and welcoming attendees.”

Musical performances should be lively, featuring local soul act Queer as Funk, Japanese drum group Sawagi Taiko Drummers, and feminist folk icon Ferron. This year, there are workshops on climate change and retirement, and Val Wilkins, the conference’s flirting guru, is back with jokes, tips and a practical exercise. Presenter Elise Chenie will be initiative an interactive workshop, The Politics of LGBTQ2 Memorialization, based on her work recording the testimonies of same-sex attracted women.

Ferron | Image provided by BOLDfest

Intergenerational discussions will give attendees plenty to consider, and Hogan wants to emphasize how important these are: “Many of these are hosted by volunteers, which we call Team Bold, and they are so important. It’s about people connecting even if they are coming from a different place, and it’s how we learn.” This year, Dr. Jen Marchbank, Dr. Gloria Gutman and SFU’s Shilpa Narayan will lead a workshop about an oral history project in honour of the 50th anniversary of the decriminalization of homosexuality; Makeda Zook, one of the editors of the critically-lauded Spawning Generations – Rants and Reflections on Growing Up with LGBTQ+ Parents, will  facilitate another conversation. To read Zook’s book beforehand, visit Demeter Press’s page.

Not enough? Hoping to spend some time outside in the autumn air? Get tickets to Intro to Dragonboating and The Really Gay Walking Tour – while the events cost extra, they are fun ways to experience Vancouver alongside other attendees. And while we can’t promise that you’ll meet the love of your life at BOLDfest, there has been at least one on-site wedding. Get your tickets now and start a new tradition immediately.


Rachel Rosenberg is a writer and library technician who is a proud member of the LGBTQ2+ community. She writes for Book Riot and can be found on Twitter @LibraryRachelR

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