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Camp Out! A Success

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Camp Out! A Success
Camp Out! A Success

From The Organizers of Camp Out!:

Camp Out! would like to thank all the volunteers, participants, presenters, musicians, and sponsors who helped make the event a wonderful success. Camp Out! was a weekend celebrating and exploring LGBTQ activism in the Maritimes, which took place July 17 – 19, 2009 at The Mermaid and the Cow campground in Pictou County, NS. Drawing over 30 participants from all over the region, ranging in ages between 7 and 70, representing diverse backgrounds. 

Camp Out! began with a Friday evening camp fire, where participants shared stories and introductions. Saturday morning began with a presentation on the history of the campground by Jane Morrigan, as well as a presentation of a masters thesis, "Out Back Home: An Exploration of Queer Identity & Community in Rural Nova Scotia" by Kelly Baker.  Everyone headed down to the West Branch Community Hall for a burrito lunch, followed by a large group discussion sharing personal perspectives and brainstorming a long list of important GLBTQ discussion topics including prevalence of addictions in LGBT communities,  immigrant queer experience, support for LGBT parents and families, sexism within LGBT communities. The large group then broke into smaller group discussions addressing issues such as trans-inclusion within the GLBT community, the continued significance of coming out stories, cultural diversity in the queer community, and internalized homophobia.  Discussions lasted all afternoon but most groups wished they could have gone on much longer and that there was time to spend on all the topics listed! 

After an evening barbeque, Robin Metcalfe presented a very informative and inspiring slide show on Halifax’s queer activist history up to the 90s including stories about the first gay rights demonstration in Halifax, radical feminist organizing in the 70s and local activist response to the AIDS epidemic.  For many of the younger members of the audience it was the first time hearing these stories and for older audience members it was a chance to reminisce about shared experiences and join in the presentation with a cheer or a comment.  We were also joined by River John resident Katherine Hughes, who presented a clip of her 1989 audio art piece “Blowing Up a Storm for Lesbian Liberation.”  Organizers and participants agreed there was some magic in the air when  two celebrated Canadian authors showed up unexpectedly from the “Read by the Sea” event in Pictou.  Wayson Choi and Shani Mootoo graciously spoke about their lives and work as out queer immigrant authors and Shani also read a moving excerpt from her new book, Valmiki’s Daughter. The evening ended with performances by three talented singer/song-writers – Nova Scotia-born Sarah Mangle, PEI-born Tanya Davis, and Calgary-born Rae Spoon.  

By all accounts Camp Out! met and exceeded expectations as an effort to bring diverse members of Maritime LGBTQ communities together.  We saw the power of face-to-face interactions in establishing real dialogue, and to bridge gaps created by age, race, gender and urban vs rural living.

The project was organized by a small group of enthusiastic volunteers, not affiliated with any specific organization.   In the tradition of grass-roots organizing, we have received much support from our friends and community, including financial support from the Nova Scotia Rainbow Action Project (NSRAP) and the Nova Scotia Public Interest Research Group (NSPIRG), along with generous in-kind donations from the Menz Bar, Wayves, CKDU, the Mermaid and the Cow and the West Branch Community Hall.  Anyone interested in finding out more about the project can contact camp.out.2009|a|gmail.com and watch for the CampOut! Zine launch, show and tell evening in late September.  


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