Mark your calendars on Thursday, February 16th, for a stimulating gay history evening at Contemporary Calgary called Involve. This evening of discussion will feature New York Stonewall Uprising Activist Martin Boyce and Calgary’s Club Carousel Founder Lois Szabo, sharing their perspectives and experience of the 2SLGBTQ+ human rights movement.
Sponsored by local interior design studio, Lawrence, we caught up with designer Mitchell Brooks about Involve.
Mitchell explains: “I heard Martin Boyce speak last spring in Calgary and found his personal stories and perspective on the equal rights movement and community deeply profound. When International Day of Pink announced Martin was going to be coming back to Calgary this winter and looking for speaking events, I saw it as a great opportunity to host Martin again and make a local connection to his story and experience. As much as we know some of the international history and movements, I believe Canada and Calgary has a rich queer history as well. We wanted to pair the Stonewall event with what was happening in Calgary around the same time and thought the connection with local Rainbow Elder, Lois Szabo, would enhance that dynamic conversation in a way we may not have all heard before. On top of that, as the principal of Lawrence Interior Design Studio, I pride myself in being a visible and open example of a queer business owner in Calgary.”
Inspire hopes to educate. The event is framed as a queer-led conversation about queer history with queer people, but all Calgarians are welcome.
Mitchell adds: “our past matters—to know how far we’ve come, but also how far we still must go, and the importance of maintaining our progress and place in society. Our history also matters in recognizing and celebrating the people who have led us here and continuing to share their experiences further. What’s so great about the Calgary Gay History Project’s work is that it shares and protects the local history that we closely identify with. In hosting this event, I hope to make a small contribution to support that work, celebrating the history we all represent.”
We’ve returned from a three-month hiatus to celebrate both pride month and ten years since the Calgary Gay History Project was founded. We began as a tiny project for Calgary 2012 and have been growing ever since due to an active and engaged community.
In gratitude, Kevin has reflected on a number of special moments from the decade’s deep dive into local queer history.
Gay History Walks. Ever since 2013, situating queer history in the Calgary landscape on a warm summer night with enthusiastic walkers is a slice of heaven (although we had a snow squall once that added a decidedly different frisson).
Everett Klippert. His life story has been a focus of the Calgary Gay History Project since its inception. However, everything deepened when his family got involved with the Project in 2015. Together we excavated Everett’s very profound role in changing Canadian history in 1969. His story continues to have posthumous impact, most recently with the expungement of his criminal record in 2020.
Club Carousel. Calgary’s original gay bar founded in 1970 was arguably the most formative queer space the city has ever seen. Our first commemorative Club Carousel Cabaret was held in 2014 at the High Performance Rodeo thanks to Third Street Theatre and our impresario Michael Green (RIP). Our second Cabaret was held in 2015 thanks to One Voice Chorus—sold out each time!
Gross Indecency: The Everett Klippert Story (2018). Saying “yes” to filmmaker Laura O’Grady was one of the best decisions we ever made. Not only did this short film garner festival laurels, but through the process Laura became a good friend. We made another great film in 2021, called Undetectable. Laura has our highest esteem.
Our Past Matters. The book had a difficult birth. It took four years to write—not one year, as planned. However, it was embraced in pre-production by a successful Kickstarter campaign and since has gone on to be a local best-seller as well as on the curriculum for some University of Calgary undergraduate classes. We are ever so grateful both for insightful readers as well as independent bookstores.
Legislating Love. Natalie Meisner’s play about the life of Everett Klippert was history turned into sublime art (I wept). Sage Theatre mounted the world premiere in 2018, and the play continues to gather praise, most recently winning an “Oscar” at this year’s Dublin International Gay Theatre Festival.
HiR. Kevin was honoured to be the inaugural Historian in Residence when the New Central Library opened in 2018. It was a high water mark for the Calgary Gay History Project and a terrific experience. The Library graciously hosted the book launch of Our Past Matters—an incredibly special memory now.
No historian is an island. So many people have contributed to the success of the Calgary Gay History Project. In closing, we would like to give a shout out to project volunteers past and present: Nevena, Del, Rosman, Matt, Ayanna, Sheldon, Laura, Jonathan, Nolan, and Tereasa!
On Sunday, August 29th, join Kevin Allen for a gay history walk through the Beltline and learn about the City’s LGBTQ2 past. The walk begins at 5 PM from the new Lois Szabo Commons. At 6 PM we arrive for a reception at Home & Away, the site of Calgary’s first gay bar, Club Carousel (appetizers provided)!
The event is free but we are collecting donations for Outlink: Calgary’s Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity. Book your tickets online: here. The suggested donation is $10. Spaces are limited and masks are encouraged.