Tag Archives: Historic Calgary Week

The Western Alienation Merit Badge

Every summer, I take it upon myself to read some gay history fiction while enjoying seasonal downtime. Last summer it was The Well of Loneliness; this summer, to my delight, it is a Calgary story. The Western Alienation Merit Badge is the first novel from author Nancy Jo Cullen, a former Calgarian, and recipient of the Writers’ Trust Dayne Ogilvie Prize for LGBT Emerging Writers. It has been gathering plaudits and praise.

Western Alienation Merit Badge

Our Summer Read for 2019

The book chronicles the staggering trials of the Murray family during the 1982 oil recession in Calgary. A death in the family, unplanned pregnancy and a coming-out story test family bonds against a backdrop of economic precariousness – a lot of drama, which Cullen deftly weaves with a poetic touch. My favourite aspect of the book is its use of non-linear time. The plot ricochets through the decades and only slowly reveals the larger tapestry of the Murray family’s sadness and regrets.

The Western Alienation Merit Badge has some eerie resonances to the Calgary of today. An economic slump mixed with anti-Trudeau rhetoric and general Calgarian embitterment makes one think distressingly about the cyclical nature of our city. After all, was it not that legendary 1980s recession that brought us the bumper sticker: “Please God, let there be another oil boom. We promise not to piss it away this time.”

The book also takes us to a period where gay identity was generally disparaged. In the early 80s, coming out was fraught with rejection, and new support groups like the Lesbian Infomation Line were saving lives.

It is fun to read a smart book where Calgary is given a starring role. The locations, the atmosphere, and the dialogue are all achingly familiar. Plus there is a queer protagonist at the heart of it – fans of Calgary gay history could not ask for anything more!

Tangentially, “Oh The Fun We Had” is the theme of this year’s Historic Calgary Week, which starts today. History buffs have a bursting smorgasbord of programming to feast on.

The Calgary Gay History Project will be part of Historic Calgary week again in 2019. In collaboration with the Calgary Public Library, we are hosting a lecture titled: Among friends: the history of LGBTQ2+ recreation and sport in Calgary. Join us on Saturday, August 3rd from 1:00 – 2:00 PM at the Memorial Park Library. There is a post-lecture screening at 2:30 PM of Outliers: Calgary’s Queer History (the Directors Cut) in partnership with the Calgary Queer Arts Society.

We hope to see you out and happy summer reading!

{KA}

Walk, Don’t Run, This Saturday!

The Calgary Gay History Project is honoured to participate in Historic Calgary Week 2014, a program of the Chinook Country Historical Society.  We are reprising the very popular Beltline Gay History Walk that happened during last year’s Pride Week celebrations.

The event “runs” from 7:00 – 8:30 PM, Saturday, July 26th and begins and ends at CommunityWise (formerly known as the Old Y) at 223 12 Ave. SW.  We will be meeting outside the building near the front steps.  As an aside, those steps and porch were recently renovated and have been nominated for the Calgary Heritage Authority’s Lion Awards on July 31st (also an event in Historic Calgary Week).

Doug Young personal papers, Glenbow Archives M-8397-1.

Doug Young personal papers, Glenbow Archives M-8397-1.

In a happy coincidence, I was at the Glenbow Museum Archives today, going through gay activist Doug Young’s personal records and came across his hand drawn map of the Beltline from the mid-80’s.  Interestingly, there were more queer spaces at that time, then we have today.

Looking forward to seeing you at the walk!

{KA}

New Gala, Next Walk & Queer Archive Donation

Calgary queer history readers and/or party aficionados might be interested in Third Street Theatre’s inaugural “Stars of the Stage & Screen” gala & costume party on Friday, June 27th at the Arrata Opera Centre at 8pm.

All money raised goes to the next production season of Third Street Theatre – Calgary’s only queer theatre company that challenges stereotypes and gives a voice to a marginalized LGBTQ community.  Tickets and info: here.

We will be reprising our Beltline Gay History Walk on Saturday, July 26th from 7:00-8:30 PM as part of Historic Calgary Week.  Come out to learn about meaningful spots in our communities history including the location of Calgary’s first gay bar, Club Carousel.  The walk will start and finish at CommunityWise (the Old Y) at 223 12 Ave. SW.  Usually we head to a Beltline Pub afterwards for more conviviality.  Everyone is welcome!

Finally, I had lunch this week with an old colleague and friend of mine, Shelagh Anderson, the former publisher of QC Magazine, who now lives in Nova Scotia with her wife and daughter.  She donated a complete collection of the Calgary based queer periodical which ran for about 3 years beginning in 1995 for the archives we are building.  As a bonus: many of the covers are signed by the subjects of the cover story.  Thank you Shelagh!

QC Covers

{KA}