Pop-Up Screening – Winter Kept Us Warm

Hello Calgary.  You are invited to a special 50th Anniversary Screening of Winter Kept Us Warm: Saturday, April 25th at 7 PM at CommunityWise (the Old Y).  Tickets are limited, as we will be in an intimate space, however the screen will be massive, using the latest projection technology courtesy of the Calgary Society of Independent Filmmakers.  Drinks and popcorn will be served!  Please join us.

Purchase your tickets online: $20 (includes a drink & popcorn): here.  Contact us at calgarygayhistory@gmail.com if you have any questions or would like more details.


Winter Kept Us Warm

The phrase comes from a line of T. S. Elliot’s poem the Wasteland, but also it is the title of a groundbreaking Canadian Film. 2015 is the 50th anniversary of the release of Winter Kept Us Warm by Univeristy of Toronto student, David Secter.  Cited as the first gay English-Canadian film, it received international acclaim, premiering in Cardiff, Wales at the Commonwealth Film Festival in September, 1965 (a first for a student-produced feature film).  In 1966, the film was Canada’s first English language feature to be invited to the Cannes Film Festival.

Inspired by Orson Welles’ age when he made Citizen Kane (24), Sector decided to ignore his forth year of studies to focus on his own masterpiece.  At 21, he put an ad in the student newspaper, The Varsity, asking “Will the Great Canadian Film be produced at U of T?” and invited all interested students to join him in the venture.

With seed money from the Students’ Council of $750, he was able to shoot 12 minutes of the movie.  After sorting through the footage, and with some impressed letters of support from more senior filmmakers, Secter hoped for financial support from the National Film Board (NFB), the Canada Council or the Ontario Arts Council.  However, they all gave it a pass.  In the end he personally was able to find the rest of the $8000 budget himself, through friends and his own personal donations.

(Ironically it would be the NFB in May 1966, who would sponsor his showcase at  Cannes ).

The film’s gay subtext was deliberately staged by Secter, who wrote the film based on his own experience falling in love with a male fellow student.  He wrote that the theme of the film, “is that friendship, like snow, is brilliant but ephemeral.”  To capture the winter quadrangle romp scene he envisoned, he had his volunteer crew on 24 hour notice for 5 weeks, waiting for the perfect weather conditions.

At a time when homosexuality was still criminalized in Canada, Winter Kept Us Warm proved to be pioneering; film critics in both the Toronto Star and Globe and Mail noted the film’s homosexual content.  Filmmaker David Cronenberg cites Winter Kept Us Warm as the most influential film in his life as well as to his discovery of cinema.

The film premiered in Canada at the Royal Ontario Museum in December, 1965, and turned out to be a commercial success, playing in limited release across the country and on many University campuses.  Secter was able to pay off his debts and attract $50,000 in seed money for his next film.

In honour of the 50th anniversary of Winter Kept Us Warm, the Calgary Gay History Project will be hosting a pop-up screening on Saturday, April 25th.  Check in with this website on April 18th for more screening details.


Club Carousel Concert Highlights & Other News

We had two packed houses at One Voice Chorus’ Club Carousel concert last weekend, and a dozen former Club Carousel members were in attendance.  Nick Devos, a Club Carousel alumnus and photographer, took the pictures below.


Calgary Gay History Project’s Kevin Allen provided history narration between choral moments.


Club Carousel Alumni, Nick Devos and Lois Szabo, with Kevin Allen.


One Voice Chorus receiving standing ovation from audience.


Gavin Caldwell (Piano), Kevin Allen, Lois Szabo (Club Carousel Founder) and Jane Perry (Artistic Director, One Voice Chorus) in front of the recreated Club Carousel logo.

It was a magical day, and the Calgary Hay History Project would like to thank One Voice Chorus for focusing on our city’s gay history in their artistic programming.

In other news, our colleague in queer history, Dr. Aaron Devor, the founder and academic director of the Transgender Archives at the University of Victoria, let us know that their publication, The Transgender Archives: Foundations for the Future, is now a finalist for a Lambda Literary Award in the category of LGBT Nonfiction.  Click on the book link for a free PDF copy; it is an absorbing read and exploration of trans histories.

The 27th Annual Lambda Literary Awards–or the “Lammys,” as they are affectionately known–kick off another record-breaking year with the announcement of the finalists. They were chosen from a record 818 submissions from 407 publishers.  The winners will be announced at a gala ceremony on Monday evening, June 1, 2015 in New York City.

Lethbridge-based artist and curator Leila Armstrong, is looking to fill her Cabinet of Queeriosities with an open call for submissions.  This is the third Queeriosities exhibition, celebrating LGBTQ history, identity, culture, and pride through a diverse range of subject matters and approaches.  Let all of the queer artists and historians in your network know that they have until June to submit.

In closing, I will leave you with the final poem of the Club Carousel concert, sourced from the Club’s September 1973 newsletter and written by the editor.

Screen Shot 2015-04-03 at 12.38.49 PM

Carousel Capers (Sept. 1973) Back Cover