For Danielle Valcheff, Up Here isn’t just a queer-friendly space, it’s a queer space. They’ve been involved with, and enjoying, the festival since day one, and they sat down with me to share a little bit about what makes Up Here, so queer for them. They also wanted to preface the article with this comment: “First and foremost I recognize that as a white settler, my ability to feel like I fit in and feel comfortable is one of privilege. Indigenous people, people of colour, and people who experience other intersections may have different experiences.”
You’re not from Sudbury, can you tell me a bit about your path, and how it feels to live here?
I was born in Barrie and moved to the Sault when I was 18. I came out in the Sault, and I felt in a lot of circles like the only gay in the village. When I moved to Sudbury it wasn’t just this one group of queer people. In Sudbury there are pockets beyond pockets of queer people you don’t even know existing. For me, in the circles I exist in in Sudbury, I don’t feel like I stand out. I think Sudbury is pretty queer.
So, what makes Sudbury, Up Here, or anywhere, a queer space?
What makes something a queer space for me is something that makes me forget my queerness, and somewhere I can celebrate my queerness at the same time. I can show up in a dress or in sweatpants, with my hair done up or my hat on backwards, and I’m always just Danielle.
But also, when I walk into a queer friendly space, I feel if there was an issue, I could speak with someone and they’ll support me.
For me, being queer is a feeling, and finding words to capture those feelings is hard. A queer space has a feeling and it’s not something I can put into words.
How has the festival fostered this feeling?
Right from the get-go there were other people who were on the core team who were queer, who I didn’t know existed. They’ve done venue work (like with Zigs), made sure there were queer artists, and made sure there were other queer people, or safe people, billeting those artists.
In year two, they had an inclusion team and came up with safety statement on how to take care of each other. Up Here just shows up in all the ways, they support Sudbury Pride, which I’m involved with, anytime we ask them to show up.
I think diversity is super healthy and Up Here is diverse in many different ways, and queer is just one of them. I can feel like even if I'm different, I belong. Diversity is celebrated.
What do you want queer people who are attending Up Here to know?
I’d want queer people to know they’re supported by the team, by the venues. Those on the team care about people feeling safe and even if they don’t have all the answers at any given time, they can direct anyone with questions or concerns to who they think is the best to address them.
I’d also tell them what the queer shows are. For example: Piss Face is bringing their gay agenda (and noisy punk) to the stage on the Friday, while Greyson Gritt played at Pride, and they’ll be playing their sub-arctic folk-blues on the Sunday.
Finally, I’d just want to tell people: I don’t think there a right or wrong way to be queer.