Venus Voices: people at Venus Fest tell us what representation means to them

Portraits and live photos of fans and artists at the community-focused celebration of women and non-binary artists in music

This past weekend marked the second edition of Venus Fest, a celebration of women and non-binary artists in music. Held at the Mod Club on Thursday and the Opera House on Friday and Saturday, Venus Fest featured feminist-focused acts from both Canada and the States and offered more than music, with on-site tarot readings, a mural by Sarah Cannon, projections by Vanessa Bee Rieger and an installation by Diana Lynn VanderMeulen.

Full disclosure: my music and arts nonprofit POSI VIBEZ had a glitter and postcard station at the festival, and we were thrilled to be involved with such a progressive program. It truly feels like a community.

Throughout the fest, we asked attendees, performers and the people behind the scenes what representation means to them and why it’s important. Check out our photos and those answers below.

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Kate Killet

Liz Lemon (left) and Aerin Fogel

Aerin Fogel (right), creator of Venus Fest: “Representation creates integration rather than singularity. It shifts our collective gaze from the narrowness of only seeing certain kinds of people and hearing certain experiences to seeing and experiencing a full multitude of people. Humans are complex, intricate and wholly individual. When we try to streamline that into something that is fixed or narrow, we lose the beauty of life. Representation means taking all that complexity and individuality and sharing it with the others who might see themselves in your reflection.”

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Kate Killet

Venus volunteers: (From left) Liz Dewdney, Marisa Cho, Halloway Jones, Tom Hobson, Bianca Horne, Lori Campbell

Halloway Jones (back left), head of hospitality, volunteer coordinator (also of Baby Cages): “It’s good to have an example cuz it lets you know that you can do it.”

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Kate Killet

LOOM opened up the fest Thursday night at Mod Club with the help of Carmen Elle and Leah Fay.

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Kate Killet

Elle Barbara’s Black Space play an emotional set. 

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Kate Killet

Elsa aka Wild Black: “As a Black girl growing up playing in rock bands in a predominantly white community and music scene, I rarely saw anyone that looked like me – in real life at shows or on TV, in music videos and in magazines. I didn’t let that stop me, but at times it was and still can be very alienating. Seeing yourself in positions and roles that you aspire to, as a youth especially, is so important. There’s definitely been some improvement and growth happening with representation but there’s still a lot more work to be done.”

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Kate Killet

OSHUN taking a selfie with the crowd at the end of their set. 

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Kate Killet

Moor Mother closing up Thursday night with punk and afrofuturist electronics. 

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Kate Killet

Char Aragoza of Mother Tongues: “[Representation] is super important because it inspires the people in the crowd to do whatever the hell they want. It was important for me seeing queer people of colour in my teenhood do cool shit, and guess what? I’m here now doing it too.” 

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Kate Killet

Robyn Phillips of Vallens: “I don’t think it’s cool or okay to exclude anyone. I don’t understand why anyone wouldn’t want everyone to feel welcome.” 

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Kate Killet

Local singer a l l i e gets a vibe going. 

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Kate Killet

The heavenly Zola Jesus closed up night two of the fest Friday night at the Opera House. 

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Kate Killet

Kritty Uranowski (left) and Laura T

Kritty Uranowski (left) of No Mean City Collective, Lavender Bruisers, Girls Rock Camp and more (such as leading and arranging that stunning U.S. Girls performance at the Polaris 2018 gala): “There are a lot of young women and queer and non-binary kids out there who are looking for people to look up to, to admire and to model themselves after. We need to be our most true and authentic selves so they realize they can be that too.” 

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Kate Killet


Lucy Niles: “Representation means you don’t feel alone. You’re not the only weirdo in the world. There’s lots of people like you.” Josée Caron: “I feel represented by Venus Fest.” 

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Kate Killet

Kelsey Butt, Inside Out festival: “I come from a rural place and growing up I never saw other people like me on stage or even onscreen. Seeing that and helping push it encourages other youth to get involved and do more things. Hopefully that changes stuff in the world.” 

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Kate Killet

Simone TB, badass drummer in The Highest Order, Darlene Shrugg and all your fave Toronto bands: “Representation is important because we all deserve our own path.” 

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Kate Killet

Alicia Bognanno of Bully: “Representing anything helps you learn more about yourself and identify with yourself and figure out what you can stand for and what’s important to you what you’re gonna back up and what you’re not. You can learn more about yourself as a person which essentially gives you confidence and turns you into a better person.”  

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Kate Killet

Tedde Rae, Venus stage manager: “I go to a lot of raves and electronic shows, so seeing DJs that aren’t men is still pretty rare, unfortunately. The feeling of seeing someone who looks like me perform is almost a physical experience. It’s like someone’s arms around me, holding me up. I’m in my thirties and I feel like the value of that can’t be overstated because honestly it’s still pretty unusual. I’m also white and cis, so I recognize that there’s so much more representation of people who look like me than a lot of marginalized folks. It’s important to continue on this path because the world I wanna live in is one where everyone can look to the arts and see themselves reflected.”

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Kate Killet

Scarlett Rose closed up the festivities, DJing the after-party at Farside. | @katekillet

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