Stratford Pride Community Centre Grand Opening a success


  • Community   Thursday, June 9, 2022   Lisa Chester-Hanna
Felice Picano was at the Stratford Pride Community Centre to help open the facility to the public on Saturday, June 4. In addition to the book signing, there were tours of the centre to show guests the available services SPCC has at its fingertips.


Felice Picano was at the Stratford Pride Community Centre to help open the facility to the public on Saturday, June 4. In addition to the book signing, there were tours of the centre to show guests the available services SPCC has at its fingertips.


The Stratford Pride Community Centre (SPCC), located at 24 Downie St., held their grand opening on June 4th, with a steady stream of people visiting from the opening time of 10 am and throughout the day. The centre is Stratford’s first facility geared toward the LGBTQ+ community.

Bruce Duncan Skeaff, and a small army of volunteers were on hand to greet visitors and give a tour. The sunny location has a small kitchen where coffee and snacks were served, complete with an empty space awaiting a yet to be acquired microwave. The seating area by the window should prove to be a popular spot to gather for lunch. During the opening, it is where author Felice Picano was signing his books. There is a lending library which continues to grow with generous donations from the community. 

Two computers and screens were donated by Jeff Walsh of Compudoc before he died and two printers donated by the community sit at a workstation area. There is a seating area of four chairs meant to accommodate friends over coffee or to have a visit in a safe place.

“This we wanted to make like a living room with comfortable furniture where you can sit down, pick up a magazine, meet with friends, anything you want. It’s a gathering place, a refuge, a safe space to meet with people of similar life experiences,” said Duncan Skeaff.

There is a screening room with a big screen television and seating for twenty two that will be used for events such as their Tony Award viewing party and LGBTQ+ programming. It also has the capability of doing power point presentations when desired.

“Any community group can come in here and use the space, and because the doors close, people can still continue to have a chat or play scrabble while somebody else can have a community meeting in the space,” he said. 

There are not many meeting places in Stratford to hold formal and informal meetings by anyone in the city, especially for free. As a non-profit organization, there is no charge to users for using the space. There are two main reasons why the organization as it is exists:

“One reason is there is a lack of ways to easily get information of what’s going on in the community, and the other is to alleviate social isolation. Most things that we’re going to be doing for the community, wherever we can, it will be free. We’re trying to knock down barriers for people to gather,” explains Duncan Skeaff.

Support in the community has been outstanding, When the Stratford Pride initiative started a year ago it was entirely online. Over 150 businesses were contacted to see if the SPCC proposal would be something they would support in principle.

“Everyone came back saying yes, yes, yes, in Stratford this is long overdue, Stratford is ten years behind other communities and how can we help. Knowing that we had business and city hall behind us, and the hospitality industry, we launched online first with crisis lines, and youth lines, because a lot of times this can be life or death,” he said. “We made sure people knew there was a place online they could come and get that information. Then we realized that if people who live here are having trouble finding information, what about the people that visit? What about the same-sex couple that comes from Toronto with their theatre tickets, now, how do they find a friendly B&B, or a friendly restaurant to go to,”

He points out that there really isn’t anything online, like Expedia or Travelocity that caters to the gay population. Or how about a gay friendly real estate agent for the couple that wants to move to town. With these target audiences, the Pride Guide was developed.

The Stratford Pride Guide is a directory of businesses, services, organizations, and professionals that welcome LGBTQ+ residents and visitors. It is for residents, people visiting or planning a visit or planning to move here. It will prove to be extremely useful as Stratford is a popular destination given it is only a two hour train ride from the largest LGBTQ+ community in Toronto.

The goal of the centre is to provide a safe place to come, twelve months a year, and the information they are putting out reaches who it needs to. Services catering to the LGBTQ+ community have been underrepresented and it is the hope to change that and create a vibrant and inclusive community.

The SPCC website is www.StratfordPride.com and for the Stratford Pride Guide it is www.StratfordPrideGuide.com.