The Violet Hour, founded by Christopher DiRaddio, is a bi-monthly reading series that showcases both established and emerging LGBTQ writers and performers. The reading series gives a platform to otherwise marginalized voices. Hosted in the Montreal Gay Village’s Stock Bar, attendees were also given the option to participate in a personal tarot card reading by artist Jesse Stong. The Violet Hour has a strong sense of community which transcended language, locality, and genre.
On Oct. 31, the Halloween edition of The Violet Hour featured work from prominent writers, notably critically-acclaimed journalist Elio Iannacci. In addition, David Demchuk debuted his Giller Prize nominated book, The Bone Mother, about a world of mythological creatures seeking refuge in Eastern Europe while evading the ruthless Night Police. Fitting the night’s Halloween theme, Montreal writer and translator Neil Smith presented a passage from his debut novel Boo, a story about an afterlife populated exclusively by 13-year old Americans.
Aside from these whimsical fantasies, The Violet Hour also included artists’ whose writing reflected on the distinct experiences of LGBTQ individuals living in Montreal and beyond. In their reading of Femme Confidential, Nairne Holtz explores the lives of three individuals, navigating the lesbian community and their sexual identities, set in an increasingly gentrified Toronto neighbourhood. Cason Sharpe’s work Our Lady of Perpetual Realness & Other Stories focuses on the experience of being a young gay man of colour. Dishwashing in Saint-Henri, pool-hopping, and wandering down an empty Boulevard Saint-Laurent are just some of the various experiences that inform his worldview. His reading captivated the audience, who alternated between raucous laughter and tears in their connection to Sharpe’s lived experience in Toronto and Montreal.
While the majority of the speakers at the event recited excerpts from their latest works, the highlight of the evening was a scene from the Talisman Theatre’s upcoming production of Vic and Flo Saw a Bear, translated to English for the stage. Alexandra Lavinge plays a parole officer, pressing Natalie Liconti’s character Flo to reveal the whereabouts of her girlfriend, ex-con Vic. Set in Quebec, the production combines a love story, elements of the noir genre, and a distinct magic realism.
Throughout the evening, The Violet Hour showcased a diversity of voices, representing the lived experiences of the LGBTQ+ community in the greater Montreal area. Stripped down to a single spotlight and microphone, the various artists and writers indulged the audience, confronting their own biases and connecting those experiences with their own. The artists proved that while LGBTQ+ is a unifying label, it encompasses a multitude of distinct viewpoints. The Violet Hour, in collaboration with the Concordia Community Solidarity Co-op Bookstore, is a unique, inclusive event, which provides local writers with a platform to both present and sell their work at an affordable price.