The Week — May 19

Rosie Bitts gets censored, Oak Bay high gets a redo, Our Place hires the next Reverend Al

No fan of fairy tales got to see these bitts last week, after a Naked Girls Reading event was cancelled by the B.C. Liquor Control and Licensing Branch.

Little bitts of censorship

Burlesque just got a bitts more controversial in the Victoria area.

Rosie Bitts, fan favourite burlesque performer and Victoria host of the Naked Girls Reading series, was all tasseled up and ready to perform a fairy tales event this past weekend at the Fernwood Inn, as reported in last week’s Monday. The event was cancelled less than 24 hours before the stage was set, however, when the B.C. Liquor Control and Licensing Branch stepped in and said nudity and food do not mix.

“The Fernwood Inn has a food-primary liquor licence. Under this type of licence, which allows minors, adult-oriented entertainment is not permitted,” says a ministry spokesperson of the B.C. Liquor Control and Licensing Branch. “A liquor inspector met with Fernwood Inn staff the day before the show and they agreed to cancel it.”

Owners of the Fernwood Inn did not want to comment on the issue, though they were compliant with the liquor control board and agreed with the decision. Bitts emphasizes that she views Fernwood Inn as a “lovely, family-run business” and does not criticize the decision. It is “super disappointing” however, she says, and more than a few patrons were shocked at the sudden move, especially after the event had successfully been hosted there last February.

“It’s really important, especially in this economy, that performers and businesses work together and look after each other,” Bitts says, adding that venue has everything to do with it. “For being a nude event, Naked Girls Reading is not sexualized at all — it’s a quiet, intellectual event, and it’s not right for the bar-crowd atmosphere. It’s lovely and intimate to see nudity and to hear someone reading a story to us.”

Bitts is currently seeking another venue, but says the next Naked Girls Reading event may not happen now until July or August. For those who can’t wait that long, catch Bitts in her June show “The Fabulous Miss Rosie Bitts,” which focuses on censorship in the female and burlesque community (missrosiebitts.com).

“It’s interesting to me that the type of entertainment that gets censored isn’t the sexualized escort ads, or bar posters — it’s the women who are empowering themselves,” Bitts says. “You put a smart woman out there and she’s scary to the world. You mix those smarts with her sexuality, and she’s downright terrifying.”

Oak bay High grows up

Oak Bay high school is about to get more than a little face-lift — the proposed $52 million replacement and additional $12 million Neighbourhood Learning Centre has only one more step to go before the real action begins: funding approval.

“Oak Bay has been designated as an earthquake hazard location for years now, and construction has been postponed for a number of years,” says Tom Ferris, School District 61 board chair. “It was finally decided that it makes more sense to rebuild than repair.”

The new building is set to go up alongside the current one, but the new high school will only host a capacity for 1,300 students — nearly the same number of students who currently attend Oak Bay high. But while Ferris acknowledges that there may be a population increase in the coming years, especially as certain years have seen kindergartens in the region reach near-maximum capacity, he says “speculative forecasting” isn’t something the province will do.

“The province doesn’t forecast for unknown numbers, and certainly the new high school will be there for years to come, but [population density] is not something we can plan on,” Ferris says.

While the Victoria area has seen school remakes before, a total redo hasn’t been highlighted since the ’90s, when the much smaller Colquitz elementary in Saanich scored $10 million for a new body.

The Ministry of Education approved the Oak Bay project this week, and the provincial treasury board is expected to make a decision in the coming weeks.

Our Place hires helms(wo)man

Sandra Danco is the new Reverend Al. Well, not exactly. Our Place has hired Danco, an Edmonton, Alta. native, to bring two decades of experience in social services and a keen new outlook for Victoria’s homeless urban makeup.

“It may take a few days, but Sandra will become that familiar face that organizations throughout the city will turn to for assistance,” says Don Storch, Our Place chair. “Any time there’s a new leader there’s change, and there can be a few rough edges when that desk gets moved to the left instead of the right, but we’re excited about that.”

Danco spent 10 years serving as executive director for Edmonton’s Women’s Shelter, a non-profit agency operating three shelter facilities, with specialized services for immigrant women.

“It’s wonderful to be cast into such a big and important role,” says Danco. “I intend to build on that.” M

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