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Raising Our Voices, supporting women's centres

A night of music for International Women's Day comes to Dusty's tonight

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In the three years since musician Susan Holden started organizing the Women's Day celebration music night at Dusty's, she has seen more Whistler women come forward to join their sisters on stage.

The event, officially called Raising Our Voices: A celebration of International Women's Day Through Song, takes place tonight, March 8, starting at 8 p.m.

Thirty female performers are expected.

"Most of the performers who were out this year are back and we have more joining us," Holden says.

"We're attracting professional musicians from Whistler as well as folks who got on stage for the first time last year."

This includes guitarist Sue Stearns and her players from Chicks With Picks.

"That increases our numbers dramatically," Holden laughs.

"Some of the performers whose first time was on stage last year, they're just itching to come back. Now it will be their second time on stage."

Some of the performers this year include musicians Emily Molloy, Lozen, Jenna Mae, Rachel Thom, and Imogen Osbourne.

"We had a rehearsal last night. Lozen started off with a song that was really bare bones, then all of a sudden she had keyboards, bass, drums and six backing vocalists. The room just light up. It was incredible," Holden says.

All of the funds raised go to the Whistler Women's Centre and the Howe Sound Women's Centre.

Last year, they hoped to raise $5,000 and got to $6,700. Holden says it is reasonable to aim for $10,000 this year.

"We have donations at the door (entry to Dusty's is by donation). Last year people were very generous, money just flew out of their wallets," Holden says.

There is also a silent auction, with donations from the Whistler Quilters Guild, Wedgeview Plumbing & Heating and more.

"And we did a 50/50 and one of the musicians, Ellen Donn, won last year and donated her half back. We're doing 50/50 again this year," Holden says.

The money will go to the Howe Sound Women's Centre in Squamish and the transition house, where women can go to escape violent relationships. There is also a drop-in in Whistler.

"The money goes towards keeping the (Whistler) drop-in centre open. This is what a lot of this (money) will go for; to make sure it is available. Four days a week someone can get in there," Holden says.

And there is a safe house in Pemberton, where Holden used to volunteer.

"It was well used," she says.

Holden notes that there can be alienation in this community with women vulnerable through living away from their families, or because of the distances between community services, like the women's centres.

"Thinking about years ago, I really didn't know about the women's centre. I had roommates stealing from me, people who were quite threatening," Holden says.

"A lot of that goes on, so it's good to have people there to say, 'that's not OK,' and offer help."

For more information on the region's women's centres, visit www.hswc.ca.

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