Sudbury will finally have its first ever "kinky convention" when the Midnight at Dawn Expo takes over the Sudbury Events Centre on Aug. 17.
Described by event co-ordinator Mark Nadeau as a "Graphic-Con for adults," the Midnight at Dawn Expo will be a 19+ all-day event that will feature a breadth of workshops, vendors and presentations that all cater to those who like a little kink in their lives.
The Midnight at Dawn Expo is being hosted by Midnight Manor, Sudbury's alternative lifestyle community, which has been hosting munches, workshops, play parties and more in Greater Sudbury for almost seven years.
Réseau ACCESS Network has partnered with Midnight Manor for the expo and will have their own vendor/information table at Midnight at Dawn. The relationship between the two was formed about a year ago (fittingly at a “munch,” a casual social gathering for people involved in or interested in the BDSM lifestyle) and things moved forward quickly from there.
"I met Matthew (Frederick) from Réseau at a munch about a year ago,” said Nadeau.
“(Réseau) had reached out and said they wanted to come out to one and pass out condoms and promote sexual health awareness and I was a little bit shocked, I didn't even really know that they existed.
"Matthew brought out just an amazing set of supplies and I saw that he was really concerned about sexual health, and safety and awareness."
Nadeau says that over the past few years, there has been a heightened awareness of the alternative lifestyle community, with things like the "50 Shades of Gray" books and movies bringing BDSM (bondage, domination, sadism, masochism) to the mainstream.
Sudbury is certainly on board with adding a little something extra in the bedroom, as the city has consistently ranked in the top five on PinkCherry's list of the sexiest cities in Canada, a list based on the purchases of sex toys per person.
"We've been going over since the new year, how to get a large scale event going and after passing around a few ideas we decided on going for an expo," said Nadeau.
"We decided to go big with it. We couldn't really go smaller scale if we wanted to get qualified educators up to Northern Ontario. We have a lot of people who are interested in this, but we don't have established presenters or educators, which is why we want to help bring more awareness and get more exposure for both of our groups."
The educational aspect of the expo is one that Nadeau says is a major focus, while at the same time breaking down some of the stigma that may exist around alternative lifestyles and things like BDSM.
"We're very much about consent and communication,” said Nadeau.
“One of the big things that the BDSM community promotes is safe, sane and consensual. One of the aspects of safe is being aware of the risks and taking the steps to minimize them and that's something that a clinic (like Réseau) is excellent for.
“For me, I'm good at the administrative end and building events, but I'm not the best for every sort of educational aspect, so that's why it's great to have people with the expertise that we can rely on."
Réseau ACCESS Network manager of programs and services Heidi Eisenhauer is thrilled at the opportunity to get the word out about their organization and the services offered.
"It's always great whenever we come across new partners, we're always looking for more partnerships," said Eisenhauer. "We partner already with Public Health so we're able to look at specific kits, things like toys, different condom kits that would suit the community, it's always great to get out and promote sexual health wherever we can."
Internationally renowned artists HeadMistress Shahrazad and Tifereth will be at the expo, educating and entertaining those in attendance. Vendors from across the province will be bringing their wares to Sudbury to help expo-goers find that new and exciting item to spice up their relationship.
"For years our organization has had discussions on play with toys, consent and things like this when we do a safe sex workshop," said Eisenhauer. "It's not that it's something new, but it's nice to find a new community that we can share it with."
As with many communities that can be defined as "alternative" or outside what the majority may see as "the norm," Nadeau says that having events like this and opening up the door to conversation is a key step in breaking down stigma.
"One thing I've found is that not just in Sudbury, but many other towns that get a little bit isolated they have a tendency to want to engage in more sexual activity," said Nadeau.
"I think with kink in general there has been a long-standing stigma surrounding it and has caused a lot of people to be isolated. A lot of people want to, but no one wants to take the first step and find out that everyone around them is doing the same thing.
“Everyone is doing it, but no one's saying anything. What's really exciting about this is we're not sure how fast this is going to grow. The way I've structured the expo is to cover a little bit of everything to set up the future for Sudbury."
The vendor fair will open the expo, with everything from kinky coffee mugs and trinkets all the way up to full BDSM stations.
Presenter HeadMistress Shahrazad will be giving an introduction to kink workshops with "10 things you need to know about kink," and Tifereth will be introducing people to the basics of bondage.
"Bondage is one of the most popular things for people in the lifestyle," said Nadeau. "That particularly is a great opportunity for people to practice communication, to be able to talk to one another and look at safety risk and management."
Both presenters will attend the after party at the Asylum Bar where demonstrations will be a little bit more hands-on.
"It's a little less formal, less shirt and tie, well you can lose the shirt but keep the tie, that might be fun," laughed Nadeau.
For ticket information and more visit midnightatdawn.com.
To learn more about services at Réseau ACCESS Network visit them online..