Salah Bachir Presents: 18th Annual The 519 Gala headlined by famed Broadway star Audra McDonald on April 30 in Toronto
Luminaries Margaret Atwood, David Furnish, Nancy Lockhart, Sylvia Mantella,
Rick Mercer, Kent Monkman, and Al Ramsay serve as
2023 Honourary Chairs
TORONTO, CANADA — The 519, one of the world’s leading and most respected 2SLGBTQ+ community and support centres, has announced internationally renowned author John Irving will be honoured at the 18th Annual 519 Gala fundraiser with the first-ever 519 Ally Award. The award recognizes a person that actively promotes and aspires to advance a more just and equitable society for 2SLGBTQ+ individuals and families. Presented by distinguished art patron and philanthropist Salah Bachir and headlined by six-time Tony Award-winning singer and actress, Audra McDonald, the illustrious event will be held on Sunday, April 30 at The Ritz Carlton in Toronto.
“I try to tell well-plotted stories that broaden readers’ empathy for characters who are overlooked or persecuted—especially queer and trans characters,” said John Irving (he/him). “It means a lot to be recognized for my efforts by such a venerated institution, in the city I love.”
For close to 50 years, The 519 has provided safe, welcoming, and nurturing spaces for the 2SLGBTQ+ community, and hosts over 500,000 visits a year. Salah Bachir is the 519’s honourary patron. He led the capital campaign to rebuild The 519 and has held an annual gala to ensure The 519 can continue to provide vital services that support the evolving needs of the queer and trans community in Canada. The gala helps fund the various programming the centre provides, including trauma-informed counselling, newcomer and refugee aid, food security initiatives (that have already provided 475,000 meals to local residents in the past two years), two-spirit offerings for Indigenous youth, early child and family care, legal resources, wellness, a world-renowned trans support system, and many others.
“For nearly half a century, The 519 has functioned as our city’s queer kitchen table – the place we gather to share, meet, learn, disagree, flirt, comfort, share a beverage and speak out,” said Canadian filmmaker, writer, and activist John Greyson (he/him). “For queer artists, it can be a place to test out our new recipes; for queer activists, it can be our space to break bread. The 519 is a welcoming, wise, and surprising table, keeping us on our toes even as it invites us to make tea and pull up a chair.”
“During a time of increasing violence against the trans community, and when equality remains a fundamental right we still need to fight for, I am so pleased to have a role at this year’s gala and join an incredible alumnus of allies of the 2SLGBTQ+ community,” said singer, actress, and 519 Gala headliner Audra McDonald (she/her). “We must remain focused on our most vulnerable people and communities and continue to support and raise awareness for the critical lifesaving work of The 519.”
Past gala performers have included, Diahann Carroll, Joan Rivers, k.d. lang, Patti LuPone, Andrea Martin, Jackie Richardson, Ben Vereen, Billy Newton Davis, Molly Johnson, and Alan Cumming.
ABOUT THE 519
The 519 is committed to the health, happiness, and full participation of the 2SLGBTQ+ communities. A City of Toronto agency with an innovative model of Service, Space, and Leadership, we strive to make a real difference in people’s lives, while working to promote inclusion, understanding, and respect. To learn more about the vital work of The 519, or to make a donation, please visit The519.org
ABOUT JOHN IRVING
John Irving has written fifteen novels over the course of his prolific career, the majority of which have been international bestsellers. Irving’s long-time commitment to themes of tolerance for sexual minorities has made him a bard of alternative families and a visionary voice on the subject of sexual freedom. Irving is described as “the voice of social justice and compassion in contemporary American literature” by The Globe and Mail. Irving has been nominated for a National Book Award three times, winning in 1980 for The World According to Garp. In 2000, he won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for The Cider House Rules. In 2013, he won a Lambda Literary Award for In One Person. Internationally renowned, his books have been translated into more than thirty-five languages. A Prayer for Owen Meany is his best-selling novel, in every language. John Irving is a dual citizen of the United States and Canada. He lives in Toronto.
ABOUT AUDRA McDONALD
Audra McDonald has dazzled the world with her luminous soprano and incomparable gift for dramatic truth-telling and is an unsurpassed advocate of 2SLGBTQ+ rights in the North American entertainment world. McDonald is the record-breaking winner of six Tony awards, two- Grammy Awards, and an Emmy award. She was named one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people and is revered for her staunch advocacy of equal rights and at-risk youth.
For media inquiries and interview requests, please contact:
Victoria Gormley, firstname.lastname@example.org