A pinball arcade in Old Ottawa South that features live music says it will implement an eight-point plan to make the venue more safe and inclusive after a controversy following a performance by a band called Black Pussy in May.

The stoner rock band played House of TARG on May 15, generating some complaints and questions about the venue's decision to let them play.

On May 31, the venue posted a note on its Facebook page to defend its booking decision, saying that the band "at no point acted or spoke in any negative way" on stage at the venue and that while the name Black Pussy offends some, "we can only assure you that in our opinion the name is not meant to be interpreted so literally, which is why the show was booked."

Paul Granger double pumpers band House of TARG

Paul Granger, one of the owners of House of TARG, says he's "committed to positive action" after the venue received dozens of negative comments for defending its booking of a band called Black Pussy in May. (Kurt Xiaoyi Tang)

The post also made reference to other stoner rock bands such as Black Sabbath, Orange Goblin and Deep Purple.

"It is important to realize that a band name that some people find offensive does not automatically make a band racist or [misogynist]," the May 31 post reads.

"We would never tolerate any serious or heartfelt hate speech/action on our stage but it is impossible for us to turn down shows by every band that has an edgy or insensitive name - it is also impossible for us to speak on the band's behalf."

Post generated 140 comments

House of TARG's Facebook post generated about 140 comments. Some people defended the venue and its booking decision while dozens of others complained, saying the venue was ignoring people's concerns.

Facebook comments House of TARG Black Pussy show June 24 2015

These are some of the 140 comments House of TARG received on its May 31 Facebook post defending its decision to book Black Pussy. (Facebook)

Several weeks later on June 24, one of the venue's owners, Paul Granger, posted an action plan on the House of TARG Facebook page.

"I have always thought of TARG as a safe and inclusive space - there has been much discussion of late on what that actually means. I have learned that part of my responsibility as an owner/booker at TARG is to listen to the voices in our community and always work on helping/improving our space in any way possible," Granger wrote.

"We live in complicated times and it is important to change/adapt/grow in a responsible/positive manner. Ottawa is my home - always has been, always will be. I've lived/worked here for over 40 years and always been very active in our music community - I have experienced some of the best moments of my life working with others and helping it grow/expand. I am committed to positive action on issues that involve us all - let's work together and make this world safer for everyone."

House of TARG's plan includes:

  • Hosting a monthly series of free community workshops and seminars on topics such as consent, racism, decolonization and harm reduction.
  • Creating a portal on the House of TARG website to allow people to comment on issues anonymously.
  • Developing a mission statement and core values to be posted throughout the venue and online.
  • Moderating the venue's social media channels to reflect its mission statement.
  • Being "more thorough and intentional in our future bookings when it comes to vetting/researching acts."
  • Actively seeking out more bands, shows and promoters featuring people of colour.
  • Offering/encouraging safe space training at Carleton University to House of TARG staff.
  • Continuing charitable fundraising efforts.

Granger declined an interview with CBC this week.

Annette Ejiofor, a communications student at the University of Ottawa, was one of the women who complained about House of TARG's initial Facebook post defending its decision to book Black Pussy.

She said Wednesday that the venue's eight-point plan is a good starting point, but that it partly upset her and others because it didn't provide information about what led to the new policy and it didn't include an apology.

'It wasn't direct about what happened'

"It wasn't direct about what happened and that's very painful because [they're] kind of trying to generalize a situation that's very, very specific. And then it makes us look like ... we're just complaining out of nowhere and that's not right," Ejiofor said, adding that she and other women of colour in Ottawa submitted some ideas to the venue.

But she said House of TARG's plan is a good starting point.

"It is a really, really big step for them to make that eight-point plan, and it shows that they are listening to what we have to say, they're not just kind of brushing it away," Ejiofor said.

"And the most important thing about the eight-point plan is not even about the plan itself, but the communication that it's beginning and starting within Ottawa that I think is very important."

Ejiofor also said she hopes the venue will promise not to book Black Pussy in the future.

Poll question

Tap here to vote on what you think about the eight-point plan.


Read the original May 31 House of TARG Facebook post and the comments here.

In response to questions regarding our decision to book BLACK PUSSY (who performed at TARG over 2 weeks ago) - The...

Posted by House of TARG on  Sunday, May 31, 2015