Organizing Ottawa’s arts scene

"From concept to clean-up" is Marika Jemma's tagline

Ottawa artist Marika Jemma is a shining light in Ottawa’s cultural community. Those in the talented circles she runs in will attest to that. Her partner is well-known Herb Girls singer Brenna Rivier and her brother is a sparkling member of B-Girlz.

If coaxed, Jemma’s toddler daughter Sadie a budding musical genius in her own right – will also vouch for Jemma, one of the Women’s Voices Festival’s biggest blessings.

But that Jemma, a faithful member of the Enriched Bread artist collective, has a head for business too, is news.

Her home-based business, This Is Not A Dress Productions, is to gay and lesbian culture in Ottawa as salve is to a sore.

Jemma says the current state of lesbian and gay artistic culture in Ottawa is, at best, “kinda spotty.”

“My primary interest is producing artistic special events and promotions,” explains Jemma of her fledgling home-based business. “My tagline is ‘From concept to clean up.'”

Already, Jemma’s summer is bright, beginning with a drag cabaret by B-Girlz at Barrymore’s on Fri, Jul 9.

“It’s a fucking fabulous show,” admits Jemma, meekly. “You’d have to see it to believe it.”

Queer comic Fiona McCool will open for the Toronto-based drag queen trio.

“That’s my big coming out party,” says Jemma with pride. “And that will be happening during Pride.”

To a very warm reception, This Is Not A Dress Productions debuted at the Saw Gallery in March. The weekend, coinciding with International Women’s Week, featured four shows, including a play written by Evelyn Perry.

“I thought the best way to showcase an events business is to have an event,” says Jemma. “We were very pleased; everyone made money.”

Jemma is also touting a video documentary about life behind the scenes at the Women’s Voices Festival, filmed in 2002 and aptly named Three Days: Three Days At The Women’s Voices Festival.

There’s no doubt Jemma’s business has momentum. The woman herself is the first to agree.

“The energy comes and goes but there’s clearly a need for it. I may be the only one who’s sort of doing this sort of thing right now.”

“[Through Women’s Voices] I sort of became the specialist at putting together these events and I thought – well, I wondered and I bet – that there are other organizations out there that would be interested in hiring me to put together their events,” she explains. “I can basically do it all from start to finish. Basically, I do all the work.”

Jemma is also currently promoting two different bands, right down to writing their press kits. “I’m sort of managing. Getting the word out about them.”


While Jemma’s aims may seem altruistic, and may look like a newly-blazed trail, she also admits to a personal motivation.

“I have sort of an artistic agenda,” she freely states. “There are some great musicians and artists and comedians and so on, that I would really like to support and create an opportunity for them to play here in Ottawa, and take the show on the road and go out to other cities.”

As a full-time mom, however, her focus remains on daughter Sadie. But asked if she plans to manage the 13-month-old in future endeavours, she pauses. “Be her manager?” she cringes. “Certainly I think it’s fun. But I don’t want to be Britney Spears’ mom,” she laughs. “That would be just gross.”

* Contact Jemma at her website or e-mail

Read More About:
Culture, Ottawa, Drag

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