17th Annual Downtown Eastside Heart of the City Festival

Vancouver Moving Theatre in association witCarnegie Community Centre & the Association of United Ukrainian Canadians


17th Annual Downtown Eastside

Heart of the City Festival

Wednesday October 28 to Sunday November 8, 2020

Over 50 events throughout the Downtown Eastside and online

Tickets and Info: www.heartofthecityfestival.com

Tickets/Registration for online events will be available on the festival website in early October

We are thrilled to announce the 17th Annual Downtown Eastside Heart of the City Festival!

Every year, the Downtown Eastside community looks forward to the Heart of the City Festival. This year, more than ever, Downtown Eastside residents and artists seek opportunities for cultural exchange and to get together. The Festival is here to ensure that our community and artists are supported during these challenging times. Due to circumstances of the pandemic, we have reimagined this year’s festival to be smaller in scale with programming mostly online and outdoors.

The 2020 Festival theme, This Gives Us Strength, resonates today as our community copes with a worldwide pandemic, physical distancing, ongoing displacement, the fentanyl crisis, and the raw realities of bigotry and systemic racism.

We take strength from the compelling creativity of Downtown Eastside-involved artists and residents who illuminate the vitality, relevance and resilience of the Downtown Eastside community and its diverse and rich traditions, knowledge systems, ancestral languages, cultural roots and stories. In the words of late DTES poet Sandy Cameron, “When we tell our stories we draw our own maps, and question the maps of the powerful. Each of us has something to tell, something to teach.”

The 2020 Festival features twelve days of online and pop-up outdoor events, including music, stories, poetry, ceremony, films, readings, forums, workshops, discussions, art talks, history talks and visual art exhibitions. Feature events include: Dalannah Gail Bowen (Blues Hall of Fame), Downtown Eastside resident and blues queen; Jenifer Reads (Imagi’NATION Collective), an episode from an online series of readings of heroic coming-of-age stories for youth hosted by Jenifer Brousseau; the Sandy Cameron Memorial Writing Contest, an annualevent that celebrates the creative writing of Downtown Eastside-involved residents; and In the Beginning, co-presented by Firehall Arts Centre and Vancouver Moving Theatre, storyteller, filmmaker, and performer Rosemary Georgeson (Coast Salish/Dene) joins director Donna Spencer to delve into the history of the Indigenous peoples here—specifically those from the different cultural heritages in Strathcona, Chinatown, Gastown, and the historic Japanese Canadian neighbourhood of Powell Street (Paueru Gai).

The Festival is also delighted to announce the return of Khari Wendell McClelland (The Sojourners/Freedom Singer) as Artist-in-Residence. Among his activities, Khari is curating Spotlight on the East End, a special online presentation that profiles a diverse and exciting line-up of local musicians.

The mandate of the Festival is to promote, present and facilitate the development of artists, art forms, cultural traditions, history, activism, people and great stories about Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. The festival involves professional, community, emerging and student artists, and lovers of the arts. 

Vancouver Moving Theatre (VMT) is a Downtown Eastside arts organization co-founded (1983) by Terry Hunter (ED) and Savannah Walling (AD). VMT creates original, ground-breaking and accessible art that celebrates the power of the human spirit; bridges cultural traditions, social groups, and artistic disciplines; and leaves legacies for the future. VMT co-produces the Downtown Eastside Heart of the City Festival, an annual flagship event that gives voice to the community’s low-income residents, cultural communities and historic neighbourhoods.

Top Festival Picks – 17th Annual Downtown Eastside Heart of the City Festival

With more than 50 events scheduled over 12 days throughout the Downtown Eastside and online, the 17th Annual DTES Heart of the City Festival (October 28 – November 8, 2020) has a cornucopia of cultural events and artistic activities to attend, participate in, and enjoy. Here are our dozen exciting Top Festival Picks.  

1. Tribute to Carnegie’s 40th Anniversary, featuring special guest Libby Davies

Join us in paying tribute to the most extraordinary community centre in Canada! The opening of the Carnegie in 1980 was a transformative event in the history of the Downtown Eastside. Libby Davies, along with Bruce Eriksen and DERA (Downtown Eastside Residents’ Association), was front and centre in the community-led initiative to establish the Carnegie Community Centre. Libby will read selections from her book Outside In, A Political Memoir, and in conversation with Am Johal, recount stories of why and how the Centre was established. As Libby says: “Opening day of Carnegie was quite the drama.” Tell us more!

Wednesday October 28, 7:30pm

Live stream online and audience interactive, with pre-recorded segments.

2. Workshop with Libby Davies: How to use the Political Structure to Make Change

The Festival is thrilled to present this wonderful opportunity to learn from Libby Davies – writer, activist, community builder, organizer, and longtime Member of Parliament for Vancouver East. Libby says, “Supporting and learning from each other to bring about transformative change means getting beyond the cynical views we are often influenced by, about the world of politics. We know what we want, but how do we navigate the political institutions to get it?” In this online workshop you will explore the question “what can I do?” and come up with one idea for action.

Thursday October 29, 11am

Live stream online and participant interactive. Maximum 15 participants.

3. The Art of Water Sleeves 

Vancouver Cantonese Opera presents The Art of Water Sleeves, a virtual opera party with live performance and interactive water sleeve lesson led by performer Rosa Cheng. As a dynamic stage technique, water sleeves are used to convey emotions using hundreds of moves such as quivering, throwing, wigwagging, and whisking. Bilingual – in English and Cantonese.

Thursday October 29, 2pm – 3:30pm  

Live stream online and audience interactive.

4. An Evening with Dalannah Gail Bowen: Looking Back & The Returning Journey

Featuring longtime Downtown Eastside resident, blues matriarch, and Blues Hall of Fame Inductee Dalannah Gail Bowen. The DTES community is very proud of Dalannah, both for her exceptional artistic practice, and for her commitment to activism, social justice and community building. This evening features two sets. The first set, Looking Back, features Dalannah andher exceptional band performing songs from her recent CD Looking Back. The second set, Songs & Poems from The Returning Journey, features Dalannah and pianist Michael Creber performing songs and poetry that recount Dalannah’s journey in which she overcame child-abuse, addiction and homelessness to arrive at a place of becoming whole.

Thursday October 29, 7pm

Pre-recorded at KW Studios and Firehall Arts Centre, presented online, followed by live Q&A with Dalannah.

5. Grounds for Goodness Downtown Eastside:Adventures in Digital Community Art Making

Grounds for Goodness Downtown Eastside is a virtual residency that artfully explores why and how people sometimes do good things towards others. We’ve all grown up with and inherited evidence that people, especially in groups, do harmful things to each other. But what about times that people have come together to help, protect and rescue others from harm? These stories are there if we look – hidden in history, tale and memory – showing that social goodness may be difficult, rare and fragile, yet possible. The Jumblies artistic team in Toronto (including lead artist Ruth Howard and composer Martin van de Ven) are joined by Vancouver artists Savannah Walling, Olivia C. Davies, Beverly Dobrinsky, Khari Wendell McClelland, Renae Morriseau, Rianne Svelnis, and ten Downtown Eastside-involved participants. The public is invited to take part via multiple online events. Please visit the festival website for details.

Ground for Goodness is a national project produced by Jumblies Theatre + Arts. Grounds for Goodness Downtown Eastside is co-produced with Vancouver Moving Theatre.

Friday October 30 to Thursday November 12

Live stream with participant and audience interactive (story-sharing, art-making, workshops, evolving gallery), as well as Downtown Eastside window displays.

6. Survivors Totem Pole

In 2016, the Survivors Totem Pole was carved by Downtown Eastside resident and activist Skundaal Bernie Williams, then raised at Pigeon Park in a powerful pole raising and potlatch witnessing ceremony attended by Elders, VIPs and over 1,000 residents. This moving film by local filmmaker Susanne Tabata, follows the extraordinary community-led journey to create and raise a monument to survivors: a tribute to the enduring inclusivity, strength, resistance and persistence of the Downtown Eastside community.

Friday October 30, 7pm

Existing film, presented online, followed by live Q&A with Susanne and Skundaal.

7. DTES Front & Centre Showcase: All Together Now!

It’s All Hallows’ Eve! And it’s also time for a big celebration of the talented community performers of the Downtown Eastside in our annual DTES Front & Centre Showcase. It’s a tradition! In this time of uncertainty and self-isolation, the Festival has invited a wide variety of local performers to come together to share their stories and songs with the community and the wider world. This gives us strength; we’re all together! Enjoy performances from some of our favourite musicians, storytellers, dancers, poets, writers, singers, actors, and spoken word artists who live and create in the Downtown Eastside.

Saturday October 31, 7pm

Pre-recorded at the Firehall Arts Centre, presented online.

8. Spotlight on the East End

Spotlight profiles the compelling creativity and strength of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside-involved artists and residents who illuminate the vitality, relevance and resilience of our neighbourhood and its rich traditions, cultural roots and music. Curated by Festival Artist-in-Residence Khari Wendell McClelland (Sojourners/Freedom Singer), Spotlight on the East End features five culturally diverse and exceptionally talented artists and groups: soul and gospel musician Khari Wendell McClelland and his band, interdisciplinary musician Rup Sidhu, art-folk musician Hannah Walker with friends, IndigiFunk musician Curtis ClearSky and the Constellationz, and klezmer-punk accordionist Geoff Berner. 

Friday October 30, 8:30pm

Pre-recorded at the Afterlife Studio, presented online.

9we the same

A reading of scenes from a new play by Sangeeta Wylie, with Vietnamese danh tranh music, and guest speakers between scenes. Produced by Ruby Slippers, we the same is inspired by the true story of a mother with six young children separated from their father. Fleeing Vietnam in 1979, the mother and her children endured pirate attacks, typhoons, shipwreck, starvation and more.  After over forty years of secrets, is reconciliation possible between a mother and her daughter? For ages 18 and up.

Monday November 2, 8pm

Pre-recorded at the Firehall Arts Centre, presented online, followed by live Q&A with the artistic team.

10. My Art is Activism, Part II

Long time DTES documentarian and organizer Sid Chow Tan shares selections from his extensive archive of self-produced video journalism. Sid’s choices of videos will highlight Asian Canadian social movements and direct action in Chinatown and in particular redress for the Chinese head tax.

Tuesday November 3, 3pm

Existing videos, presented online, followed by live Q&A with Sid.

11. In the Beginning

Join storyteller, filmmaker and performer Rosemary Georgeson (Coast Salish/Dene) and Firehall Artistic Producer Donna Spencer as they delve into the stories and history of local Indigenous peoples prior to and during colonization. Over the evolving five events, Georgeson and Spencer are joined by Indigenous elders and knowledge keepers from Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh homelands; and from up the rivers, across the waters and from the other side of the mountains. Stories of the land, told by the people of the land. A Firehall Arts Centre and Vancouver Moving Theatre co-production.

Wednesday Nov. 4 & Thursday Nov. 5, 7:30pm; Friday Nov. 6, 8pm; Saturday Nov. 7, 3pm & 8pm

Firehall Arts Centre, 280 East Cordova.  $20 (incl. s/c & GST).

Tickets at door or advance sales: 604-689-9926; [email protected], or www.firehallartcentre.ca

12Crees in the Caribbean

A video of a play reading of Crees in the Caribbean by Drew Hayden Taylor, with Sam Bob and Nola Wuttunee of Greasy Bannock Theatre. The hilarious play tells the story of Evie and Cecil, two First Nations seniors on a second honeymoon to a Caribbean resort, who reminisce over a lifetime together and their differences on leaving the reservation.

Thursday November 5, 7pm

Pre-recorded in at the Firehall Arts Centre, presented online, followed by live Q&A with Drew, Sam and Nola.

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