Where is the heart of Vancouver? The living, beating nucleus of this fair town is Downtown Eastside, a neighbourhood that encompasses Gastown, Victory Square, Chinatown, the Main and Hastings corridors, Japantown, Oppenheimer and Strathcona. The Downtown Eastside is where Vancouver began, and the 8th annual Heart of the City Festival, Oct. 26 to Nov. 6, is a series of events that pay tribute to the neighbourhood’s past and present.
The first residents were the ancestors of Coast Salish people who still reside in the DTES today. For the last 125 years, immigrants of all nationalities have settled in this space making it Vancouver’s most diverse neighbourhood. Far from static, the Vancouver’s heart has shape-shifted from entertainment/shopping centre to skid row to hipster magnet with serious affordable housing issues.
The Heart of the City Festival tells these stories with music, dancing, art and history. There are over 100 events in the festival offerings this year. Here are some you won’t want to miss.
Heart of the City Festival Must Attend Events
Festival Opening Ceremony
Wed., Oct. 26, 2 p.m.-3 p.m., Carnegie Community Centre Theatre, 401 Main St., Free.
Join friends from the neighbourhood and Mayor Robertson for the grand opening. Sam George (Tse-at-sul-tuxch) of the Squamish Nation will set things off with a welcome song. DTES poet, artist and activist Diane Wood will read an excerpt from the poem 100 Years of Struggle by Sandy Cameron. The Sunshine Choir of Chinese Canadian seniors will perform as will Cree/Metis singer-songwriter and Juno nominee Wayne Lavallee. Everyone is welcome to this free event with refreshments.
Sweet Soul Sisters of the Downtown Eastside:
Wed., Oct 26, 7:30 p.m., Carnegie Theatre, 401 Main St., Free.
Discover the strong women’s voices of the DTES, including Dalannah Gail Bowen, Rosanne Gervais, Heidi Morgan and Peggy Wilson in an evening of jazz, rhythm and blues.
Aboriginal Artist Showcase
Sun., Oct 30, 2:30 p.m., Carnegie Theatre, 401 Main St., Free.
This special showcase, assembled for the Honourable Steven Point, Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia, features urban Aboriginal spoken word artists, dancers, singers and musicians, including Wayne Lavallee, Juno nominated and award-winning singer and guitarist.
Walking tour: Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside Outdoor Murals
Sat., Nov 5, 11a.m., Meet at front steps of Carnegie, 401 Main St., Visitors – $10, Locals – pay as you can.
There are over 80 murals on the walls of buildings in Vancouver’s East End. Muralist and local legend Richard Tetrault will take us on a walking tour of about 15 of those murals located in the Downtown Eastside. There are sure to be many surprises!
Walking tour: Chinatown:
Sat. Nov. 5, 10 a.m., Meet at Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Garden courtyard, 568 Carrall. Visitors – $10, Locals – pay as you can.
Walk the inner city and learn about customs, symbolism and traditions of Chinatown from a cultural perspective with Bob Sung. Having a background in culinary education, Bob says “Food is my medium.”
Ukrainian Hall’s Community Concert, Supper & Community Dance
Sun. Nov. 6, Concert 3 p.m. Supper follows. Dance 7:30 p.m. Ukrainian Hall, 805 E. Pender, $20.
The festival ends on a high note with three special events on one day at the Ukrainian Hall. Start your afternoon with a concert, featuring the Barvinok Choir, the Vancouver Folk Orchestra and the Dovbush Dancers. Immediately after the concert is a delicious traditional Ukrainian Supper followed by the Community Dance to toe-tappin fiddle fok music.
For the full Heart of the City Festival event schedule check out the listings on the event website.