Graham Anderson: It’s time to end No Fun City in Vancouver parks

My mother is an artist, so I take every opportunity to show off our city’s vibrant arts scene when she comes to visit from out of town.

A couple years ago, we participated in the Illuminaries Lantern Festival together. We sang with my community choir, joined a procession of meticulously designed lanterns, gazed at glowing art installations, and watched an impressive fire show.

As dusk turned to darkness, musicians could be heard playing down by Trout Lake. We wandered over to find dozens of community members listening and singing along. People of all ages were dancing, chatting, and getting to know their neighbours. I even got my mom up to dance with me for a song.

“Sorry, folks!” A man and a woman in brown outfits called out as they approached the crowd. “Last song. Gotta shut it down now, the event licence is over.”

You could just about hear the screech of a record player grinding to a halt.

I look at my watch; it reads 10:23 p.m.

The group complained—but to no avail. We were asked to leave the park and wandered home early.

At first glance, this may not seem like a big issue. Of course we can’t have music in the park every night. Of course nearby residents need to sleep. Of course the fun has to stop at some point.

But in a city where social isolation is a top concern for local residents, moments of authentic connection among neighbours are precious. And as people increasingly live in smaller-footprint condos, suites, and laneway homes, our parks and public spaces play an even more crucial role in connecting us with each other.

The official Parks Control Bylaw was originally drafted in 1967, when hippy “Be-In’s” in Stanley Park were a major concern for Mayor Tom Campbell and other local officials. Perhaps it’s not surprising that the rules that govern our parks were not written with the intent of connecting neighbours.

Last updated by the park board in 2008, the bylaws include many rules that are necessary to effectively govern our parks and community centres. But they still include a number of relics from the past.

Some seem outright silly (3a: No sitting on walls in parks). Many are not enforced consistently (3b: parks only open during posted hours). Some reflect our city’s No Fun reputation of the past (8a: no concerts, gatherings, or meetings without permission). And one is anti-democratic (8b: no public addresses or demonstrations without permission).

With those rules, it’s a wonder how anything fun still happens in our city’s parks. But thankfully, it does.

On a warm spring night last week, an urban outdoor festival called Connect Vancouver sprung up in Vanier Park. Organized by a collaborative team including Gen Why, CityStudio, and Radius, the event was intended to “reimagine social connectedness.”

It was a fantastic, free family-friendly event, with giant bubble-blowing, live music, a photography exhibit, and a fire show. People of all ages were relaxing, laughing, dancing, and… connecting. There was even a propane fire for neighbours to gather around and share stories. It was an inspiring place to be.

I heard many comments of approval throughout the night: “This is so great! I’ve never been to something like this in the city.” “Why can’t this happen more often?” “I wish this was here every weekend!”

There’s no reason community events like this can’t be happening more often and in more locations throughout our fantastic parks system. We have an opportunity to connect people, improve our health, and have fun doing it, and I believe the park board has an important role to play in making that happen.

Comments (18) Add New Comment
Since they shut down Raves...
I've hated the scene in Vancouver. Those were some of the best parties EVER in this city and all monitored by police!!! Plus had security there and there was never alcohol being served there. Yes, lots of drugs, but this city already has a problem with that, does it mean to shut down amazing dance parties? NO.

To those who went to those legendary epic events, i miss dancing and chatting with all of you. Some of the nicest and friendliest people went to Raves and ever since those have been shut down i've been calling this place the No Fun City, then to hear parks being shut down like this also? Like what the hell is going on in society now, this is insane!!... Some of the best memories ever and now we're just labelled as NFC.

I really want to move from here as other places still hold Raves, like UK, LA, NY, etc but heaven forbid Vancouver has them. I went for years and never had trouble unlike the bars here which are ridiculous. Have seen so many fights, stabbing, eff even shootings. Unbelievable what this city has turned into.
Rating: -12
Practicality for the win!
Love to see these very practical, and feasible solutions to social inclusivity suggested! Looks like Graham has done his homework, and these ideas would seem to aligned with the exact activities that parks should be for! Bravo.
Rating: -4
Xander Davis
"active transportation" Another Bicycle "enthusiast" eh?

The fragile Trevor Loke of Vission puts out P.R. about his court appeals and here we have another Visionista being invisible in the Straight.


Late night events, in the dark, tend to get rowdy, often drunken and this is a clean way to voluntarily clear the parks for police surveillance.
See fireworks shows, late night at Spanish Banks, Robston Street riots etc.
It is how Vancouver Verewolves behave.
Rating: -17
Ping Mao
So fun in parks can only happen with late night noise and amplified music? or demonstrations? Permits work because they take the neighbors into consideration. Parks are for everyone. That means everyone must be respectful. Not everyone wants to hear your bongos or loud noises. 10:30 is late enough for outdoor parties in parks.
Rating: +1
Denis Agar
I'm not exactly a huge rave fan, but I am am definitely a huge fan of more fun stuff happening in our parks. When I moved here from Toronto the first think I noticed was how much more time people spend outside. Parks are this city's living room! Let's chill out with the nuclear family era laws and get more out of our shared spaces. The city has been facilitating block parties for ages, let's take it to the next level! I'm voting for Graham.
Rating: -2
I am all for fun but...

From a different angle (aside from noise and drugs)... I am not for the giant mess that is often left by many big events. Have you ever seen how disgusting the beach is at English Bay after the Fireworks? You pretty much can't see the sand/grass for all the garbage that is left. Total disrespect for such a beautiful spot. The same applies to any music festivals I have been to (here and to be fair, other parts of the world) held in parks/ public green spaces. Why do people feel it is their right to have their fun and leave others to pick up the mess? It's like camping ...enjoy the natural surrounding; when you go, leave it how you found it. Mother Nature and fellow park/beach goers will thank you :)
Rating: +15
Maybe more events will teach people to get along better as a society and to snap out of our zombie states, unplugging from the all-consuming smartphone. But as long as it doesn't involve Vancouver hockey, beer, and young adults.
Rating: -13
Laurie K
Really Xander? You are comparing the Firework's shows with the Robson street riots? The annual attendance of the Fireworks exceeds the population of Vancouver proper. The incidents are minimal, considering.

I am also voting for Graham.

If you don't like noise in the park move a block away. If you didn't like noise, you wouldn't live on a main street or in downtown Vancouver. Likewise, if you don't like noise don't live close to the noise.
Rating: -17
Martin Dunphy

If you don't like noise, you should move away from parks?
With respect, I'm afraid you have a rather distorted understanding of the rationale behind urban parks. The "noise" should be children's laughter, conversation, family picnics, and baseball games, not amplified music, booze, and screeching near midnight.
The yahoos can party at Cultus Lake, which is their idea of "wilderness" anyhow.
Rating: -10
At second glance, this not a big deal. Permits serve a purpose.
Rating: +8
@Laurie K
Just move away? How would you feel if a telecom company built a cell tower beside your house? Are you just going to move away too?
Rating: -1
Hey Graham et. al. How about nudity in parks? Would it be okay to have a nude section in one of the parks? [It could be properly signed and surrounded with hedges for those who might be offended] If properly signed would there be any problem with sex in the park after dark and away from people's attention? [Amsterdam does this.] Explicit support for nudity in a park would win my vote.
Rating: -7
Westerly Flurries
I like the way Anderson thinks about the potential of our park spaces for building community, for creating meaningful connections in our city. Vancouver has made progress bucking the old No Fun City monkey off our collective back, to a degree, but it's still an incredibly paternalistic and heavily bureaucratized municipality we live in. As someone who books events with Parks Board it's crazy the amount of red tape and the waiting involved for even the simplest of get togethers. I'd like to see someone work with communities to support programming that addresses Vancouver's social isolation problem identified a few years ago by the Vancouver Foundation and its report. It sounds like that's kind of the direction he wants to go. I'm excited to see some new blood on parks board, from Vision or the other parties. I think Graham has his head on straight. Looking forward to hearing more from this guy.
Rating: -10
I've recently been looking to plan a family reunion in a public park. I was told that the event may have to be fenced if more than 50 people were involved, and would certainly have to be if alcohol were involved.

this sort of rule doesn't seem to make sense. why not charge me for an event permit, an alcohol permit and ticket me if i break the terms? this would allow citizens to have greater use of parks, foster trust between park users and rangers and would likely result in more income for the city.
Rating: -2
Alan Layton
The reason we are labelled No Fun City is not due to Tom Campbell's bylaws designed to prevent 'hippies' occupying are best parks, but to years of drunken morons ruining just about every event. Anybody remember the Sea Festival Parade? Probably not because it was stopped years ago after a riot from drunken yobos. It wasn't at night either but in the morning with children everywhere. How about the Sand Castle contests in Whiterock? Once again it was cancelled due to drunken louts. Greek Days on lower Broadway (west of McDonald) only returned in the last couple of years after a decades long absence due to drunks. These are the same drunks that destroy Granville St every Friday and Saturday night. Of course there's no need to mention the two Stanley Cup riots as well as the 1964 Grey Cup riot and many, many other riots over the years due to insane reasons such as The Rolling Stones concert selling out or Gun's n' Roses cancelling a show.

For too long Vancouver has had to suffer moronic behaviour from it's (mainly white) youth, so until they can control themselves these bylaws will stay in effect. Wide-eyed naive people such as Anderson are lost in a hippie-artist haze of idealism. Do you remember what happened the last time the city figured we were adult enough to hold a party? It was in June 15, 2011 for those with short memories.
Rating: +4
James Blatchford
Forget Graham 'Mayhem' Anderson...Alan Layton for Parks Commissioner.
Rating: -3
History Lesson
The "No Fun Vancouver" label was created by a particularly odious and cretinous Granville street bar operator during the campaign to ban smoking in bars. He promoted the idea widely and in the minds of certain gullible Vancouverites the city all at once became no fun. This in spite of the multitude of opportunities Vancouver affords. That the label survives is a testament to the power of suggestion on weak minds.

This candidate isn't the first to trot out the tired old label and it tells me more about him than it accurately describes Vancouver. Are we really to be impressed by someone who believes it's a puritan conspiracy behind the rarity of face painting and bubble machines in parks?!
Rating: -3
Way to go Vancouver, now could you please tell Surrey mayor Dianne Watts that we own the parks that she is banning us and fining us for most of the time in we the people's parks.

Dianne Watts and her slate must be stopped, we will not be dictated to by her regime and I for one am 74 years old and if I feel like romping through OUR parks at night I shall do it. Just who in the hell does she and her gang think they are???

This Watts slate, every last one of them, must be voted out in November/14. No more dictators. All they have done is make Surrey the most dangerous place to live since 2005.
Rating: +5
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