Powell Street Festival looks at expanding beyond Oppenheimer Park due to tent city
Powell Street Festival organizers say they are considering staging some events in a different location in the neighbourhood.
The festival, which is in its 38th year, was scheduled to take place in Oppenheimer Park from August 1 to 3. While the event will proceed nearby, general manager and programming director Kristen Lambertson said the festival does not want to disrupt the demonstrators that are camped out in the park.
“Right now we’re talking to the City of Vancouver,” Lambertson told the Straight.
“We are hoping to find some affordable alternatives in the neighbourhood…and have requested the use of Powell Street.”
In a statement issued this morning, organizers indicated they "wish to assure all that the festival this year will continue on August 1 – 3, 2014 and be a great celebration.
"However, we acknowledge and respect the concerns of the homeless and community residents in the Oppenheimer Park area, located on unceded Coast Salish territory. For this reason, the Powell Street Festival Society will not use the area of Oppenheimer Park where the protest is taking place and do not support the removal order or the threat of removal of residents in the park in any way," the statement added.
Lambertson said it will be disappointing not to use the park, given its history as the centre of the pre-World War II Japanese Canadian community in the neighbourhood.
“There’s a reason that we’re in that neighbourhood and there’s a reason that we’re called the Powell Street Festival,” she said. “The neighbourhood used to be called the Powell Street neighbourhood within the Japanese Canadian community.”
Lambertson added that the annual event is the longest community-run art and cultural festival in the city.
“We’re going to make it happen, and it’s going to be great, and we want to just encourage people to still come out,” she said.
“There’s going to be lots of things happening, lots of great artists and food and taiko [drumming]. I think that we are just very interested in assuring that there’s respect, but also celebration.”
Demonstrators have been camped out in Oppenheimer Park to draw attention to homelessness and housing conditions in the Downtown Eastside. As of today, more than 40 tents were set up in the park.