Illuminares lantern procession moves from Trout Lake to the Downtown Eastside

The Public Dreams Society is moving its popular Illuminares lantern procession from Trout Lake to the Downtown Eastside. Although it’s mainly the result of the B.C. Liberals’ cuts to gaming grants, the move also allows the annual festival to find its stride in a new neighbourhood, according to the festival’s artistic director, Sam Shem.

“We want to develop the Downtown Eastside community, like we did with Trout Lake,” Shem told the Straight. “It’s a community in transition and we want to bring it together through the arts.”

This year’s event will take place on July 24. Shem said that the festival has been held at its Trout Lake location for 20 years and it’s time for a change. “Trout Lake was very different then,” he said. “It was a community in transition and now we want to give the Downtown Eastside a chance. It’s about building communities.”

Last year, the Public Dreams Society lost half of its funding in provincial budget cuts, said Shem. Now, with two employees at the society, organizing a 25,000-person event is no longer a realistic option, he said.

As the event has grown, so have expenses such as policing and security. The Trout Lake Community Centre, where many activities associated with the festival were held in the past, is also closed for deconstruction and rebuilding this summer.

As a result of these factors, Shem said the society is working to create new, smaller projects in different communities. “This probably would have still happened eventually [without the funding cuts],” Shem said. “The festival needed to evolve. It goes with anything that’s been happening for 20 years; you need to change it.”

The new Downtown Eastside venue has yet to be determined and Shem admits the move won’t be easy.

“It’ll be hard because the residents of Trout Lake feel like they are part of the festival and that they own it,” Shem said. “So it’ll be difficult to move, but it’s time to give another community a chance to feel that way too.”

Shem said the move doesn’t rule out the possibility of Public Dreams creating a new festival for the Trout Lake community in the future.

The organization’s other main event—Parade of Lost Souls—will still take place on Commercial Drive this October, Shem noted. “So we aren’t completely abandoning that area by any means,” Shem said.



Michael Orr

Jul 22, 2010 at 8:03pm

Nice spin Sam. Not going to buy it though. The Trout Lake setting with all the lanterns hanging in the trees, floating in the lake, bats chasing bugs overhead and all the people laying their blankets out enjoying a day in the park with their families or friends before and during cannot be duplicated in the Downtown Eastside. The slow stroll of lantern bearers in a graceful circular motion as the reflection of lanterns and a setting sun on the reflective waters as drum beats echoed throughout the darkness was simply surreal. It was if you were not even in the middle of a city.

David - East Vancouver

Jul 22, 2010 at 10:57pm

This is a shame, and I hope that the people of the Trout Lake neighbourhood come out to Trout Lake with their lanterns anyways. You may not be able to buy mini donuts or buy a t-shirt, but the magic of the lanterns around Trout Lake can't be replicated. We're making a new lantern and headed to the park to spend the evening and pull out our lanterns. This can still be a community tradition.

ken hopkins

Jul 24, 2010 at 7:27pm

what a bummer.My daughter and i will be at trout lake to see who else shows up.The rationalization for moving the festival is bizarre,trout lake is amazing.If the festival moves somewhere else it should be given a new name.

...... \*/........

Jul 24, 2010 at 11:13pm

I went to W2, walked around. It felt canned and contrived--in a word: controlled. I left and went to Trout Lake hoping people would be there. A few groups were there with lanterns. Some hanging in willow trees.


Jul 26, 2010 at 12:56pm

That is so sad - Would love to see one at trout lake - is there another night for this.

Johnny- East Van

Jul 30, 2010 at 6:20pm

I think everyone should go to Trout Lake with their lantern anyway. This event was always about us and our beautiful lanterns. The looky-loo's who came to stare and film, but not participate, were always the outsiders and they never brought anything to the fest anyway. I say just come and show up with a lantern and forget about Public Dreams Society.

Jun 9, 2011 at 1:42pm

Hi when is the event for 2011? Thank u:)

Miranda Nelson

Jun 9, 2011 at 2:19pm

Hi there,

It looks like this year's event will be on July 30 but we'll definitely keep you updating on the details!

More info on <a href="">Public Dreams' website</a>.