6 recommendations for Heart of the City Festival—all of which can be enjoyed at home

    1 of 7 2 of 7

      We all hate the pandemic, of course. But for time-strapped lovers of arts and culture, it has opened up opportunities to enjoy arts and culture without travelling to a venue on the other side of the city.

      It's become ultra-easy to take in the performing arts.

      As an example, the Heart of the City Festival is offering a virtual smorgasbord of events until November 8.

      Below, you can read about six of the many events worth checking out that highlight artistry in the Downtown Eastside.

      They're all available from the comfort of home.

      Vancouver artists Savannah Walling, Olivia C. Davies, Beverly Dobrinsky, Khari Wendell McClelland, Renae Morriseau, and Rianne Svelnis joined the Junblies artistic team in producing Grounds for Goodness Downtown Eastside.
      Adrienne Marcus Raja

      Grounds for Goodness Downtown Eastside (online October 30 to November 12)

      Coproduced with Jumblies Theatre + Arts and Vancouver Moving Theatre, this livestreamed event will showcase positive acts of kindness that people in the Downtown Eastside are doing for their neighbours.

      According to Heart of the City's artistic producer Terry Hunter, that can range from doing something relatively small, like opening a door for someone, to much more dramatic events, such as putting one's life at risk to save hundreds of people from overdosing. Then there are tales of people pulling $20 out of their wallet to help someone they don't know buy some food.

      "This project is drawing a lot of interest from people in the community here," Hunter told the Straight. "They're writing some really profound stories about acts of kindness either that they've been able to provide toward others or that others have done toward them. So I'm really excited about the project."

      Interdisciplinary musician and educator Rup Sidhu is one of several talented musicians who will perform in Spotlight on the East End.

      Spotlight on the East End (online October 30)

      Five culturally diverse artists and groups with deep ties to the neighbourhood—Khari Wendell McClelland, Rup Sidhu, Hannah Walker and friends, Shon Wong and friends, and Geoff Berner—will perform on video.

      All of this was professionally prerecorded at the Afterlife Studio and will be presented online at 8:30 p.m.

      "It's showing some really exceptional members of our community in a really exceptionally high standard of presentation," Hunter said. "We don't often have opportunities to do that on that level."

      Skundaal Bernie Williams has created a powerful symbol of Indigenous reslience in the Downtown Eastside.
      Tom Quirk

      Survivors Totem Pole (online October 30)

      The festival will screen Susanne Tabata’s documentary about the Survivors Totem Pole, which was created by Downtown Eastside resident Skundaal Bernie Williams and erected in Pigeon Park in 2016.

      "The filmmaker has created a beautiful 25-minute film about the carving of the pole and the raising of the pole," Hunter said. "It's a really significant achievement by the community speaking to a very important issue and lived experience of people in our community."

      The film will be screened at 7 p.m. And that will be followed by a livestreamed question-and-answer session with Tabata and Williams.

      Priscilla Tait, a member of the Wet'suwet'en and Gitsxan, is among those who will perform at the Halloween night event.
      David Cooper

      DTES Front & Centre Showcase: All Together Now (online October 31)

      One of the staples of Heart of the City is bringing forward the talents of the community. This year, the annual Halloween showcase was prerecorded at the Firehall Arts Centre to reduce any risk of the spread of COVID-19.

      It will feature a long list of local musicians, dancers, storytellers, poets, singers, actors, and spoken-word artists. It begins at 7 p.m. on Halloween night.

      The heartbreaking tale of the Vietnamese boat people—and it's long-term effects—are depicted in we the same.
      Jessica Fortner

      we the same (online November 2)

      Canada has seen waves of immigration throughout its history. And in our community, some of the most harrowing stories concern the first generation of Vietnamese Canadians, many of whom escaped their homeland on rickety boats. At sea, they endured attacks from pirates, typhoons, and the threat of starvation.

      Sangeeta Wylie's new play, we the same, is produced by Ruby Slippers and is based on a true story of a mother and her six children who endured all of this.

      Heart of the City will feature scenes being read from the play, along with Vietnamese danh tranh music and guest speakers. It's recommended for those 18 years of age and older.

      This event was prerecorded at the Firehall Arts Centre and will be shown online at 8 p.m. on November 2.

      Sid Chow Tan has devoted his life to amplifying the voices of less powerful members of our community.
      David Cooper

      My Art is Activism, Part II (online November 3)

      Sid Chow Tan was one of Vancouver's pioneers in bringing together people of diverse backgrounds to push for social and environmental justice. He's spent much of his life battling powerful forces on behalf of seniors, the homeless, Indigenous people, and Chinese families that paid a discriminatory head tax.

      Tan also brought many voices from the Downtown Eastside forward over the many years he was creating community television. Plus, he's made several documentaries.

      He was a citizen journalist before this term was even being bandied about, usually doing this work without pay because he believed it made a difference.

      At 3 p.m. on November 3, Tan will share videos showing his efforts to highlight Asian Canadian social movements, followed by a live question-and-answer session.