Heart of the City Festival 2018 - What to See

This year marks the 15th iteration of the Downtown Eastside Heart of the City Festival—an arts festival of diverse formats that celebrates and shares the voices of the incredible creative and community forces of the Downtown Eastside. Whether you’re looking for visual art, music, theatre, workshops, readings, curatorial tours, or critical discussion, their programming is rich, varied, and offers something for everyone. Check out a few of our top picks for this year’s festival (most of which are free!).

Photo by David Cooper.

Photo by David Cooper.

Wednesday October 24, 7pm
Film & Discussion
Djavad Mowafaghian World Art Centre, SFU Woodwards, 149 W. Hastings. Free.
A screening of the new film The Eagle and the Condor: From Standing Rock with Love from director Kahsto'sera'a Paulette Moore in attendance. From 2016 – 2017, Standing Rock water protection camps at the heart of Turtle Island became the largest assembly of Indigenous peoples in recent history. Gathered nations confronted big energy’s extreme extraction through the strength of their ceremonies, histories, and connections. Despite being met with violence, many brought their best intentions to this historic fight and continue to expand their love, knowledge and sovereignty to shift our world away from the trauma and isolation of modern days. The film is based around prophecy of the Eagle and Condor originating from nations of the South and features ceremony held at the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) site on Indigenous People’s Day, October 10th, 2016. The ancient prophecy predicted the epic Standing Rock water protection actions – and continues to challenge all to identify and unite our gifts and power.

Thursday October 25, 1pm – 3pm
Vancouver Aboriginal Friendship Centre, 1607 E. Hastings. Free.
Home: Our Way is a women’s writing and movement circle that explores ideas of refuge, transition, identity, cultural norms, blood memory and what it means to be at home in our lived experience. A safe space for creative writing and movement exploration is facilitated by Coast Salish storyteller Rosemary Georgeson (Dene-Sahtu) and Anishinaabe-Kwe dance artist Olivia C. Davies. We will invite words to transfer from the page to the body, and movement from the body back to the page. The focus is on personal responses to the theme of Home. Presented in association with O.Dela Arts. Participants: Women-identified persons, ages 18+ who have experienced transitions in and out of housing and homelessness, and are curious about story-sharing community art practice. Suitable for all bodies. For more info: www.oliviacdavies.ca/Home-Our-Way

Lee Maracle, c/o Heart of the City Festival.

Lee Maracle, c/o Heart of the City Festival.

Thursday October 25 7pm – 9pm
HOPE MATTERS: An Evening with Lee Maracle and Columpa Bobb
Massy Books, 229 E. Georgia. Free.
Acclaimed award-winning writer and elder Lee Maracle and award-winning actor, playwright, photographer, poet and teacher Columpa Bobb read from their upcoming book, Hope Matters. Written over a number of years by Lee with her two daughters, Columpa and Tania Carter, Maracle says, “in the end our voices blended into a song of hope and reconciliation.” Lee Maracle is a member of the Stó:lō Nation, an Officer of the Order of Canada, and one of the first Indigenous female authors to be published in Canada. Presented in partnership with Massy Books, a new neighbourhood cultural treasure.

Friday October 26, 1pm – 4pm
Djavad Mowafaghian World Art Centre, SFU Woodwards, 149 W. Hastings
Free, register at
What does reconciliation mean for your arts practice? How can the arts community work for redress in 'Vancouver?' Join this afternoon session which features a roundtable discussion with Musqueam, Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh and settler artists and cultural planners. There is a lot of talk about reconciliation, but what are the structural changes that are taking place? Today's conversation will promote a faster rate of change towards place-based reconciliation and redress in our own lives, in our neighbourhoods, and with arts policies in the city and suburbs. Small groups and plenary dialogue will also make room for everyone's questions. Refreshments served.

Material Witness . Photo via Heart of the City.

Material Witness. Photo via Heart of the City.

Friday October 26, and Saturday, October 27, 8pm
Ukrainian Hall, 805 E. Pender
$20/$15. Tickets at door or advance tickets
The Festival is thrilled and honoured to present Material Witness, a co-production of Aanmitaagzi (an Indigenous multi-disciplinary-arts company from Nipissing First Nation, Ontario) and Spiderwoman Theatre (the longest running Native American women’s theatre company in the USA). Material Witness brings together three generations of Indigenous women performers in a multigenerational exploration of violence, healing and renewal in the lives of Indigenous women in urban and rural communities on Turtle Island.  

Saturday, October 27, 2pm – 3pm
Djavad Mowafaghian World Art Centre, SFU Woodwards, 149 W. Hastings.
Free, register
A unique collaboration of singing and drumming between the all-women taiko group Sawagi Taiko and the First Nations performance group Tzo'kam. Led by composer, producer and traditional singer Russell Wallace, Tzo'kam is a Lil'wat family group who offer traditional and contemporary songs including drumming and dancing. The combination of these songs with the exploratory nature of Sawagi Taiko's approach to the taiko art form makes for a fascinating performance of a Japanese Canadian cultural form with Indigenous rhythms. Please arrive by 1:45pm to guarantee your spot. Note: due to lobby renovations, the World Art Centre is only accessible via the Cordova courtyard entrance.

Sawagi Taiko & Tzo’kam. Photo via Heart of the City.

Sawagi Taiko & Tzo’kam. Photo via Heart of the City.

Saturday October 27, 1pm – 9:30pm
Films & Video
Carnegie Theatre, 401 Main. Free.
This full day of programming features a selection of vital contemporary documentaries made in and around the Downtown Eastside, Chinatown, and BC.

Hymn to the Layman (2018, 30 min), directed by Nathan Slattery
The Land is the Culture: A Case for Indian Land Claims (1975, 30 min), directed by Fred Cawsey
The Road Forward (2017, 101 min), directed by Marie Clements
In Chinatown (2018, 39 min), directed by Stephanie Chong and Bryce Quan
Paint It Red (2017, 54 min), directed by Eva Cohen

Find more details about individual films in the Heart of the City’s Festival schedule.

Sunday October 28, 1pm – 4pm
Open House
Gallery Gachet + WePress, 9 W. Hastings. Free.
It has been just under a year since Gallery Gachet + WePress opened their doors at the new space on the ground floor of the Beacon Hotel at 9 W. Hastings Street. Now they’re ready to celebrate their new home and thank everyone who helped them reach this milestone by hosting an Open House. Join artists, organizers and friends for an afternoon of letterpress and 3D printer demonstrations, refreshments, and a chance to hang out and meet new people. A collaboration between the Heart of the City Festival, Gallery Gachet, WePress, and Powell Street Festival Society. Open to all. Snacks, materials, plus ASL, Mandarin, and Cantonese Interpretation provided.

Tuesday October 30, 6:30pm – 8:30pm
Spoken Word
InterUrban Gallery, 1 E. Hastings, entrance on Carrall. Free.
The Carnegie African Descent Group and the Hogan’s Alley Society present an evening of poetry, prose and music with three prolific African Canadian poets who will read from their recent works with musical interludes. Guests include: poet Cecily Nicholson, recent administrator of Gallery Gachet and author of From the Poplars, winner of the 2015 Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize; Chelene Knight, writer and editor, who is working on a novel set in Hogan’s Alley; Haitian Canadian spoken word poet Junie Désil who juggles writing with life; and musician, Brandon Mwanacocha, a Zimbabwean UBC student and mbira player who brings a unique touch to the world of poetry with live background tunes. Lama Mugabo is the host for the evening.

Curatorial Tour
Wednesday October 31, 2pm
Bill Reid Gallery, 639 Hornby. Free.
Engage in a guided exploration and discussion of the themes of personal adornment and identity in the current exhibition at the Bill Reid Gallery. Body Language is the first exhibition to fully explore the rich history and artistry of Indigenous tattooing, piercing and personal adornment on the Northwest Coast. The contemporary artists included in the exhibition are at the forefront of the revival of Indigenous tattooing in BC and examine the symbolism, oral traditions, songs and artistry within their region. For more info, visit billreidgallery.ca.

Tom Pickett and Candus Churchill of  East End Blues & All That Jazz . Photo by David Cooper.

Tom Pickett and Candus Churchill of East End Blues & All That Jazz. Photo by David Cooper.

Wednesday Oct 31 to Saturday Nov 3, various times
Firehall Arts Centre, 280 E. Cordova
$30/25 (inc. s/c + GST). Tickets at door or advance sales at firehallartscentre.ca.
A musical tribute to Vancouver’s historic East End Black community. Inspired by stories from residents past and present of Vancouver, East End Blues & All That Jazz is a concert curated and co-written by the late Denis Simpson and Savannah Walling with contributions from the GIbson family and others.

Friday November 2, 2pm – 5pm
221A / Pollyanna 
圖書館 Library, 221 E. Georgia. Free.
An open archive of print and audiovisual materials from the Woodward's Squat, or Woodsquat. In 2002, a coalition of radical organizers and homeless people occupied the vacant Woodward's department store in the Downtown Eastside to demand the building be converted into social housing. After three months of defending the occupation, Woodsquat was evicted by police and the building was redeveloped as a condo megaplex in 2010. This event reopens the legacy of the Woodsquat action and the urgency of its demands on today's struggle for housing. Videographer Sid Chow Tan – a longtime community activist in Chinatown and the Downtown Eastside – recorded the people and action; he will attend to share his insights.

There are far too many amazing events as part of Heart of the City for us to cover here - plan your own festival journey at heartofthecityfestival.com.