Downtown Eastside Heart of the City Festival

Add a Comment by Rebecca Bollwitt

The 17th Annual Downtown Eastside Heart of the City Festival has a cornucopia of cultural events and artistic activities to enjoy, with more than 100 events scheduled over 12 days throughout the Downtown Eastside and online. From online programming and pop-up outdoor events including music, stories, poetry, and ceremony, to films, readings, forums, workshops, discussions, art talks, history talks and visual art exhibitions. 

Heart of the City Festival - Photo by David Cooper
Heart of the City Festival – Photo by David Cooper

Downtown Eastside Heart of the City Festival

When: October 28 to November 8, 2020
Where: Throughout the Downtown Eastside (outdoors) and online
Tickets: Available online soon

The 2020 Festival theme, This Gives Us Strength, resonates today as the community copes with a worldwide pandemic, physical distancing, ongoing displacement, the fentanyl crisis, and the raw realities of bigotry and systemic racism.

The festival takes strength from the compelling creativity of Downtown Eastside-involved artists and residents who illuminate the vitality, relevance and resilience of the Downtown Eastside community and its diverse and rich traditions, knowledge systems, ancestral languages, cultural roots and stories.

In the words of late DTES poet Sandy Cameron, “When we tell our stories we draw our own maps, and question the maps of the powerful. Each of us has something to tell, something to teach.”

Feature events include: Dalannah Gail Bowen (Blues Hall of Fame), Downtown Eastside resident and blues queen; Jenifer Reads (Imagi’NATION Collective), an episode from an online series of readings of heroic coming-of-age stories for youth hosted by Jenifer Brousseau; the Sandy Cameron Memorial Writing Contest, an annualevent that celebrates the creative writing of Downtown Eastside-involved residents; and In the Beginning, co-presented by Firehall Arts Centre and Vancouver Moving Theatre, storyteller, filmmaker, and performer Rosemary Georgeson (Coast Salish/Dene) joins director Donna Spencer as they delve into the stories and history of local Indigenous peoples prior to and during colonization. Over the evolving five events, Georgeson and Spencer are joined by Indigenous elders and knowledge keepers from Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh homelands; and from up the rivers, across the waters and from the other side of the mountains. Stories of the land, told by the people of the land.

The Festival also announces the return of Khari Wendell McClelland (The Sojourners/Freedom Singer) as Artist-in-Residence. Among his activities, Khari is curating Spotlight on the East End, a special online presentation that profiles a diverse and exciting line-up of local musicians.

The mandate of the Festival is to promote, present and facilitate the development of artists, art forms, cultural traditions, history, activism, people and great stories about Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. The festival involves professional, community, emerging and student artists, and lovers of the arts. 

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