Top Festival Picks – 11th Annual DTES Heart of the City Festival

Festival 14, AUUC Concert, Dovbush Dancers, C Randle photo_2200_cropped

With more than 90 events at over 25 locations throughout the Downtown Eastside scheduled over twelve days in this year’s Festival (October 29 – November 9), choosing what to see and hear becomes a delightful challenge. Here is an even dozen exciting Top Festival Picks for 2014!

1. Hot Jazz at the Carnegie: A Downtown Eastside community and festival favourite, the Carnegie Jazz Band returns with their finger snappin’, toe tappin’ and head boppin’ hot music. The band is comprised of enthusiastic amateur jazz musicians under the wonderful tutelage of multi-instrumentalist and composer Brad Muirhead. Join the band for an evening of jazz standards, original songs by Brad Muirhead and members of the band, including a new jazz tune by Festival producer Terry Hunter. With special guest, local pro jazz-man Brian Harding on trombone.
Carnegie Theatre, 401 Main. Wednesday Oct 29, 7:30pm. Free

2. The Raymur Mothers: This festival highlight, produced by Theatre in the Raw, is an original full-length musical written by retired Vancouver Sun reporter Bob Sarti, music by award-winning composer and pianist Bill Sample, and directed by Jay Hamburger, Artistic Director of Theatre in the Raw. Featuring thirteen original and rousing songs, The Raymur Mothers tells the inspiring story of single mothers from the Raymur Place Social Housing Project in Strathcona/Downtown Eastside in the 1970s who succeeded in their fight to have a pedestrian overpass built over the CPR railroad tracks to enable their children to walk safely to school.
Russian Hall, 600 Campbell.
Preview: Wednesday Oct 29, 8pm. Pay as you can
Run: Thursday Oct 30 to Sunday Nov 9 (no shows on Nov 3 & 4).
Ticket info:

3. Keepers of the Flame: The Downtown Eastside is blessed with a wealth of great poets; poets who speak their truth with soul and fiery conviction. To pay tribute to, and to profile the great poets of the community, the festival is honoured to feature the monthly DTES Poets Open Mic at the Carnegie featuring Antonette Rea, and to present two events in honour of two extraordinary poets who have sadly left us: Carnegie’s 2nd Poetry Slam in honour of the much loved friend of the festival and extraordinarily talented Zaccheus Jackson (2013 Vancouver Slam Poet Champion); and a tribute to the Downtown Eastside’s, and the City’s, most remarkable and passionate poet and social activist, a Celebration of Bud Osborn.
Carnegie Theatre, 401 Main. Saturday Nov 1
Poetry Slam 1pm  •  Celebration of Bud Osborn 3pm  •  DTES Poets Open Mic 7pm. Free

4. Women In The Round: A rare opportunity to celebrate the voices of indigenous women who have travelled the world sharing their lives and stories through their songs. The evening presents Juno award-winning vocalist, actor, director and general powerhouse Renae Morriseau; musicologist, technique expert, teacher and vocalist Sandy Scofield; rising star with loads of talent Niska Napoleon; and Downtown Eastside resident Dalannah Gail Bowen, a veteran of the Vancouver music scene and recent winner of the right to represent BC at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis. Accompanied on keyboard by Simon Kendall. Filled with variety and commonalities, the evening promises the sound of rich voices and magical moments.
InterUrban Gallery, 1 E. Hastings. Saturday Nov 1, 7:30pm. By donation

5. Sawagi Taiko & Tzokam: The festival is excited to bring to our community this unique collaboration of singing and drumming between the all-women Japanese drum group Sawagi Taiko and the First Nations performance group Tzokam. Led by composer, producer and traditional singer Russell Wallace, Tzokam 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 afternoon of world culture and indigenous rhythms.
Djavad Mowafaghian World Art Centre, SFU Woodwards, 149 W. Hastings. Sunday Nov 2, 2pm. Free

6. Barrio Flamenco: Flamenco for the People: Celebrate the spirit of the Downtown Eastside with an unforgettable evening of live flamenco music and dance! Flamenco is an art form by and for the people, danced and played with spirit, ferocity, joy, laughter and tears. Hosted by flamenco dancer Kelty McKerracher, Barrio Flamenco features some of the most compelling flamenco artists in the city. An annual theatre-packed favourite!
Ironworks Studios, 235 Alexander St.  Sunday Nov 2, 7pm. By donation

7. Salt Water City Stories: Vancouver by another name: Huam Siu Fao (Salt Water City), the name Chinese immigrants called Vancouver back in the day, retains a memorable place in the hearts of Chinese Canadians. Sid Chow Tan, longtime east-sider, videographer and community activist, hosts this evening of stories, music, video and tribute to the mighty Lo Wah Kiu (old overseas Chinese), those who came before. Special quests include, among others, Sean Gunn, longtime activist, composer and musician improvising on electric bass.
Chapel Arts, 304 Dunlevy. Thursday Nov 6, 7pm. Free

8. Roaring Comedy: The Heart of the City Festival is thrilled to present an evening of standup comedy and magic that celebrates the funny bone and the art of illusion. The lineup features comics from Stand Up for Mental Health and founder David Granirer, including DTES favourite Paul Decarie; and the Downtown Eastside’s own inventive and witty Merlin “the most trusted name in magic!”
Gallery Gachet, 88 E. Cordova. Friday Nov 7, 7pm. Free

9. Celebrating Black Strathcona: The Downtown Eastside/Strathcona community is blessed with a rich history of Black Canadians who made significant contributions to our community and the City of Vancouver. To pay tribute to the black community of Vancouver’s historic east-end, Creative Cultural Collaborations Society, in partnership with Vancouver Moving Theatre, recently produced the Black Strathcona Interactive Media Project, the centre piece of which is ten short videos that celebrate some of the extraordinary people and places that made the community vibrant and unique. The festival is thrilled to present all ten videos, including among others: Vie’s Chicken & SteaksLate night haven; Sleeping Car PortersFought for labour and civil rights; Jimi & Nora Seminal musician with local roots; and Barbara HowardOne of the fastest women in the world. Also participating is Black Strathcona Interactive Media Project filmmaker Gordon McLennan, guest musicians and performers including Vanessa Richards and Kevan Cameron, and invited VIPs from the black community.
Carnegie Theatre, 401 Main. Saturday Nov 8, 2pm. Free

10. Reconciliation – Moving Forward Together: It has been a year since the extraordinary Reconciliation Week 2013 and the reconciliation walk across the Georgia Viaduct took place in Vancouver. The festival carries forward this important initiative between First Nations and settler communities with a “talk-umentary” evening of film, stories, guest speakers and live performance. Presentations include, among others: Angela White of the Indian Residential School Survivors Society will lead a conversation about the need for all communities to work together towards reconciliation; Imtiaz Popat will share a classical chant to Neelamjit Dhillon’s track “Crossing Pacific”, about the anchoring, isolation and ultimate denial of the would-be immigrants aboard the ship Komagata Maru in 1914; and a screening of the film Stolen Memories, about filmmaker Kagan Goh’s quest to return a photo album “stolen” from a Japanese Canadian family during the Japanese Canadian internment during WW II.
Carnegie Theatre, 401 Main. Saturday Nov 8, 6pm. Free

11. Ukrainian Hall Community Concert & Supper: The festival ends on a high note at the east-end’s historic Ukrainian Hall with lively music, invigorating dance and colourful costumes at Ukrainian Hall Community Concert & Supper. This annual favourite, produced with the Association of United Ukrainian Canadians, features the Barvinok Choir, Vancouver Folk Orchestra and the Dovbush Dancers. Special guests include, among others, Zeellia (led by Beverly Dobrinsky), Vancouver’s own Slavic soul band playing songs and dances from Ukraine, the Balkan states and the Canadian prairies. Immediately after the concert is the always delicious traditional Ukrainian Supper.
Ukrainian Hall, 805 E. Pender. Sunday Nov 9, Concert 3pm, Supper follows. $25
For advance tickets contact 604-254-3436

12. HISTORY AND SOCIAL JUSTICE WALKS: An always popular component of the festival. Put on your comfy shoes, grab an umbrella and come along.

The Great Vancouver Fire of 1886 Walking Tour, with Lisa Anne Smith: Re-visit the events of June 13, 1886 when an out-of-control clearing fire destroyed most of the newly-incorporated city of Vancouver in less that one hour. Author Lisa Anne Smith brings to life stories from her newly-released book Vancouver Is Ashes: The Great Fire of 1886. Learn how Vancouver rose from the ashes within weeks of the fire’s aftermath. The walking tour will progress from the east end of Gastown, through to the final commentary on the Main Street overpass leading to CRAB Park.
Saturday Nov 1, 10am. $10, pay what you can for local residents
Meet at SW corner of Victory Square, W. Pender & Hamilton.

Raymur Mothers Walking Tour: Take a walk with Carolyn Jerome and more “militant moms and kids” who participated in the Raymur Mothers direct action in 1971 to ensure the children’s safety. The one-hour walking tour will visit main historic points of interest and will share some of the stories that inspired Bob Sarti in the writing of his new play The Raymur Mothers.
Sunday Nov 2, 1pm. $10, pay what you can for local residents
Meet at Russian Hall, 800 Campbell. 

Contour Walking Tour: Pierre Leichner, one of the exhibiting artists in Contour, an installation and interactive community project taking place this fall in the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Public Park by Art is Land Network, leads a walking tour of the Park and the site specific installations. Learn a bit about the history and the Chinese traditions that inspired the builders of the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden and how the plantings informed the artists in the works created.
Sunday Nov 2, 2pm. Free
Meet at Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Public Park, 50 E. Pender. 

Black Strathcona Heritage Walking Tour: To pay tribute to the black community of Vancouver’s historic east-end, Strathcona’s Creative Cultural Collaborations Society, in partnership with Vancouver Moving Theatre, recently produced the Black Strathcona Interactive Media Project, the centre piece of which is ten short videos that celebrate some of the extraordinary people and places that made the community vibrant and unique. Walk the neighbourhood together, follow the map, use the QR codes on street plaques to access the videos on your or a fellow walker’s cell phone, and share with each other the black history of the historic East End.
Saturday Nov 8, 11am. $10, pay what you can for local residents
Meet at Jimi Hendrix Shrine, 207 Union.

DTES Renovictions Walking Tour: “Renoviction”: It might be a new word, but it’s already an old story for many low-income people in the Downtown Eastside. Renovictions are displacing more and more low-income people from the DTES and fueling escalating the rate of homelessness across the city. Join members of the Carnegie Community Action Project on a walking tour of renoviction sites and learn more about how to work to make sure that the DTES remains a low-income neighbourhood.
Saturday Nov 8, 11am. $10, Free for local residents
Meet on front steps of Carnegie, 401 Main.

The Jade Peony Walking Tour: The novel The Jade Peony, by Strathcona born and raised writer Wayson Choy, is much loved by Strathcona and Chinatown residents. The locations of the novel are under our feet and in the homes and shops we see as we walk our neighbourhood. Join John Atkin, author, historian, DTES/Strathcona resident and walking-history-encyclopedia on this walking tour that brings alive the stories and places of The Jade Peony.
Sunday Nov 9, 10am. $10, pay what you can for local residents
Meet at Chinese Cultural Centre courtyard, 50 E. Pender.

Most events are free or by suggested donation.

Program guides will be distributed throughout Downtown Eastside and along Main Street and Commercial Drive starting Thursday Oct 16. A list of locations will be posted here on the website. Follow us on Facebook or Twitter for all the latest updates.

The 2014 Downtown Eastside Heart of the City Festival has been made possible with the generous support of the Canada Council for the Arts, Canadian Heritage, BC Arts Council, BC Gaming, City of Vancouver Cultural Services and Great Beginnings Program, Friends of the Downtown Eastside, PricewaterhouseCoopers, BCGEU, program guide sponsor Port Metro Vancouver, and media sponsors Georgia Straight and CBC .

For information about the Festival events or to set up any interviews, please contact Festival Publicist Jodi Smith, JLS Entertainment. Tel: 604.736.4939. Email:

Posted in Top Picks.