Live events return at Heart of the City Festival in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside

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Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside will vibrate over the next 12 days as the annual Heart of the City Festival kicks off Wednesday with a mix of live and virtual arts events taking place in the neighborhood through November 7.

The annual festival, now in its 18th year, features presentations and workshops in music, theater, art and spoken word created by and for people with deep connections to the downtown community. In 2020, events have moved online due to COVID-19, but for 2021, some live events are back on the schedule.

Many performances, including the opening ceremony on Wednesday at 4 p.m., will still be shown online. To watch from the comfort of home, people can visit the festival website and sign up for a Zoom link.

Festival organizers have also set up a viewing room at the Carnegie Theater at 401 Main Street where events will be presented to the public and COVID-19 protocols are in place.

Music, poetry and opera performances are also staged around street corners and on the sidewalks of the Downtown Eastside as part of the festival’s Art in the Streets lineup and lunchtime concerts will also take place on the patio of the Carnegie Theater.

The Hastings Street Band, led by multi-instrumentalist and composer Brad Muirhead and made up of amateur and semi-pro musicians connected to the neighborhood, playing with professional musicians from all over town, will perform several times in a few venues, including the area. from Main and Hastings Street this Friday.

“The arts are what keep us – society – from imploding,” Muirhead said, speaking Wednesday morning on CBC. The first edition. “It brings a positive energy to what people, to the way people approach what they do.”

WATCH | The Hastings Street Band performs at the Heart of the City Festival 2015:

Residents of the Downtown Eastside are disproportionately affected by the opioid crisis, homelessness and abject poverty.

Muirhead performed in the later years of the festival and said the audience response to the music (a mix of upbeat jazz and blues with a New Orleans vibe) was overwhelmingly positive.

“People who are obviously not having a good time suddenly have a smile on their face. Some of them even get up and start dancing,” he said, adding that is what makes him come back.

The theme of this year’s festival is Stories We Must Hear and the final weekend features three days of ceremony, teachings, storytelling and art at Oppenheimer Park honoring the stories of Indigenous grandmothers. who have traveled to the Downtown Eastside.

Honoring the healing journey of our grandmothers is one of many in-person events offered free of charge over the next 12 days.

Terry Hunter, one of the festival’s co-founders, said that while the community can use housing and help cope with the opioid crisis, the stories and songs are also helpful.

“Arts and culture have a really very important place and role to play because they bring light and they bring healing and they bring a feeling of pleasure,” said Hunter.

For the full schedule of events, visit the festival website.

9:05Heart of the City Festival returns to the Downtown Eastside

Festival co-founder Terry Hunter and musician Brad Muirhead chat with Stephen Quinn about what people can expect to see and hear at the annual celebration of arts and culture taking place this year from October 27 to 7 November. 9:05



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