Livable Laneways Paths to Plazas Event

A few weeks ago, Australia Bureau Chief Jilly Charlwood contributed a fantastic article about Laneway Learning – below is some information about what Vancouver is doing to showcase some unique, behind-the-scenes communities – and potential – of its re-imagined and hyper-creative laneways. Enjoy!

- John Horn

For the second year, Vancouver City laneways are being re-imagined, and public events are taking place in the bustling lane at Broadway and Main bringing musicians, local business operators, artists, urban farmers and producers, residents, and visitors to the Mount Pleasant neighborhood. Livable Laneways Night Markets is a VIVA Vancouver initiative supported by the City of Vancouver. Coordinated by Livable Laneways, a non-profit organization, Paths to Plazas is an example of how they are dedicated to transforming the overlooked laneways and alleys of Vancouver into pedestrianfriendly zones. It is a collaboration that includes Blim, The Beaumont Studios the Mount Pleasant Business Improvement Area, as well as special guests, Mount Pleasant Victory Market, StudioCAMP and Vancouver Public Space Network (VPSN).

The events take place on July 21st, 28th and August 4th from 5-10pm.

For more information on the vendors and participants, please see the list below
for website details:

Masthead photo from ecstaticist’s photostream on Flickr

Meet Your Maker

Maker Faire is the Greatest Show (and Tell) on Earth – a family-friendly showcase of invention, creativity, and resourcefulness, and a celebration of the Maker movement. It’s a place where people show what they are making, and share what they are learning.

Join the ultimate celebration in Making, tinkering, hacking, crafting and inspiring innovation at the PNE Forum on June 23rd and 24th.Originating in San Francisco, Maker Faire is a two-day celebration of making and creating. The Maker Faire mission is to unite, inspire, inform and entertain the general community.  It’s an all-ages family festival promoting the ethos of Do-It-Yourself (DIY) on a large scale.

Maker Faire is a fun, interactive collection of demonstrations, exhibits, workshops and displays.Some Feature Exhibits Include:

Maker Projects – a 3D printer village, an off-road wheelchair, a “bike car”, electric drawing machines, handmade, wooden instruments from locally-sourced materials, urban farmers, a Young Makers section, home-made surfboards, sand sculpting, an Instagram wall, and much much more, such as…

Workshops – A demonstration on how to make bamboo bicycles, mathematical crafts with GeoBurst, how to build bee homes with locally-sourced materials, learn how to knit, solder, and more!
Commercial Vendors: Instructables, Got Craft?,  Blim, Army of Evil Robots, Plush on Main, The Hackery, and more!
Musicians and Performance Groups
 – Legion of Flying Monkeys Horn Orchestra, flyingoctopus, The Carnival band, Mad Skillz Jugging festival and more!

Event Details:

Masthead photo courtesy of Dan Zen’s photostream on Flickr

Laneway Learning: crowdsourcing education

Ever wondered who invented the roller coaster, or more importantly, why on earth they thought it would be a good idea? Or maybe you’re living with a secret longing to learn the ukulele, but you’ve never had the time to learn how to play anything but a slightly Hawaiian version of Smoke on the Water. Or perhaps, like me, you really love to learn stuff, but the thought of attending (and paying for) a 10 week course in meditation is a little too high on the commitment scale.

If any of the above resonate, you’ll love the new Laneway Learning program that’s cropped up out of one of Melbourne’s mega-awesome laneways. The concept is simple – cheap, informal, relaxed classes that are aimed at letting working people learn new things in a totally non-committal way. The aim isn’t to make experts of learners, but rather, give them a taste of a cool new skill that they can go home and practice.

The classes for June range from the foody (Homebrewing on May 30), to the academic (Law, huh. What is it good for? on June 20), to the delightfully bizarre (Every stupid trick I know on June 12). What they have in common is that they’re all one night only, they all go for a maximum of 75 minutes, and most awesomely, they’re all only $12.

What I love most about these classes though is that both the topics and the teaching is 100% community crowdsourced. Anyone can suggest a class they think would be cool, and anyone can sign-up to teach a class based on their area of expertise, however niche. You don’t need to be a professional educator to teach, all you need is a bit of passion and the ability to get other people excited about the things that you’re excited about.

These classes would have to be pretty close to my idea of the perfect night out. A couple of friends, a couple of beers and learning about something great in a totally non-committal way. If you don’t live in Melbourne, start packing. This is worth moving for.

Jane’s Walk 2012 – Find your ‘Hood!

[Editor's note: a few years ago, one of our Correspondents - Phil Skipper - led a Jane's Walk tour of the Cambie-King-Edward-Queen-Elizabeth-Park-The-Mayor's-House neighbourhood in Vancouver. The experience was community-exploration at its finest. And it's happening again this coming weekend!]

Devon Ostrom / Jane's Walk 2011 Press Gallery

On Saturday, May 5th & Sunday, May 6th, thousands of people in metro Vancouver and around the world will take to the street to answer Jane Jacobs’ famous call to “get out and walk. The 6th annual Jane’s Walk is a chance to explore metro Vancouver’s neighbourhoods with fresh eyes and curious mind. This year in Vancouver, there will be a special focus on learning what makes’ our neighbourhoods unique.

Created in 2007 in Toronto by friends of the urban thinker Jane Jacobs, the free, volunteer-led urban walks have grown exponentially from 27 walks the first year to over 500 walks around the world – from Burnaby to Brisbane and Sao Paulo to Surrey – in over 75 cities and 16 countries.

Courtesy of Pukar / Jane's Walk 2011 Press Gallery - Mumbai

Walks are as varied as the people taking part, and they create the time and space for people to connect, share, and develop ideas about where their communities and cities are at and where they are headed.

Ask yourself – what kind of Jane’s Walker are you? From the Curious who wants to get behind the scenes, the Green at Heart, the Urban Gardener, the friendly Neighbour, the Aesthete roaming the open-air urban museum, the Active moving about the city and the Citizen fascinated by the past and future of the city, its public space and institutions, there are walks for all city-lovers.

Find detailed walks at, look out for posters with walk details in local shops, select favourites on the free iPhone app and get out and walk on Saturday May 5th and Sunday May 6th!

Social Media and the Power of Crowd

jdn / flickr

[Editor's note: below is a press release about a very cool and community-minded event taking place in Vancouver on Thursday, April 19 from 8-10:15am. If you think that there's a future in crowds then we recommend that you check it out].

Vancouver, BC – April 16, 2012. Ideavibes CEO, Paul Dombowsky, and PlaceSpeak CEO, Colleen Hardwick, will be speaking at a workshop in Vancouver this week focused on social media and the power of the crowd to make change happen in our communities and with community organizations as well as brands.

Understanding the power of the crowd and its ability to solve problems, engage citizens, build stronger market driven products, and fund change as well as start-ups, is necessary in this social media driven world. Crowdsourcing, although not new, is something organizations as diverse as global brands, startups, social enterprises and governments can use to make things happen with the reach of social media connections.

Ideavibes, based in Ottawa, and PlaceSpeak, from Vancouver, have both developed web based platforms for citizen engagement that allow cities, provinces/states, and federal governments the ability to effectively open their consultation process to the opportunities that social media and the web offer. During this workshop, both Dombowsky and Hardwick will demonstrate how their platforms are helping cities such as Ottawa and Vancouver broaden and enhance their engagement strategies to be more inclusive and effective.

According to Paul Dombowsky:

Consultation options that involve broader sections of our community benefit the process enormously. Often public consultations draw the same people who represent a narrower, less diverse sector of society. This can intimidate many ordinary citizens.

Adding online consultations through crowdsourcing to the process gives governments and brands tremendous richness and insight from a diversity of perspectives that can make for a more meaningful process.

The workshop will look the changing nature of public interaction with both cities as well as the brands citizens use on a daily basis. Willingness and desire to use online channels for this engagement has both positives and negatives for organizations and this workshop will help participants understand best practices and hear about the successes and challenges others in Canada and elsewhere are having.

According to Colleen Hardwick,:

Many people don’t want to go to a public meeting or have much to do with traditonal civic processes per se; being able to bring discussion online—and make it easy for people to connect with consultations online—will have a profound impact on the way we make decisions and develop public policy.

A July Forbes Magazines article by Haydn Shaugnessy noted that “Crowdsourcing will become top of mind for most companies as 2011 turns into 2012.” As an open innovation tool for not only companies, but also governments, crowdsourcing and social media together make social product development possible for organizations in the business to business or business to consumer spaces.


Date: April 19, 2012
Time: 8:00 to 10:15 am
Place: TIDES Canada at #304 – 163 West Hastings Street, Vancouver
Price: $20 includes breakfast – Registration Required
To register and for more details, please visit:

Masthead photo courtesy of kevinbeijing’s photostream on flickr

Joel Plaskett’s Microcosm of Community

rebecca / flickr

It’s Sunday morning. Last night Michelle and I saw Joel Plakett Emergency (Joel Plaskett’s band is an/the Emergency) play at the Vogue Theatre in Vancouver, which is a big deal because Joel Plaskett almost never comes to Vancouver.

Reflectively poetic interruption:

I love Maritimers. In fact, Maritimers are probably my favourite kind of Canadian folk. Fun fact, Martin Renauld is probably my favourite Canadian, mostly because he’s from Quebec and won’t know exactly how to react to this comment. Anyway, like I was saying, I love Maritimers. One of the greatest years of my life unfolded in Lennoxville, Quebec during which time I lived with three fantastic gentlemen from Halifax (Cole Harbour), Nova Scotia. Jon, Justin and Adam were/are in possession of the sort of mischief, poetry, kindness, storytelling, and intangibly-unique-sociability reserved for folks from this part of the world. For years I have enviously listened to their stories of The Plask’s performances in person, over the phone and watched their posts/videos online – my theory is that he plays in either Halifax, Moncton, Charlottetown, or somewhere in the woods of Cape Breton once a week. And I’ve been jealous because I love Joel Plaskett almost as much as I love Maritimers. So last night was a pretty big deal for me. For all of us in Vancouver.

Here are my three favourite things about the Joel Plaskett Emergency show in Vancouver:

1. “Joel Plaskett: What a Beauty!” This was an overheard from the guys behind us, which was inspired by Joel (I feel like I can call him Joel) laying on his back as he sang, told stories and nearly killed himself by getting tangled and electrocuted (“electrangled” ©Copyright John Horn 2012) in what he described as an “overly ambitious stage show” – the show included red-light-rock-n-roll-monkeys and they were/are awesome. Also included on the list of things that make Joel Plaskett “a beauty” are the following: Canadian unpretentiousness (he arrived on stage wearing jeans, a jean jacket and, you guessed it, a jean shirt), soul of a poet, friggin’ hilarious, weird quirkiness (best evidenced by some of the most amazing hand gestures I’ve ever seen), and the stage presence of a truly gifted showman Showman.

2. “Do not deviate from the set list.” Following multiple requests for certain songs from certain audience members, Joel responded to the group (he was brilliant with his fan-engagement throughout the evening) with this quotation. And then he told a story about why he thought that this was the funniest thing anyone has ever yelled at him during a show. Fantastic.

3. Diverse Musical Stylings. Joel Plaskett can rock with the best of ‘em (“Lightning Bolt”), he can make you tear-up with a love song (“I’m Yours”), he can make you dance with a catchy pop song (“Through & Through & Through”), and he can make you laugh with some of the most creative lyrics this side of K’Naan (“North Star” or “Come on Teacher” or “Extraordinare” or “Fashionable People”). Oh, and he’s got some sentimental gems that get to the heart of community (“I Love This Town”).

In conclusion, from his Canadian Tuxedo to his storytelling to his balls-out rockin’, Joel Plaskett is a community-builder (unless you’re from Kelowna) through and through and through.

His cross-Canada tour just kicked-off and you should check out when he’s coming to your town. Because Joel Plaskett is all kinds of awesome.

4/13 Victoria, BC – Alix Goolden
4/14 Vancouver, BC – Vogue Theatre
4/16 Banff, AB – Banff Centre
4/18 Calgary, AB – MacEwan Hall *
4/19 Edmonton, AB – Winspear Centre *
4/20 Saskatoon, SK – U of Sasks, Louis Pub *
4/21 Winnipeg, MB – Garrick Centre *
4/25 Montreal, QC – Corona Theatre *
4/26 Ottawa, ON – Bronson Centre *
4/27 St Catharines, ON – Brock Centre for the Arts *
5/18 Toronto, ON – Queen Elizabeth Theatre *
5/19 Toronto, ON – Queen Elizabeth Theatre *

* with Frank Turner

The Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival is in Full Bloom!

Images by Allison Blake

I first learned about the Japanese tradition of Cherry Blossom festivals, or Hanami, during an undergraduate course in the philosophy of aesthetics. I heard about how everyone would take time out from their busy schedules to sit under the trees and immerse themselves in the beauty of the pink blossoms. We discussed how the beauty of the blossoms has as much to do with their fleeting presence as to do with their exquisite appearance. This awareness of the transience of the blossoms themselves and the happiness we derive from their splendor is described in the Japanese aesthetic term “Mono no aware” or “an empathy toward things”. This is an enduring concept in Japanese cultural and aesthetic traditions.

I have always looked forward to and admired the Cherry Blossom season, which is particularly rich in Vancouver thanks to many trees received as gifts from Japan. My parents have a cherry blossom tree that for years served as an exceptional climbing tree and a fortress of sorts. I remember climbing it while it was in bloom, and how I could be completely concealed within the cloud of soft blossoms. Now, every year the first budding cherry trees fill me with anticipation for when warmer, sunnier days will slowly but steadily start to beat back the gray damp walks to and from the Skytrain on my daily commute. I know that the cherry trees will only bloom for a short time, and by the time they are gone, I will be enjoying the warmth of the sun on my skin once again!

Until I learned about the Japanese traditions surrounding this season, I had never really considered how brief a time we really have to enjoy these particularly pretty trees in the span of a year. Learning more about the aesthetic and philosophical traditions surrounding the trees deepened my appreciation of these natural art forms. I can’t help but consider how their slow emergence, or sometimes sudden appearance, transform a familiar landscape much the same way a piece of public art can change the experience of a familiar place.

The fluffy blossoms spanning every shade between fuchsia and white are even more moving when grouped together. There are countless streets lined with the blossoms and the VCBF website has 900 suggestions of places to visit and walks to take to appreciate the blossoms in all their glory. They even include updates of when a particularly popular area is no longer in bloom so that you don’t end up disappointed.

My particular favourite  spot is one I visit 5 times a week, twice a day. The entrance to Burrard Sky Train station is a tiered garden lined with rows of cherry blossoms and Magnolias. On nice days, the sun shines through the blossoms illuminating them like a forest of lights! As the buds continue to multiply, so do the number of people who stop to take photos, or simply to sit beneath them and bask in their magnificence for a while. I highly suggest you do the same. It is simply breathtaking. It is one of the best art shows of the year.

Handel’s Messiah at the Orpheum

Composed in 1742, Handel’s Messiah has become a cultural fixture of the Christmas season. When I heard that some of my family planned to see the Vancouver Chamber Choir & Symphony Orchestra’s performance of it I recognized the name but didn’t know exactly what it was. I knew it was a classic that I wanted to experience for myself so I jumped at the chance to do so.


Image: Tourism Vancouver, Orpheum Theatre

The performance was at the Orpheum Theatre on Granville Street. This was my first time inside the Orpheum so I just need to briefly gush about the iconic building. The red and gold fixtures and the mural on the vaulted ceiling make it difficult to imagine this was ever a movie theatre, but the old photos on the walls are both proof and nostalgic reminders for visitors like my Mom, who remembers seeing movies there when she was young.


The baroque epic is composed of bouncing vocal rounds interspersed with soloists reciting what are almost comically repetitive choruses. You get the sense that they really want to make sure you now what they are talking about. Except for the soprano who sang in a pitch so high that what she sang couldn’t compete with how she sang it. Handel’s own habit of customizing the lyrics for each performance has become a part of the living tradition. While a live musical performance is always unique, it is not always intentionally so. I love the idea of a composition that was written over 250 years ago with the intention of performing it differently for each occasion. It makes the occasion more exciting for the audience, and the performers.


Handel was super rich. He still ranks in the top 5 richest classical composers. Messiah is just part of what made him so plentiful of resources. Handel is credited as being the first to write English language oratorios. An oratorio is a sort of no frills no gimmicks opera that cut out all the typical expenses that made Operas so unprofitable, such as costumes, sets, and star performers.  Mostly unknown performers on a simple stage created a vocal symphony so compelling that record-breaking audiences have attended since the first performance.


The ease and low cost of staging the show combined with the incredible popularity with audiences made Messiah the most profitable performance of it’s time and it remains one of the most performed pieces in the world to this day. This was a great opportunity to get out and enjoy one of the city’s best venues and one of the world’s most popular pieces of music and, to top it off, the tickets were only about $30. Halleluia!

A Thousand Lanterns Over the Water…Welcome to Summer!

Well, the calendar tells us that it’s summer…and the fact that I have a vicious full-body sunburn because we had 12 hours of warmish sunshine yesterday tells me that this city is ready to cut loose with outdoor fun! Luckily, this weekend is one of Vancouver’s most beloved and magical public arts events, and it’s going to be Downtown for the first time.

Illuminares – July 30th, 2011 at Canada Place from Public Dreams on Vimeo.

The Illuminares Lantern Procession began in 1986, when the original founders came up with a creative participatory event to stoke the flames of community spirit in their neighbourhood around Commercial Drive. They invited professional artists to facilitate free lantern-building workshops for the rest of the community. At first, a few hundred wore costumes, and carried the lanterns they’d built, and were lead by percussionists and performers in a parade around Trout Lake. Year after year, the event has grown…now more than 35,000 participants attend from across the Lower Mainland.

That massive growth has spurred the festival in recent years to look for a new long-term home. This year, Public Dreams, who organizes Illuminares believes they’ve found that spot in Downtown Vancouver. On Saturday July 30th at 6pm, the lantern procession will begin at Green Harbour Park, near Stanley Park, and wind its way to the Canada Place outdoor promenade. At Canada Place, there will be a series of eye-popping instillations including suspended aerial ballet dancers, digital art projected onto the Sails themselves, firedancers, and maybe, just maybe, a Victorian flashmob. The fun lasts at Canada Place until 10pm.

One of the coolest parts of Illuminares is the fact that the community is encouraged to get involved in almost every facet of the celebration (except the firedancing). Public Dreams is holding workshops to teach people how to become the puppet-masters of the 30-foot illuminated Heron Puppet that’s going to lead the procession (inspired by Paris’ amazing Big Little Girl puppet). There are also workshops to transform you into a member of the choreographed Victorian flashmob, and of course, to help you and your family build amazing lanterns. The schedules for these workshops are here. You can also download a PDF template of a lantern here!

The inspiration for Illuminares’ amazing programming this year stems from Vancouver’s 125th birthday. The Heron, the Victorian characters, and a few more tricks all hearken back to the earliest days of this city. So, come play your part in this extraordinary celebration, join in a workshop or two, and enjoy this iconic event in an iconic location.

Procession begins here at 6pm on July 30th:

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Fun Events: Vibrant Sustainable Communities: Towards a Smart Future

Our thanks to Coco Lefoka for passing on this great event. If you have something coming up that you think could be interesting for the community, shoot John or I a note and let us know about it!

On May 28th UBC Campus and Community Planning will host a panel on sustainability with Mike Harcourt, the former Mayor of Vancouver and Premier of British Columbia. Titled “Vibrant Sustainable Communities: Towards a Smart Future”, the panel will bring together Harcourt with planning and sustainability experts Lisa Colby, Associate Director, Policy Planning, UBC Campus and Community Planning; and Dr. Freda Pagani, founding director of UBC’s Sustainability Office, in conversation about how to create sustainable communities.

Their insights will focus on how we can make urban environments more integrated and livable. The panel will explore how we innovate building design, transit and land use to reduce our impact on the environment. Moderated by Maged Senbel, Assistant Professor, UBC School of Community and Regional Planning, this conversation will also provide an opportunity to learn about how UTown@UBC, UBC’svision for a sustainable community, is transforming a commuter campus into a place where people live,work and learn together.

This compelling and thought provoking conversation is not to be missed.

Here are the details if you’re interested in checking it out:

Date: May 28, 2011Time: 3:15 – 4:15 pm

Location: UBC Point Grey CampusMain FloorStudent Union Building (South Entrance) 6138 Student Union Boulevard Vancouver, B.C Admission to the event is free, open to the general public and RSVP is required. The event is part of UBC’s Alumni weekend. To RSVP click here.