Creative Surrey, a Festival City
Surrey Cultural Development Advisory Committee (CDAC) members replaced their January board meeting with a three-hour brainstorming workshop at Surrey City Hall. Stickhandling the culturally rich power of British Columbia’s rapidly growing second largest city requires cooperation, imagination and dedication.
How best could the 14 organisations represented channel our communal efforts to profile, promote, support, and continue to build the future of what has evolved into a festival city.
Established four years ago by dedicated arts supporter Councilor Judy Villeneuve, we meet monthly to share city arts scene updates. Province-wide delegations regularly make presentations hoping to feature in Surrey’s expanding arts calendar.
‘Stickies’ festooned idea boards generating spirited discussions, questions and clarification from attending city staff. More theatres, requested one member. Increase First Nations presence, lobbied another. Affordable, easily accessible, space for artists is critical. How to address that? How best to promote events within the city limits, and beyond? Grants, funding, partnerships, priorities, tourism, visioning – the stacks of Post-It Notes were put to good use.
So, what’s on the 2016 calendar so far?
Surrey Festival of Dance celebrates its 50th anniversary from March 29 to April 30. Established in 1966, the festival has leapt from 450 entries to 10,000 competitors ranking it one of North America’s premier dance competition festivals. www.surreyfestival.com
Charlotte Diamond headlines at the Surrey Children’s’ Festival from May 26 to 28 at Bear Creek Park. Established as a Millennium Project 16 years ago, the festival attracted over 20,000 attendees in 2015. With a total of 163 performances during the three-day event you can bet many youngsters (and parents) leave arts-inspired each year. www.surrey.ca/childrensfestival
The 24th Annual Surrey International Writers’ Conference takes place Oct 20 -23 at the Sheraton Vancouver Guildford. Twenty-four years ago the late Surrey Treasure, Ed Griffin, lead five of us in the charge to establish SiWC at Johnson Heights Secondary School. Initially co-sponsored by the former School District #36 Adult Education program, we optimistically booked the Sheraton the following year. Now SiWC ranks as one of North America’s top writers’ conferences. Registration opens in June. The SiWC Writing Contest opens in April. www.SiWC.ca
The Fusion Festival! Look for this vibrant event July 23-24 in Holland Park.
April 23 is Vaisakhi Day (New Year on the Sikh calendar). The Surrey Khalsa Day Parade, the biggest in Canada, welcomed 300,000 visitors of all religions and cultures last year. A colourful parade, mouthwatering foods, dancers, and more, have put this event on the map. Check www.surreyvaisakhiparade.ca for details.
Surrey Libraries, and SFU’s Surrey Campus, regularly host literary workshops and presentations. Ask about genealogy records, and family history programs at Cloverdale Library.
Remember Surrey Museum’s Children’s Interactive Gallery in Cloverdale. Free admission courtesy of The Friends of the Surrey Museum and Archives Society. Open Sundays.
The Ultimate Traveller series, new this winter, begins with ‘In the Footsteps of the Incas – A Cultural & Photographic Tour of Peru’, Sunday Feb. 21 at 2.30 p.m. in the Museum Theatre. Noted international photographer and historian, Peter Langer, never fails to impress. Check www.theultimatetraveller.com.
In 2015, the talented Renée Sarojini Saklikar was welcomed as Surrey’s inaugural Poet Laureate. A Surrey Public Library and Surrey Council literary arts initiative.
Theatre life is vibrant, too. Last month I attended the opening of Lucia Frangione’s ‘In a Blue Moon’ at Surrey Arts Centre. Arts Club Theatre Company productions, like this one, are regulars in Surrey. Convenient and cost-effective for lower mainland theatregoers, the February Surrey Spectacular series includes ‘The Nashville Hurricane’, February 6, ‘Vitaly: An Evening of Wonders’ (magic!), February 20, and ‘4000 Miles’ (Arts Club on Tour) February 17-27. As an Edith Piaf devotee, I can hardly wait for ‘Piaf & So Much More’ with Joelle Rabu in Concert, March 12. Check the full line-up at http://www.surrey.ca/culture-recreation
Don’t forget Surrey Little Theatre, which is battling for survival due to encroaching road and construction expansion, and our excellent theatre neighbours in Langley, White Rock and New Westminster.
Canadian currency may be down, but local artistic currency is up – and it’s a good investment.
Ursula Maxwell-Lewis is a British Columbia journalist and photographer. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org