Burnaby residents in the spotlight at Downtown Eastside Heart of the City Festival

Burnaby performers will be front and centre when the Downtown Eastside Heart of the City Festival returns this month.

The 17th annual festival is set to take place from Wednesday, Oct. 28 to Sunday, Nov. 8, with more than 100 events happening throughout the Downtown Eastside and online.

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Among the Burnaby talents involved are two musicians who’ll be part of the band for An Evening With Dalannah Gail Bowen, the Downtown Eastside blues matriarch and Blues Hall of Fame inductee. Olaf De Shield, on electric guitar, and David Say, on tenor sax, are part of the pre-recorded performance that will be presented online on Thursday, Oct. 29.

Also in the spotlight for the festival will be Helen Volkow - the Port Coquitlam resident is the sister of the late Nick Volkow, the Burnaby city councillor who recently passed away.

Helen Volkow is one of nine community participants involved with Grounds for Goodness Downtown Eastside: Adventures in Digital Community Art Making. The virtual residency is designed to explore, through art, why and how people do good things towards others.

Lead artist Ruth Howard is leading the event, along with Vancouver and Toronto artists, taking the community participants through sessions that will, as a write-up about the event puts it, “share with each other stories of people doing good things for other people, here and now and in other times and places; and join in conversations and interdisciplinary explorations with text, musical motifs, gesture and found objects.”

Volkow was invited to take part because of her longstanding involvement with arts in the Downtown Eastside. As a member of the Barvinok Choir, Volkow has taken part in many festival events, and she was one of the lead performers in a Vancouver Moving Theatre production of Bread and Salt at the 2013 festival.

The Grounds for Goodness events take place Friday, Oct. 30 to Thursday, Nov. 12, with live-stream and audience interactive components.

Another Burnaby participant will be Mohammed Alsaleh, who’s lined up as a guest speaker for a performance of we the same, a reading of scenes from a new play by Sangeeta Wylie. The play is inspired by the true story of a mother and her six young children who fled Vietnam in 1979. Scenes from the play will be interspersed with guest speakers addressing the refugee experience, and that’s where Alsaleh comes in. Born in Syria, Alsaleh was a medical student when he was declared a “terrorist” by the Syrian regime for his involvement in that country’s peaceful uprising. He managed to escape prison, fled to Lebanon and later made it to Canada as part of the first group of Syrian refugees to be settled in this country.

The event was pre-recorded at the Firehall Arts Centre and will be presented online Monday, Nov. 2 at 8 p.m., followed by a live Q&A with the artistic team.

The 2020 edition of the festival, reconfigured in the face of COVID-19, features 12 days of online and pop-up outdoor events, including music, stories, poetry, films, readings, forums, workshops, talks, visual art exhibitions and more.

Check out www.heartofthecityfestival.com for full details and schedule information.


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