The 13th annual Downtown Eastside Heart of the City Festival and twelve days of music, stories, songs, poetry, cultural celebrations, films, theatre, dance, processions, spoken word, forums, workshops, discussions, gallery exhibitions, public art, mixed media, art talks, history talks and history walks.

The theme of this year’s Festival, Living on Shared Territory, pays tribute to the Downtown Eastside’s founding peoples, cultures and diverse neighbourhoods, as we live, learn and create together on unceded Coast Salish territories under the long shadow of our colonial past and present.

The Festival takes inspiration in part by the words of Chief Robert Joseph, Ambassador, Reconciliation Canada:

Our future and the well-being of our children rest with the kind of relationships we build today.

A special feature this year is the installation of the 27 ft. Survivors Totem Pole in Pigeon Park at Hastings and Carrall. In the words of pole carver Skundaal Bernie Williams (Haida/Coast Salish), this grass roots initiative led by Sacred Circle Society “honours the many people who have arrived and lived in the Downtown Eastside as survivors.

Other Festival highlights include: Realms of Refuge, an evolving gallery project produced in partnership with Jumblies Theatre (Ontario) that brings to life miniature worlds and explores the different ways we find sanctuary in the places where we live; the premiere of Metamorphose, a community-engaged dance production by Karen Jamieson Dance and the Carnegie Dance Troupe that explores transformation, creation and imagination through dance; and the always popular Carnegie Jazz Band.

The mandate of the Downtown Eastside Heart of the City Festival is to promote, present and facilitate the development of artists, art forms, cultural traditions, history, activism, people and great stories about Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. The festival involves a wide range of professional, community, emerging and student artists, and lovers of the arts. Over 1,000 local artists and Downtown Eastside residents participated in last year’s 2015 Festival.

Many events are free or by suggested donation. Visit for full details.

Top Festival Picks – 13th Annual Downtown Eastside Heart of the City Festival

With more than 100 events at over 40 locations throughout the Downtown Eastside scheduled over twelve days, choosing what to see and hear at this year’s festival (October 26 – November 6) becomes a delightful challenge. Here is a tasty dozen of exciting Top Festival Picks for the 13th Annual Festival of 2016!

  1. Festival Opening Ceremony: Join friends from the Downtown Eastside neighbourhood and special guests for this year’s Festival Opening Ceremony which features the unveiling of the newly commissioned stage mural banner (11ft high x 18ft wide) by award-winning Downtown Eastside artist Richard Tetrault. This outstanding mural banner powerfully evokes the theme of this year’s festival “Living on Shared Territory” and pays tribute to the extraordinary artists, activists, people, art forms and cultures of the Downtown Eastside community.

Wednesday Oct 26, 2pm. Carnegie Theatre, 401 Main. Free

  1. Jam for Sam: Last November the Downtown Eastside community lost the much beloved Carnegie Centre regular and music lover Sam Snobelen. In honour of Sam, the Festival invites music lovers to this evening of jazz, music improvisation and jamming featuring theCarnegie Jazz Band and their finger snappin’ hot music under the wonderful tutelage of multi-instrumentalist, composer and arranger Brad Muirhead; and community favourite Mike Richter and a special group of local musicians playing songs that Sam loved and was inspired by.

Wednesday Oct 26, 7pm. Carnegie Theatre, 401 Main. Free

  1. Realms of Refuge, An Evolving Gallery: Realms of Refuge is a two week residency produced by Vancouver Moving Theatre and Jumblies Theatre (Toronto) that involves artists and community participants working together to create and animate miniature worlds that explore and express different ways we find, create and imagine places of refuge, shelter and comfort. Artists include Ruth Howard (Toronto), Savannah Walling, Kelty McKerracher, Bill Beauregarde, Renae Morriseau, Sharon Kallis, Russell Wallace, Rose Georgeson andRonnie Dean Harris. The public is invited to co-create the miniature worlds and participate in a series of free events, including two Public Conversations: Being a Good Neighbour in the Downtown Eastside with Jean Swanson and Diane Wood; and Reconciliation and Cross-cultural Collaboration with Renae Morriseau and Rose Georgeson.

Wednesday Oct 19 to Saturday Oct 29. InterUrban Gallery, 1 E. Hastings (entrance on Carrall). Free

  1. Sneak Peek into Chinatown Walking Tour: Join hosts Judy Lam Maxwell and Steven Wong for a glimpse of Chinatown. The tour begins at a heritage restaurant space, climbs flights of stairs to a heritage clan association, explores a Chinese herbal medicine store and ends the walk at Modernize Tailors, the last Chinatown tailor shop celebrating 103 years. Both Judy and Steven have active ties to the people and businesses in Chinatown; Judy leads Historical Chinatown Tours and Steven is third generation ‘man about town’ in Vancouver’s Chinatown.

Saturday Oct 29, 1pm. Meet at Sai Woo, 158 Pender. $10, pay what you can for local residents

  1. Hidden Stories: Theatre Terrific and Aboriginal Front Door present Hidden Stories, a gentle site-specific journey of song, dance, mask and music that tells a “hidden story that fully celebrates and embraces birth, eating, speaking, loving, dancing and death.” Directed bySusanna Uchatius with Bill Beauregarde, Hidden Stories brings together artists of differing abilities and cultures with indigenous artists. Together they seek to hear, see, value and express their stories together, on a journey of trust, respect and collaborative creation like no other.

Saturday Oct 29, 1pm. Woodward’s Atrium, 111 W. Hastings. Free

  1. Metamorphose: The Festival is pleased to present the premiere of Metamorphose, a community-engaged dance production by Karen Jamieson Dance and the Carnegie Dance Troupe that explores transformation, creation and imagination through dance. The piece has developed over the last three years and is presented in partnership with the Carnegie Community Centre and SFU’s Vancity Office of Community Engagement.

Sunday Oct 30, 4pm. Djavad Mowafaghian World Art Centre, 149 W. Hastings. Free

  1. 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, laughter and tears; full of pain yet also joy. Hosted by flamenco dancer, singer and teacher Kelty McKerracher, Barrio Flamenco features some of the most compelling flamenco dancers, singers and musicians in the city, alongside the Downtown Eastside Flamencos. An annual blow-the-roof-off favourite. Ole!

Wednesday Nov 2, 7pm. Carnegie Theatre, 401 Main. Free

  1. Sharing Theatre, Sharing Culture: Join us for a conversation of how theatre contributes to the fabric of Vancouver’s Chinatown, where food and language intersect on Coast Salish territory. The evening begins with readings in English and Cantonese from Jovanni Sy’s play A Taste of Empire/食盡天下, translated into Cantonese by Derek Chan. Guests are Derek Chan, Bob Sung, Jovanni Sy and Andrea Yu. Hosted by Kathleen Flaherty. There will be dumplings. Presented in partnership with Playwrights Theatre Centre and DTES Neighbourhood House.

Thursday Nov 3, 7pm. DTES Neighbourhood House, 573 E. Hastings. Free

  1. Two evenings with Dalannah Gail Bowen – Women in the Round & Songs of Love: Downtown Eastside’s own award-winning Dalannah Gail Bowen has been music-making for over forty-five years, and has been an integral part of the DTES Heart of the City Festivalsince day one. The Festival has the honour of presenting Dalannah and her truly unique and powerful voice for two evenings of blues, jazz and gospel. On Nov 3rd, Women in the Round features Dalannah with Renae Morriseau and Sandy Scofield singing traditional and contemporary songs; and Songs of Love on Nov 4th explores the wonderful world of love songs, featuring Dalannah with Grammy-nominated pianist Michael Creber and drummer Chris Nordquist. Come to both evenings; not to be missed!

Thursday Nov 3, Women in the Round; Friday Nov 4, Songs of Love.

Both shows at 7:30pm. InterUrban Gallery, 1 E. Hastings (entrance on Carrall). By donation

  1. Aboriginal Voices: The Festival and the Vancouver Public Library are excited to present an afternoon with writers and elders Lee Maracle and Bev Sellars reading from their latest works. Lee is a member of the Stó:lō Nation, author of numerous critically acclaimed literary works, and one of the first Indigenous female authors published in Canada. Bev was Chief of the Xat’sull (Soda Creek) First Nation in Williams Lake for over 20 years. Her book, They Called Me Number One, won the 2014 George Ryga Award for Social Awareness in Literature.

Friday Nov 4, 1:30pm. Carnegie Theatre, 401 Main. Free

  1. Survivors Totem Pole: The Festival is honoured this year to partner on the installation of the 27ft Survivors Totem Pole in Pigeon Park (Hastings and Carrall). In the words of pole carver Skundaal Bernie Williams (Haida/Coast Salish), this grass roots initiative led by Sacred Circle Society “honours the many people who have arrived and lived in the Downtown Eastside as survivors.” Skundaal is the only female apprentice of the renowned carver Bill Reid. The events of the day include a procession of the Survivors Pole from Main Street down Hastings to Pigeon Park followed by the ceremonial pole raising, arts and craft sales by local artists, and a celebration featuring local artists from diverse cultures. Presented with City of Vancouver, Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation, Portland Hotel Society and Potluck Café.

Saturday Nov 5: 11am, Main & Hastings; 12:30pm Pole Raising Ceremony, 3pm Celebration. Pigeon Park (Carrall & E. Hastings). Free

  1. 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 and the award-winning Dovbush Dancers. Special guests include: Zeellia, Vancouver’s own Slavic soul band led by Beverly Dobrinsky; the Vancouver Chinese Music Ensemble led by Jirong Huang; and the Lil’wat family performance group Tzo’kam led by Russell Wallace. We look forward to the unique and original collaborations to be presented by this afternoon’s special guests. Immediately following the concert is the always-delicious traditional Ukrainian Supper.

Sunday Nov 6, Concert 3pm, Supper follows. Ukrainian Hall, 805 E. Pender.

$25. For advance tickets contact 604-254-3436

Most events are free or by donation. Visit for full details.