We acknowledge that the city of Vancouver is located on the unceded and ancestral territories of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations. We humbly thank our hosts for their generosity in allowing us to build our reading series here and we hope that our work honours their generous spirit.
MANY PEOPLE ASK:
“Why are you called Real Vancouver Writers’ Series? Does Vancouver have a fake writers series*, too?”
HERE’S OUR ANSWER:
The Real in our name refers to Vancouver; the city, the ancestral land that it is built upon, and the people who live, work, and create here.
We say that ‘Real Vancouver was born in a burning building’ and this is true in a few different respects. The very first RVWS events occurred at 112 West Hastings Street in the legendary Perel Gallery, located directly across from the Woodwards building in a portion of Vancouver’s downtown that was about to be irrevocably changed by the advance of gentrification.
The top three floors of the building at 112 West Hastings Street were illuminated by a video installation by Isabelle Hayeur called Fire with Fire:
“… a site-specific video project in vancouver, canada. consisting of 3 blu-ray players and video projectors, the piece is a 15 minute video loop that simulates a fire in a four-storey heritage building in the downtown eastside.
the area is the city’s oldest neighbourhood and one of the most run-down; many lives have been consumed due to years of homelessness, drug abuse, prostitution and violence. ‘fire with fire’ is intended to bring attention to the derelict history of the sector while recalling the destructive event of the great vancouver fire in 1886.”
This is some of the context surrounding our origin. Over the years as gentrification and other complications took away affordable venues and locations across the city Real Vancouver has become a peripatetic organization, working with galleries and event spaces across the city.
We were inspired by the great writers and literary communities of our city to create an independent grassroots literary reading series that would provide an authentic response to the noise and general weirdness surrounding the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Winter Games.
Every Olympic City becomes a brochure of itself for those 6 weeks of athletic competition and during that time images and stories from that city are broadcast around the world that exaggerate or at least extol its scenic virtues, its sporting facilities, and the comings and goings of an international cast of celebrities.
These things are fine if you don’t mind being a stranger in your own city, and it should be noted that the 2010 Winter Olympics were an amazing experience that we feel lucky to have had, but in that moment when the eyes of the world were on Vancouver we were not comfortable with the lack of literary programming in the city – Michael Turner’s Candahar Bar, and the Vancouver Writers Fest‘s excellent evening of spoken word being the notable exceptions.
But there was no sustained demonstration of the literary talent that lives and works in Vancouver. Nothing that brought the writers and readers together from across disciplines, genres, sensibilities, and styles.
And so we self-organized as a community and put on 4 weekly events during February 2010 that saw 44 writers from Vancouver and the Lower Mainland perform to standing-room only crowds at the legendary Perel Gallery on 100 block West Hastings Street.
The initial series was met with so much enthusiasm that we continue to produce events to this day.
The Real Vancouver of our name is a thoroughly contemporary city, globally connected and open to writers, creators and ideas from across the country and around the world.
It is a city that is much more than its brochure image. For every artificially snowy ski slope there’s a tent city in Oppenheimer Park or an occupation at the art gallery, revellers at Jericho Beach, writers working to transform what they see and feel into stories, poems, histories, whatever.
It’s a city of empty million dollar condos and glass towers reflecting mountains, oceans and islands. A city of rampant homelessness, drug addiction, violent crime, and the visionary life-saving work being done at InSite, Canada’s first free-injection site.
Vancouver is a cutting edge technological city that has been built on Unceded Coast Salish Territory.
We are all guests here.
Our Real Vancouver is a city of complicated histories and unknowable futures, and we see it as our challenge to curate events that feature the writers who are expressing those pasts and future possibilities today whether it’s on paper, in pixels, or in whatever form they choose.
Through the act of live event curation we are trying to provide a lens for the citizens of our city and others around the world to see and hear the best local writers and our talented friends who may be visiting us from other cities.
Or, put another way:
It’s the Vancouver that’s Real.
The writers can be whatever they choose.
*And also, we have no idea whether somebody has created a fake writers series in Vancouver. It seems unlikely.