Nine summer festivals that will bring some much-needed joy to Vancouver and the region

by Charlie Smith, Georgia Straight on June 11th, 2021

estival season is underway in Vancouver, minus the communal feasts that have been a hallmark of events like Greek Day on Broadway and Italian Day on the Drive. Damn that pandemic!

However, there is still plenty of sizzle coming at you virtually during the next couple of months, plus some events with a live component. Here are some highlights.

Talking Stick Festival Summer Sojourn

(until July 1)

Last week, we told you about Embodying Power and Place, which is a monthlong artistic representation of chapters in the final report of the National Inquiry Into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. On June 15, the festival will present Dances With Our Ancestors, which includes pieces by Christine Friday, Maura Garcia, and Rebecca Sadowski.

Indian Summer Festival

(June 17 to July 17)

This one has it all: musical, theatrical, and literary events, plus a walking tour of the Punjabi Market, all spaced out over the course of a month. Two highlights? Seven-time Grammy-nominated sitarist and composer Anoushka Shankar next Saturday (June 19) from her home, followed a week later by Indian tabla master Zakir Hussain. Book lovers won’t want to miss Booker Prize–nominated novelist Avni Doshi in conversation with Scotiabank Giller Prize–winning short-story writer Souvankham Thammavongsa.

Dancing on the Edge

(July 8 to 17)

Vancouver has emerged as a globally respected centre for contemporary dance in the 21st century, no small thanks to its breadth of talent. At this year’s Dancing on the Edge Festival, there will be commissioned works by Ouro Collective, Raven Spirit Dance, Billy Marchenski, Immigrant Lessons, Generous Mess, Rob Kitsos, and Meredith Kalaman. That’s in addition to presentations by dance artists Wen Wei Dance, Radical System Art/Shay Kuebler, Rachel Meyer, Lesley Telford/Inverso Productions, CAMP, and others.

TD Vancouver International Jazz Festival

(June 25 to July 4)

The Snotty Nose Rez Kids, Tonye Aganaba, Helen Sung, Jill Barber, and DJ Kookum are just some of the featured acts at this grand music festival. And if you’re eager to see how the future of jazz might look like in a world of growing racial consciousness, be sure to check out Irreversible Entanglements, featuring the vocals of spoken-word artist and activist Moor Mother, a.k.a. Camae Ayewa.

Powell Street Festival

(July 1 to August 1)

In normal years, the Powell Street Festival is held over the B.C. Day long weekend in Oppenheimer Park in the heart of Vancouver’s old Japantown. But this is no normal year, so the 45th annual event will be free throughout July before it ends with a bang on July 31 and August 1. That includes a “flash mob” performance of the Paueru Mashup Dance in Oppenheimer Park, opportunities to listen to durational taiko drumming from the rooftop of the Japanese Language School, and Randall Okita’s virtual-reality film The Book of Distance at the same location.

From the comfort of home, people can watch on-demand streaming of Dub This Road with British hapa singer Denise Sherwood and Vancouver’s Sawagi Taiko and Onibana Taiko. Other on-demand shows feature Kazuma Glen Motomura and Sammy Chien; Jody Okabe, Rup Singh and director Aya Garcia; and Shion Skye Carter and Skye Carter.

Mission Folk Music Festival

(July 23 to 25)

Famous fathers Jim Cuddy and Barney Bentall will share songs and family stories with their musician sons, Devin Cuddy, Sam Polley, and Dustin Bentall. For those missing the Vancouver Folk Music Festival this year—and who might not have been in the mood to drive to Mission anyhow—plenty of folk acts are available in your living room.

Queer Arts Festival

(July 24 to August 13)

This year’s QAF is billed as Dispersed: it’s not easy being green, featuring a curated visual art exhibition at the Sun Wah Centre in Chinatown. This year’s fest also includes Bobbi Kozinuk’s interactive Language as a Virus: Queer Isolation Stories (from July 24 to August 13), as well as Queerotica literary readings curated by Josie Boyce (August 2) and music and dance with Onibana Taiko and Alvin Erasga Tolentino (August 7).

Vancouver Mural Festival

(August 4 to 22)

This one is pretty straightforward. Artists are hired to make the blank walls of buildings look far more beautiful. The neighbourhood becomes more appealing. Everyone’s happy, including the property owners, whose land is now in a hip area.

The festival also serves a useful social purpose. For example, the VMF’s Black Strathcona Resurgence Project is offering a tangible reminder of the Black community, centred in Hogan’s Alley, which was deliberately displaced by the white establishment and largely erased from popular memory when the viaducts were built. The new murals going into the neighoburhood are one way to counter this erasure and remind Vancouverites of what once existed in our city.

Carnaval del Sol

(August 6 to 29)

Online and in-person events are planned for the largest Latin American festival in B.C. and the U.S. Pacific Northwest. We’ll provide more information when it becomes available.

Last year, Carnaval Del Sol put on an impressive virtual festival on fairly short notice, thanks to its large contingent of community volunteers and to help from the Vancouver Latin American Film Festival programming director Christian Sida.