Sunday, March 3, 2013

victoria and albert street festival

mask blank
A while back artist friend Rodney Corraini posted on Facebook that he was frustrated by the demise of the Cumberland art kart derby. He mentioned that he and a few people considered the same idea for Fitzwilliam St. I liked the idea and saw potential for the event but thought the idea may be better adapted to Albert or Victoria rd. Fitzwilliam already had a few annual events that were gaining momentum and the area just beyond the china steps was still struggling for an identity.

For those of you not familiar with the Cumberland art karts here are some You Tube videos:
Cumberland Art Karts 2011
Cumberland Art Karts 2012

The problem is that the art karts on their own are not enough of a draw and not affordable or doable by everyone. I know I do not have the room to create an art kart. I don’t even have the room to decorate a bicycle. However I do have a room to do a hat. I started to think about the tall elaborate hats of the carnival and the masks of masquerade and suddenly the idea for a street festival started to form; a street festival that would be inclusive to large sectors of the population, affordable and fun.

doodling hat ideas
How wonderful would it be, I thought, if the street sections along Albert and Victoria Crescent were shut down to vehicles and opened to pedestrians for a day. The event could begin in the afternoon with mask making or hat making for families, people parading their more thought out home-made endeavors and then the festival become more adult oriented in the evening. Allow for music, dancing, costumes—Art karts and skateboarding during the day and burlesque at night. 

The more I thought about the idea the more it appealed to me. The area was already home to the Queens and the Cambie. Theatres are just around the corner and there are hills aplenty for art karts. The whole concept seemed to suit the vibe of the place. I became even more convinced when I went downtown to take pictures of the various hill slopes. 
The hill on Victoria Rd. offers a good slope, plenty of viewing space and a parking area for Karts before the run.

The street is full of little unique cafes. Providing food to the celebrants would be no problem. Kiosks could be set up outside of existing restaurants to provide street food fair and diners needing escape from the sun could retreat inside.

What I really liked about the idea and thought would also appeal to the business community is that the event could start small and expand as experience, exposure and finances improve. Mask making does not have to cost a lot. The hat I plan to make for myself would consist of mostly recycled materials using an old bicycle helmet as a support. There are a number of artists and artisans in the Nanaimo and Gabriola area with hat making, mask making and puppetry expertise. They are an untapped resource to making an event such as this come alive.

For the business community looking for a logo and an image to use for marketing they need look no further than the name of the streets: Victoria and Albert. “Bertie,” the husband and consort of Queen Victoria was a great promoter of science and the arts. The success of the Great exhibition in 1851 in England was due in large part to his promotion and enthusiasm. Albert would make an ideal mascot to the event and a great deal of gentle fun could be had with his image. The couple make a great tie-in to the history of Nanaimo.
Good space to display Karts, bicycles or set up a mask making station.

After taking photos of the downtown area, I sat for a while at the Vault restaurant with a coffee and a burger to peer out the window at the street. I tried to imagine it without cars but filled with people dancing, meandering, eating and just plain enjoying themselves. It really was not hard to do. The area is a lovely copper coin with Victoria’s image stamped on it awaiting some spit and polish to make it shine.

Imagine a summer afternoon, no cars and people dancing in the street.

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