Category Archives: Arts & Culture

Uptown Unplugged

You may have caught a piece in The Record or may have seen Councillor Jonathan Cote’s tweet regarding a “parklet” going in in front of Westminster Centre. A parklet is essentially a small, temporarily installed urban park. And by small, I mean teeny. Westminster Centre, in collaboration with the very busy folks at Hyack Festival Association, are working to liven up Uptown. This, together with their recent launching of, an investment into street banners, as well as the second (very successful) run of Uptown Live, is really doing its part to make the Uptown neighbourhood particularly liveable, lively, and inviting.

The parklet is but one part of Uptown Unplugged, a weekly summer series of music and street performers that launched July 13th and is ongoing on both Saturdays and Sundays from 12-5 until August 25th. With an eclectic, varied, and interesting mix of performers, there is something for everyone. I mean, check out the line up for this weekend – it is pretty amazing.  You can check out the Facebook Page for details, but I guarantee, you should pop on buy, grab a beverage from one of the local shops, and enjoy the free entertainment.

(Disclaimer: the company I own with BrianaHyack Interactive, was hired to help develop a portion of content on, and the work, while mostly complete, is ongoing as new listings are added. I’d write this article no matter what though – parklets and free entertainment that make a community more liveable are my kind of thing.)

Amanda Marino belting it out

Amanda Marino belting it out

Gorgeous day for hanging out and listening to music

Gorgeous day for hanging out and listening to music





Digital Story Telling Unconference – July 13

My job is storytelling – peoples’ stories, corporate histories, stories of big needs and big challenges, personal moments, things learned and passed on. I’ve done a story that shares the lore of a lakeside cabin, one about an adult child’s devotion to mom’s cooking, and a salute to a family’s golden retriever that was part kid, part nanny and part saint.

Nearly three years ago, I started up a conversation with with Denim and Steel’s Todd Sieling and Tylor Sherman, and product designer Kaishin Chu about the possibilities for digital storytelling. We didn’t have an unconference in mind, but it surfaced pretty quickly. The four of us got seriously excited. It seemed like the natural extension of Todd and Tylor’s concept for a forum where people with tech and non-tech creative skills could come together. No insistence on outcomes, just a keen interest in what this kind of enriched chemistry might produce.

So, an unconference? I didn’t have the vaguest idea what that entailed. I had worked on conventional conferences before, and the stress those events produce didn’t carry much appeal. To get me started, the concept was outlined and I was given links to explore. I did my reading but remained pretty skeptical. I could appreciate the immediacy and power of the self-organizing, creative ideal, but figured it could just as easily devolve into a free-for-all, unfocused mess. But, my three comrades were eloquent and compelling, so I braved it out.

July 10, 2012, the day of the first Digital Storytelling Unconference. Fifty-plus people arriving at the New Westminster Network Hub (At the River Market on Westminster Quay – the view alone is worth the visit). Lots of friendly milling. People moving together and then apart and then together again, many times. On cue we collect in the Network Hub’s main meeting space. After a quick welcome, and quicker explanation of a few ground rules, we launch.

Thirty-second pitch slam not what I expect at all. It stokes the group energy. My turn. I stand up, speed through my session pitch (all about what I call life mapping, in just under 30 seconds, I reckon) and I sit down. Then the self-selection part that I am the most curious, and the most skeptical, about. We swarm the bulletin board to mull the pitch options written on Post-it Notes. Only a couple of moments of seeming confusion while choices are recorded, then a return to seats. The day is set. I’ve never seen a menu of possibilities so quickly parsed into a working schedule.

I decide to surrender my cynicism to the day. I’m excited now. A pause to review and clarify then we head to first sessions. Lots of talk in hallways and quick, impromptu meetings out in the Market concourse in front of the Network Hub.

From a year’s distance the energy resonance is clear, a good hum that I can still conjure – ideas still percolating. Most details are blurring now. But I remember the guy, Todd Smith of Motion Design, who sparked my interest with an idea he had about an interviewing technique he called “Breadcrumbing.” And there was the woman, seeking help for her community organization to get the success stories of kids at risk out to a wider audience.

I haven’t had a day like DSU in a very long time, where I found myself so juiced. I was surrounded by strangers who shared some of my questions about how community can be made stronger through digital storytelling. DSU Vancouver 2013 can only be better.

 John Wellwood is the Creative Director at Echo Memoirs, an attendee and sponsor for this year’s Digital Storytelling Unconference, held at The Network Hub this coming Saturday, July 13 from 9:30am to 5:30pm. Your $25 (+ fees) ticket registers you for the event, plus gets you lunch and refreshments for the day. You can find them on Twitter @DSUVancouver or check out their website at for more info. 


Time To Get Curious

It’s no secret that we’re proud of our rich history here in the Royal City.  Our streets are laden with lovely heritage homes and we have some of the best antique stores in the Lower Mainland.

When Jenny Cashin of Mid Century Modern Home moved her shop into the River Market, it just made sense that the River Market then became home to a new type of flea market.  A type that had never been seen in New Westminster before.

And so the Curious Flea was born.


The Curious Flea is a flea market for the modern age.  It’s a social flea.  An event where people are invited to shop, hang out, engage and explore.  Traditional flea markets are a hodge podge of items ranging from the unwanted to the unloved to the hidden gem and everything in between.  They’re often in stuffy halls packed to the gills with bargain hunters of every size.  Get in, get out. Kinda gloomy and depressing.

Not so, the Curious Flea!  This flea has everything going for it.  Select vendors displaying their vintage, up-cycled and retro wares.  Incredible food from the River Market tenants, spectacular view and venue, buskers to encourage you to get up and party, facepainting for the kids (and the adults, lets be honest…I’ll be doing it) from 11:30-4 by The Stage New Westminster and dance parties both days from 1 pm – 2 pm hosted by Music Box.  And lets not forget the Battle of the Curious.

sauna pants

We all own something strange.  It could be a family heirloom…it could be a horrid gift from an ex…it could that thing you just found in your closet.  Bring it  to the flea on Saturday and take it upstairs to the Curious judging booth.  The Curious Flea ringmasters will take its picture (so you don’t have to part with your treasure) and your contact information and then a team of crack experts will choose the winner by end of flea on Saturday.The winner of the most curious curio, most vintage oddity or just most plain weird will win $100 to spend at the Flea on Sunday.  Hooray!  The item will then be imortalized forever in the Curious Hall of Fame for all to gaze on in awe.

The most important thing about the flea however, is that it is a community flea.  The River Market is an anchor point in New Westminster’s blossoming downtown community, and the Curious Flea is celebrating that fact.  Many of the vendors, including Belle Encore, Brick and Mortar Living, Flying Fox Art and Design, LoCalo Living, PAVA Creations and Robyn’s Vintage Nest  are New West locals.  There are even got some original Quayside residents bringing their collectibles from home. And because of the proximity and inspiration of Front St, there will be a special table featuring wares Front St merchants. Fleaers are encouraged to come to the Flea and then take a walk down Front St to complete their day….and their collecting.

We have built this flea to be a celebration of our community.  A celebration of New Westminster and its diverse residents, fantastic shops and incredible passion.  A celebration of why we, as a city, are awesome…and just a bit curious.


The Curious Flea will be taking place on June 1st and 2nd from 10 am to 5 pm at the River Market at 810 Quayside Dr.  General Admission is free, but there is an $10 early bird rate for 9 am entrance. We’re going to hold the flea on a quarterly basis, so lets make this first one a great one!  And if you have any suggestions…be sure to find me and let me know.  We want the flea to keep getting better and better.

For more information, check out the River Market website and the Curious Flea Facebook page.  And come on…get curious with me!



New free art program starting May 26: ArtStarts at River Market

ArtStarts-RiverMarket-May2013-LogoArtStarts at River Market, an ongoing free arts-based workshop series for kids, kicks off on May 26. This is a new monthly event series in New Westminster for kids and families who want to get creative and have some fun. Donald’s Market ONE members will recognize this name as one of the recent winners for the ONE prize.

ArtStarts in Schools is a not-for-profit organization that promotes art and creativity among BC’s young people.  At the ArtStarts Gallery in downtown Vancouver, Canada’s first devoted exclusively to young people’s art, they currently host a kids workshop series called ArtStarts on Saturdays. And now, New Westminster is the second community to host this program!

The folks at ArtStarts are really excited about expanding the program into New West, as they strive to provide quality arts experiences to young people in all areas of the province, and winning a ONE prize has given them the opportunity to find a home in New Westminster at River Market. (For those of you who don’t know about the ONE prize, funds accrue based on purchases by members at Donald’s Market, and organizations and individuals can apply to receive grant funding. ONE members vote on who gets the rewards, and this year four different applications were awarded prize money. Membership to the ONE program is free, and there are perks to being a member. Check out the website for more on the ONE program.)

Taking place at River Market at Westminster Quay on the last Sunday of each month, ArtStarts at River Market will offer free arts-based workshops for kids. Presented twice, at 11am and 1pm, these 45-minute workshops feature a broad range of performing and visual artists, representing diverse cultures and disciplines.

artstarts-sheldon-casavantThe kick off on May 26 features a performance and workshop by magician Sheldon Casavant. His magic show is light-hearted and highly interactive;  objects will appear, disappear, and even float in the air. Magic is traditionally passed on from magician to magician, so Sheldon may even teach the secrets of some magic tricks to budding magicians in the audience.

At future workshops, look forward to cartoonist Julian Lawrence on Sunday, June 30, who will guide kids to create an original 8–page mini-comic describing themselves, their family and their culture. On Sunday, July 28, enjoy the antics of ventriloquist Kellie Haines and her puppet friends. She’ll also teach kids how to make their own puppets. (Bring a sock!)

Find out more about ArtStarts at River Market on


May 25 Uptown Live 2013: Music In New Westminster Streets Again!

Photo supplied by Hyack Festival Association

Photo supplied by Hyack Festival Association

Once again, music will fill the streets of New Westminster with a line-up of lower mainland indie bands of various stylistic stripes courtesy of Uptown Live. The event will also feature food carts, and family events for everyone’s enjoyment.

Starting at 1:00 on Saturday May 25th after the Key West Ford Hyack International Parade, a cross-section of local musical talent from all over the Lower Mainland is set to entertain crowds, touching on a rich spectrum of musical delights. The event is a part of the celebrated 42nd Hyack Festival, and presented by Royal City Centre and Westminster Centre. Continue reading


Royal City Writers record stories that might otherwise remain untold

The Lookout Emergency Aid Society sign on the Cliff Block building in New Westminster. Photo: Diane Haynes.

The Lookout Emergency Aid Society sign on the Cliff Block building in New Westminster. Photo: Diane Haynes.

For my tenth birthday, I got my first computer. There were no games on it, so I mostly just used it to type up the many short stories and journal entries I had composed in my ten years. Those files are still sitting on a floppy disc, which is currently in a box along with the macaroni crafts and storybooks of my childhood. It never once occurred to me that the ability to keep a record of those things is a privilege that, unfortunately, isn’t granted to everyone. New Westminster’s Royal City Writers (RCW) is working towards changing that.

New Westminster has been home to the Cliff Block, a transitional housing unit run by the Lookout Emergency Aid Society, for over a decade. The residents of the Cliff Block, who have experienced challenges ranging from mental illness, to addiction, to homelessness, receive support, supervision, and direction from Lookout and the Cliff Block staff. Most importantly, they are given the opportunity to connect with their communities in a meaningful way.

I didn’t know about any of this until September of this year. Coming from Coquitlam, where there is no equivalent to Lookout, I’ve lived my life with a certain amount of distance between myself and places like the Cliff Block. While I was aware that organizations like that existed, I’d always operated under the assumption that they worked autonomously from the communities in which they were situated. That is, until this fall when I met local author Diane Haynes and began working with her and a small group of dedicated volunteers as part of Royal City Writers.

Launched just a few weeks ago, Royal City Writers’ pilot project pairs writers with residents of the Cliff Block. Over the course of eight weeks, our volunteers are conversing with residents, audio recording their words, and putting their stories into print. The project was built on the idea that storytelling forges powerful connections within communities, and our intention is to give voice to those stories that might otherwise go untold.

Haynes first came up with the idea earlier this year. “The inspiration for Royal City Writers came from two sources,” she says. “My own recent illness showed me how isolating such an experience can be. And my recovery involved the practice of yoga, which includes the concept of karma yoga. The idea is that you give back to your community the strength and peace you discover through your practice. I realized I could do that through writing.”

At surface level, it’s a simple idea, but one I think could make a big difference in the community at large. It’s an opportunity for people who are from a whole range of backgrounds, but are living in the same place, to learn from each other. We hope that this experience will prove equally meaningful for Cliff Block residents and volunteer writers alike. Since beginning work on the pilot project, we’ve recruited an absolutely fantastic group of volunteers ranging from a social activist to a librarian and children’s author to a victim support worker, all of whom are enthusiastic about bringing other people’s stories to light.

“I admit I was nervous when I entered the Cliff block for the first time,” says Holly Andrews, an RCW volunteer. “Who was I to walk into a stranger’s home and ask him to tell me about his life? But actually, my conversations with my writing partner have become a highlight of my week. Learning about schizophrenia from a person who has it has been incredibly eye opening, and I’m pleased to have the opportunity to help him tell his story. Hopefully, sharing this story and others like it will challenge some of the stigmas associated with mental illness in our community.”

New West City Councilor Jonathan Cote believes “this is a project that has the capacity to bring the whole New West community closer together, to build connections between those who have experienced obstacles such as homelessness, poverty, mental illness, and addiction, and those who maybe have not. There’s huge potential here.”

As a small part of Royal City Writers, I can say that thus far, the pilot project is living up to Mr. Côté’s expectation. Writing partners have met with each other several times now, and the results have been encouraging. Working on the nuts and bolts of getting this project off the ground had distracted me from the bigger picture, but the stories that have emerged from the writing sessions have put everything back into perspective. Everyone has the right to speak and be heard, and I’m proud to be part of a project that allows people to do that.


Vagabond Players presents Dear Santa (plus: a contest!)

The Vagabond Players present Dear Santa

The Vagabond Players present Dear Santa

There is deep love and long standing commitment for community theatre in New Westminster. The Vagabond Players, formed in 1937 and the longest-running community theatre group in BC, have continued to present engaging productions over years in the Bernie Legge Theatre, a cozy playhouse nestled in Queens Park. Operated completely by volunteers, the Vagabond Players present four or five productions each season and you are just in time to catch their next show, Dear Santa, by Norm Foster.

Have you ever wondered what it is really like at the North Pole? Why don’t you come on down to the Bernie Legge Theatre in Queens Park to have a look? Santa and his busy elves have cooked up a great show for you. Join the fun as Santa Claus tries to fulfill a child’s special Christmas wish while his staff struggles to overcome a supply shortage at the North Pole. This is a laugh-filled holiday play delightfully entertaining for adults and innocent enough for the youngest boy or girl.

This lively comedy introduces a host of quirky characters—all of whom are essential to get Santa ready for his Christmas Eve tour. The show stars Sue Sparlin as Santa; Greg Dersken as Algernon, the efficient Chief of Staff; Kathleen Kelly Driscoll as Bozidar, the head honcho in charge of the elves; and Denise Fullbrook as Santa’s housekeeper. Adding to the fun are Jim Bjorkes as a pushy sleigh salesman, and Claire Temple, Faith Hurd and Andra Louie (that’s me!) as the visitors who create more complications for Santa. Rounding out the cast are Kelly Avery, Alice Woodbury, Rob Larsen, Suzanne Biehl, Helen Volkow, Amy Goheen, Lindsey McGaire and Alison Main-Tourneur as elves and choristers.

Directed by Jacqollyne Keath, Dear Santa runs Dec 6 – 23, Thurs – Sat at 8pm; Sunday matinees at 2:00pm. Special Saturday matinee, Dec. 22 – 2:00pm. Two-for-one previews Dec. 6 & 7. Book now: 604-521-0412 or online at

CONTEST: If you would like to enter to win a pair of tickets to see Dear Santa please add a comment below telling us what’s on your Christmas wish list. On Friday, December 7 a winner will be drawn at random.


Second Annual New Westminster DocFest this weekend

New West Doc Fest, October 19 & 20 at the Laura C. Muir Performing Arts Theatre, Douglas College (700 Royal Ave.)

New West Doc Fest, October 19 & 20 at the Laura C. Muir Performing Arts Theatre, Douglas College (700 Royal Ave.)

Did you know that New Westminster hosts an annual documentary film festival? The second annual New West DocFest is coming up this weekend, October 19 & 20, at Douglas College’s Laura C. Muir Theatre.

The festival opens on Friday evening with a presentation by guest speaker Mark Jaccard, a professor at SFU, followed by the screening of Chasing Ice. This year’s films cover a range of topics including the environment (Chasing Ice and White Water Black Gold), women in India (The World Before Her), the video game industry (Indie Game the Movie), and the power of corporations (Big Boys Gone Bananas).

In addition to the program of critically acclaimed documentaries, the festival also incorporates music, theatre and art. Short theatrical performances throughout the festival will be presented by Act Now, a youth theatre group focused on sustainability.

As a fairly new event in New Westminster, this will be a critical year to determine the long-term viability of the event. According to one of the event organizers, Andrew Murray, the vision for the festival is to become more than just a local event: “We want to create an event that is unique to New West that will not only draw people locally but also throughout the Lower Mainland.”

Admission is just $7 per film ($5 for students and seniors). For more information, visit


Embrace public art to add surprise and whimsy to New West spaces



Art is a funny beast. Viewed in defined “art-appropriate” spaces – think hotels, building lobbies, hospitals, cafés and galleries, there are few styles, works or mediums that we don’t appreciate. From contemporary painting, large-scale black and white photography, avant-garde sculptures and mixed-media work, to hard to interpret audio pieces, we accept it as art, as something that is inherently good for us to be surrounded by – even when we don’t understand it.

As artist Martyn Reed of Stavanger, Norway said in an interview about public art with Juxtapoz magazine, “Art, on a philosophical level, even academically, is good for people; it improves the quality of people’s lives, which is why we put art classes in prisons; we have art in hospitals because it makes people’s lives better, it’s present in pre-op and in every ward, there are pictures. Everyone believes this, you don’t get people saying, ‘It doesn’t improve the quality of people’s lives.’”

Yet despite the positive and emotional connection many of us have towards art, we neglect how important the context in which we perceive it truly is. Viewed outside the confines of its regular context, we lose that same openness and acceptance of the quirky, hard to understand or strange. The vibrant club poster stapled to a telephone pole is no longer an ink print, but a nuisance. The series of wheat paste concert posters is no longer pop-art, but vandalism. The large-scale photographs stuck to a blank wall, they too cease to be considered art.

Public art or art created in and for the public sphere gets a bad rap. It can polarize a cohesive community into those who are up for a bit of whimsy in the public domain and those who are vehemently opposed to it. Of the diverse forms of public art, few are as vilified as graffiti. For many, the mere mention of the word invokes images of hastily spray-painted train cars, or sprawling script along vacant walls. Graffiti is akin to neighborhood blight.

And while in some cases graffiti does represent a lack of respect for a place, there is the flipside of the graffiti spectrum. Street artists and residents collaborating painstakingly over a period of hours or days, to create art for the betterment, interest and enjoyment of the community in which they reside.

This role of community generated public art or graffiti as social and economic tool is not often talked about, but can have a huge impact on a city. In an open letter to the mayor of Stockton, California – a fledgling city on the verge of bankruptcy, M. Revelli the editor of art magazine Juxtapoz, cites examples of Stavanger, Norway, Bristol, United Kingdom and New Orleans as examples of cities that have embraced an attitude of tolerance and openness to public art and are reaping the benefits of dollars spent in their cities. The influx of money to the city comes in the name of tourism as curious locals, art enthusiasts, bloggers and others in the art world travel to experience the works in these cities.

Another such city that has embraced graffiti and public art as civic tools is the city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In that city, well-known street artist Steve Powers, completed Love Letter, a series of murals along the elevated subway line to help give a sense of pride to residents from the different neighborhoods in which the murals were installed.

Discussing his experience in Philadelphia to Juxtapoz magazine, Powers explains, “Nobody saw any benefit of the project for their neighborhood. Once we got to painting and people saw the results, they got excited about their neighborhood again. Everything has been great ever since. And when they see people coming by daily to take pictures, the equation becomes very apparent. More people coming to the area translated to more foot traffic, which translates to more businesses.”

In addition to the economic benefit to the local economy of embracing public art, the social benefit of a community creating, appreciating and discussing art is invaluable. In a unique public art project, French artist JR – winner of the prestigious TED Prize, had the idea to empower people and strengthen communities around the world by encouraging widespread participation in a global art project, The InsideOut Project.

Sourcing co-creators from around the world, individuals or groups upload black and white portraits of themselves that subsequently get turned into large-format posters (they’re big, very big) and returned to the individuals to be posted in their own community. Using only their face to share a message, JR’s wish is to inspire people from all over the world to indulge their inner artist, taking pride in their communities ultimately making them better more interesting places to live.

Closer to home, New West is in the midst of a civic renaissance of sorts. After years of slow growth, the city is adding a more diverse and interesting culinary component to its reputation as an affordable city with great quality of life, good transportation, loads of amenities and a strong sense of community. While the depth of offerings is still developing, people are now moving to, coming to and staying in New West because of its food offering. What would the impact be if New West added a dynamic public art component to its urban fabric – reclaiming vacant spaces and knitting a sense of surprise into our public spaces?

Imagine a collaborative series of murals along the back of the buildings that face the Skytrain, short-run sculpture installations in parks or other public spaces, art installations in vacant commercial storefronts or our own chapter of the InsideOut Project. If only our city had disused wall space, vacant lots, empty storefronts or large unused areas along the waterfront … hmmm.

While I’m no artist, I appreciate the arts –no matter where on the brow they may fall, and would like to see a greater sense of playfulness and surprise in our public spaces. I am interested in helping push New West towards being a city that embraces the economic and social potential of public art through an open attitude towards it. We need not strive to be an art capital, just a community of engaged citizens who embrace the potential of the arts and aren’t afraid of a more dynamic and whimsical public sphere.

As for those black and white portraits through the InsideOut Project, mine arrived in the mail a few weeks back and all I need to do now is paste it up. Group exhibitions are always better than solo efforts. Get in touch with me if you’re interested in a group effort or check out


Outdoor movie screenings in New Westminster this summer

Crowds gather to watch E.T. on an outdoor movie screen at Summerfest in Grimston Park. Photo: Harry Pehkonen.

Crowds gather to watch E.T. on an outdoor movie screen in Grimston Park at 2010's Summerfest. Photo: Harry Pehkonen.

Nothing says summer like movies al fresco, plus the price (free!) can’t be beat. There are a number of outdoor movie screenings coming up in New Westminster this summer. Here’s a list of the ones I have heard about so far. If you know of an event I’ve overlooked, please comment to let me know. All movies in this list are free. Remember to bring your own picnic blanket or lawn chair if you go.


  • July 14: The Princess Bride Summerfest in Grimston Park features a free screening of The Princess Bride. Swordfights, giants, princesses, magic potions, Rodents of Unusual Size … what more could you want in a movie? Festival starts at 2pm with classic picnic games, mini-Farmers Market from 3-7, live music from 5-9 and the movie starts at 9:30.  Movie sponsored by Derrick Thornhill of Park Georgia Realty. Free popcorn provided by Community Savings Credit Union.




River Market ‘Goes Country’ to Raise Funds for Royal Columbian Hospital

River Market will step back in time to reinvent a Royal Columbian Hospital tradition: the Country Fair fundraiser. From 1943 to 1969 RCH volunteers invited residents to the “Come One, Come All to Country Fair” held at the City Market in New Westminster. During this year’s Canada Day long weekend, River Market will host an updated version of the Country Fair in a four-day fundraising extravaganza celebrating RCH’s history and contribution to New Westminster.

Kicking off the weekend celebration, River Market will host an evening fundraiser “150 & Going Strong” on Thursday June 28th featuring celebrated rhythm and blues musicians Lesismore and a menu of fantastic BC wines paired with local food prepared by River Market restaurants. Historians Dale and Archie Miller will regale guests with stories from the hospital’s incredible 150 year history. Tickets for the fundraiser are just $35 and can be purchased online.

On Friday June 29th River Market Food Hall will be transformed into a walk-in movie theatre where families can watch Footloose and grab dinner from one of the many restaurants including newly opened Re-Up BBQ and Wally’s Burgers.

Saturday June 30th is when the Fraser Goes South! The Market will be overrun with gingham, hay bales, sunflowers and specially handcrafted tea bar by Great Wall Tea. There will be entertainment for the whole family including a performance by the Vancouver Circus School, Square Dancers and musical performance by the New Westminster Secondary Jazz Quintet. River Market patio will play host to a bevy of country fair novelty games, animals from KJM’s Southland Farm location and so much more. Thankfully the prizes for winning the novelty games will not include a squirrel cape, which was a featured prize at the 1948 Country Fair! A perfect way to wrap up the weekend and to celebrate Canada Day will be a pancake breakfast at Paddlewheeler Pub from 8am – 10am continued with a Crepes breakfast, music, face painters and Canada Day fun for all.

Proceeds from all four event days will benefit the recently established Brooklyn’s Wish Fund in support of Royal Columbian Hospital families who due to unexpected medical circumstances require their newborns to receive care at the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU.). Families often struggle with travelling time, parking and paying for accommodation while their newborn receives care and Brooklyn’s Wish Fund was set up to help parents and caregivers as much as possible.

For more information on how you can take part in River Market Country Fair festivities please contact call 604-520-3881, email or visit


Music in New Westminster streets May 26 at Uptown Live

Uptown Live

We’re set to have music in the streets of our city with Uptown Live, an event to take place on multiple stages in uptown New Westminster on May 26, from 12PM to 5PM.

The performances will take place an on four sponsored stages, free to the public. This includes a “kid zone”, making this a family event for children and adult music fans alike. Entertainers Gary Oliver of Cinemazoo, Gina Marie Frazier, Clare Brett, and Keith Bennett will be on hand on the VanCity Kids Stage from 1-4PM.

On three other stages, nine Vancouver-based acts will entertain crowds with music that spans the pop/rock spectrum. This is a chance to discover some of the incredible and versatile talent this region has to offer. Check the Uptown Live map to see where the stages are to be set up.

Many local vendors and businesses will be out on the street too. This is a great chance to show local business your support as you take in the music.

Besides the wheres and whens of the event, I thought I’d take this opportunity to talk about the acts you’ll be seeing during Uptown Live, and to provide some links so you can preview some of the music you’ll be hearing, and plan out your day to catch each act.

Who: Dan Moxon Trio (1PM, CIBC Main Stage; 3PM River’s Reach Stage)

What kind of music is it?: folk rock, baroque pop

Being a side project from his other musical outlet Bend Sinister, Dan Moxon Trio represents an earthy and melancholic side to Moxon’s songwriting, with a decidedly acoustic approach. Think Iron & Wine, and Elliott Smith for musical reference points here, and be prepared for a crystalline acoustic sound that will catch your ear for the unassuming, yet compelling melody.

Listen/buy: “The Corner”


Who: Earlstown Winter (2PM, CIBC Main Stage; 4:30PM River’s Reach Stage)

What kind of music is it?: roots rock, country rock

Loose, free, and easy country-influenced rock which is not a million miles away from Blue Rodeo or Ryan Adams is what you can expect to hear from Earlstown Winter. The music suggests road trips taken in order to forget lost love, or the quest for one yet to be found.

Listen/buy: “Porch Lights”


Who: The Gay Nineties (3PM, CIBC Main Stage; 5:15 ,River’s Reach Stage)

What kind of music is it?: post-punk, power pop

If you hear something of a Hot Hot Heat-style spiky-yet-sunny nu-new wave in The Gay Nineties, then it may be because this band follows a similar stylistic path. This is influenced in part by ex-HHHeater Parker Bossley who plays guitar and sings in this band, adding some joyous spiky sunshine that is unique to them.

Listen/buy: “Favourite Game”


Who: No Sinner (4PM, CIBC Main Stage)

What kind of music is it?: classic R&B , rock n’ soul

Sweet soul music mixed with rock sounds has been a potent brew for decades. No Sinner continues the sacred tradition with a phenomenal handle on the kind of music that is perfectly suited for open air performance; funky, physical, primal. Fans of Etta James, Susan Tedeschi, and Bonnie Riatt take note.

Listen/buy: “Call My Name”


Who: We Are The City (5PM, CIBC Main Stage)

What kind of music is it?: art rock, cinematic pop

We Are The City adds cinematic scope to texturally varied rock music along the lines of the Flaming Lips and Mercury Rev. The music from this band is in places hypnotic, lyrical, spacious, epic-scale, and is sublime all-around.

Listen/buy: “Mourning Song”


Who: The New Values ( 1:30PM, Safeway Main Stage; 3:45, River’s Reach Stage)

What kind of music is it?: punk

Named (presumably) after an Iggy Pop record, this is the sound of energetic punk rock that changes direction at any moment, infused with the vigour  and spirit of early West Coast punk traditions for which this region is famous. The New Values continue in that tradition proudly, despite any misleading biographical information you might have heard about this band online.

Listen/buy: : “Axe On Your Doorstep”


Who: Fine Times (2:30PM, Safeway Main Stage )

What kind of music is it?: post-punk, new wave

There is something of ’80s post punk to be found in the music of Fine Times, mixing electronics, with jagged guitar, with big drums in the spirit of Echo & The Bunnymen, and Psychedelic Furs. Sonic contrast between light and dark will keep your musical ears interested.

Listen/buy: “Lions”


Who: The Left (3:30PM, Safeway Main Stage; 6PM, River’s Reach Stage)

What kind of music is it?: radio rock, anthemic pop

If you crave big, radio-friendly hooks on an epic scale to shout along to, then the Left will deliver. Taking their cues from classic traditions of melodically-driven pop tunes in a rock vein made for heavy radio-play, this band is ready to become a part of your mainstream.

Listen/buy: “Love Don’t Work”


Who: The Zolas (4:30PM, Safeway Main Stage)

What kind of music is it?: art pop

The Zolas musical home is held up by similar foundations to that of The Shins, mixed with the poptastic groove of Franz Ferdinand. A sort of Ray Daviesesque approach to songwriting that is laced with sumptuous irony are only one of the treasures to be found in the music of this band.

Listen/buy: “Cultured Man”


Music is an essential part of being human. It doesn’t matter who you are; you enjoy some form of music. It’s a necessity to life. Spiritually speaking, it’s how we nourish ourselves, and how we bring our communities together in celebration.

Music in the streets is how things should be, friends.

For more information about Uptown Live and the artists who will be playing, check out the Uptown Live official website. Also, don’t forget to investigate the individual sites of the artists above, and seek out their work to buy online!

See you all in the streets on May 26th!


Beautiful Renaissance-era ballads featured at Lyric Singers concert this Saturday

Early music fans — no, scratch that — all music fans have a great chance to hear some beautiful ballads this weekend in New Westminster. Nancy Rahn, music director of the Lyric Singers, invites those with adventurous ears to join her all-female chamber choir for Madrigalia, a night of Italian, French and English ballads in the intimate confines of the Royal City’s Holy Trinity Church. Besides the accomplished vocals of the Lyric Singers, listeners will be treated to some rare musical accompaniment.

“We’ve got a recorder consort playing replicas of Renaissance recorders,” says Rahn, whose enthusiasm for the “These are made of wood, and have wonderful, rich sound – it’s not loud, but it’s incredibly rich. They are of varying sizes, the longest is 8 feet long. And the musicians joining us are extremely talented. It’s quite inspiring to hear them play, especially on these period instruments.”

Doubling the unique program are the sounds produced by female voices singing madrigals. “They weren’t written for women, really,” admits Rahn. “We’ve got some wonderful arrangements, and listening to the pieces develop, I’m thinking, wow, we’ve got something special here.”

So what is a madrigal? I’m glad you asked. Madrigal is a form of romantic balladry that saw increasing popularity in Europe through the middle ages. In the late 16th and early 17th centuries, England experienced greater freedoms for the average person, allowing for populist entertainment to emerge. Prior to this, nearly all music performed by choirs was sacred in nature – madrigals explored themes of everyday work, play, love and life. Most commonly, they mined the excitement and depth of young love.

In fact, the earliest madrigals (usually agreed to have appeared in Italy in the 1300s) were love poems composed by young lovers as they wooed the ladies of the land. (Hey, it’s Italy – what else would they be singing, right?) The evolution of the form intertwined harmonies and independent melodies over several movements to complicate the storylines and heighten aural appeal.

Enter the French, who transformed these chaptered pieces into shorter pieces called chansons, what we would translate as songs. In other words, madrigals were the hit radio of the 17th century. If Lady Gaga had lived in 1682, she might have written a madrigal about Romeo and Juliet. (Or, more likely, about one of the supporting characters, Benvolio or Mercutio – but I digress, and you get the idea.)

“It’s fun to do music from this period,” says Rahn, who insists the themes of heartache and loss are not as heavy as you might think. “The melodies are lovely, and the composers had a lot of fun writing these. We’re talking about young love here, much like some of the music we hear on popular radio today. It’s a joyful concert to be a part of.”

The Lyric Singers present Madrigalia at the Holy Trinity Cathedral in New Westminster on Saturday, May 12. For more information, call 604-340-4353 or visit


Naramata on the River: April 24 at River Market

The Naramata area is on my to-do list of getaway weekends. I’ve not been there as an adult, but the reviews my fellow wine-loving friends bring back tell me I’m totally missing out.

From Discover Naramata: “founded in 1907 as a prime agricultural area, Naramata was also known in its early years as a cultural centre. People from across the Okanagan would arrive by boat for concerts, plays, operas and regattas. Paddlewheelers regularly stopped at the local wharf carrying freight and passengers up and down Okanagan Lake. In 1914, Naramata received a new link with the rest of Canada when the Kettle Valley Railway was completed on the hillside above the village. Due to the intense volume of rock work it gained the reputation as one of the most difficult stretches of KVR construction.”

Fortunately for me, though, the hassle and expense of a roadtrip to the area has been postponed!

Coming up on April 24, from 6:30 – 9:00pm, Naramata on the River, a special evening in the River Market at  Westminster Quay in support of the BC Cultural Crawl, will feature Spring Release wines from the Naramata Bench, along with culinary offerings from some of Vancouver’s finest restaurants and River Market delights.

In addition to being the first to taste the new Naramata wines‚ attendees will meet winemakers from Naramata‚ and have the opportunity to bid on a silent auction of fine wines‚ Canadian artwork‚ and exclusive packages. Live entertainment throughout the evening will be provided by the Sarah Kennedy jazz trio and singer/songwriter Gillian Hobbs.

For Tix ($85 and includes tastings from 21 wineries) and Info: 1-800-663-1900 or on-line. For more information about BC Cultural Crawl –

Contest: We’ve drawn the winner of two tickets to the event using a random number generator, and the winner is Jorden! 


Dead Poet’s Slam April 12 at the Heritage Grill

This exciting poetry event is part of Lit Fest New West, an event created to celebrate the literary arts in our community. There are a lot of parts to Lit Fest New West, including workshops, readings, and a mixed media exhibition of works inspired by words at the Arts Council Gallery in Queen’s Park. Check out the Arts Council website for a complete itinerary.

I think most of us remember the opening of the 2010 Olympics and Shane Koyczan’s We Are More:

Although this wasn’t my first experience with a poetry slam, this was one of the few I have seen elevated to enormous proportions and is one that many people use to describe what a slam is. New Westminster has a group, Slam Central, that meets every Thursday at the Heritage Grill.  During the Lit Fest New West, a special version, a Dead Poet’s Slam,  is happening April 12 at the Heritage Grill.

From Lit Fest New West’s website: “A poetry slam is a competition at which poets read or recite original work but at a Dead Poet’s Slam poets read a Dead Poet’s poetry and sometimes dressed in costume to resemble the Dead Poet. Performances are judged by five randomly selected members of the audience. Before the competition begins, the host will often bring up a “sacrificial poet”, whom the judges will score in order to calibrate their judging.”

Dead Poet’s Slam hosted by Reese McBeth. $5 admission at the door. Doors 7:15 PM. Slam Signup 7:30 – 7:55 PM. Slam starts at 8:00 PM The top three winners of Thursday’s Slam will slam off on Saturday April 14th to close out the Lit Fest New West Show Case on the mainstage at Douglas College.


New Westminster novelist Colleen Cross debuts thriller series

Author Colleen Cross

Author Colleen Cross

New Westminster author Colleen Cross is hosting a book launch event for her début novel on Friday, February 17 from 6-9pm at the Heritage Grill (back room). I recently sat down with New Westminster author Colleen Cross to chat about Exit Strategy, Book #1 in the Katerina Carter suspense series.

Drawing on her experience in finance and accounting, as well as her interest in how and why people orchestrate massive and tiny frauds every day, Colleen has written a suspenseful tale starring Katerina Carter, a forensic accountant with a struggling business and a potentially compromising new case involving an international diamond mining company. Colleen was kind enough to answer a few of my questions about writing, getting her work published, and her suspenseful exploration of fraud through the lens of an enterprising, but not always ethical, accountant.

Marcy: This is your first novel, correct? Did you have any experience in writing fiction before this?

Colleen: Yes, Exit Strategy is my first novel. Prior to Exit Strategy, I had written a few short stories, but I prefer the novel length.

M: What is the process of publishing like? What advice can you give to other writers who would like to have their work published? 

C: There are many steps involved in publishing. It starts with the writing and editing, and continues after your book is published. Promotion is important—especially establishing a social media platform. I recommend attending workshops, writer’s conferences, and interacting with other writers to learn more, as the publishing landscape is undergoing rapid changes at the moment. There are some very informative blogs on the subject, such as Bob Mayer and others.

M: Was there any research involved in writing Exit Strategy? Obviously you know a lot about finance due to your own career but what about the criminal aspects?

C: I did a lot of research on mining, diamonds and money laundering, since diamonds are a very portable, near-cash alternative. I was fascinated to learn that each diamond has it’s own unique “fingerprint”, which can be used it trace its origin. Fraud has always fascinated me. In addition to my professional experiences with fraud, I enjoy reading about it in general.

M: Do you feel that you draw inspiration for your work from where you live? Is there something distinctly Canadian (or “New Westminsterian”) about Exit Strategy?

C: Exit Strategy is set in Greater Vancouver and in Argentina. Although I haven’t specifically identified the location of Kat’s house in the book as New Westminster, it is a composite of several Victorian houses in the Queens Park neighbourhood.

M: Katerina stumbles into a conspiracy in her work as a forensic accountant. Many of us are familiar with forensics, and with accounting, but less so with the combination of the two. What can you tell us about Kat’s chosen profession?

C: Like other forensic specialities, forensic accounting uses techniques to determine and trace evidence and events to prove a crime. A forensic accountant is able to uncover manipulated data and records, follow a money trail to its ultimate destination, and/or uncover hidden assets. These might be the evidence needed to convict a criminal of fraud, provide a motive for murder, or prove financial abuse.

Fraud is everywhere, whether it’s a multi-billion dollar heist like the one in Exit Strategy, or smaller, everyday ones like auto insurance fraud. It impacts each of us financially, though we may not be aware of it. Fraud is conservatively estimated to cost our economy about 5% of our national GDP. That’s huge. Society could do a lot of good with the money that is lost to fraud each year.

M: It says on your website that Exit Strategy is part of a series. Can you give us any hints about what is in store for Kat in the future?

C: I’m currently at work on the second book in the series, Game Theory. Kat’s fraud investigation at a currency hedge fund takes a sinister turn when she discovers its connection to the mysterious World Institute and the murder of a Nobel nominee. In her personal life she must deal with her uncle’s worsening dementia while her boyfriend mysteriously disappears.

M: Is there anything else you would like to tell the readers about the book?

C: You can read more about Exit Strategy on my website (, and read reviews on Amazon or Goodreads.

For more about Colleen, you can read her blog  or follow her on Twitter: @colleenxcross


Christmas Tunes in New West

Adapted from an image by: Jenny Brown

Christmas music is at the top of many minds, given that seasonal favourites seem to follow us wherever we go – work, school, the mall, and on and on. So, what I thought I’d do is list of some favourite Christmas anthems that, perhaps, you’ve never heard (or haven’t heard quite as often), as opposed to the ones you’re tired of.

So here it is, with the hopes that the Christmas spirit will find you, if it hasn’t already. Take a listen to these tunes, and a very Merry Christmas!


Must Be Santa -Bob Dylan

Christmas songs are folk songs, because they’re passed down to us from voice to ear. And Bob Dylan knows a thing or two about folk songs. Here he rocks it out Zydeco style. Or is it a polka? Fun fact: that’s David Hildago of Los Lobos rocking the accordion at Bob’s side on this track, proving that the accordion can, in fact, be rocked.

Also to note: all royalties from the song, and the album, go to Feed America in the US, Crisis in the UK, and the United Nations World Food Program in the rest of the world.

Zat You Santa Claus? – Louis Armstrong

Jazz architect and universally loved popular music demigod Louis sings of the mystery of St. Nick. Swing it, Satchmo!

Coventry Carol – Alison Moyet

Here’s a soulful rendering of one of the most spookily beautiful Christmas carols going, from former Yazoo singer Moyet.

Christmas Time Is Here – Vince Guaraldi Trio

Christmas, West Coast jazz style with Guaraldi, who popularized jazz trios for the under-tens via A Charlie Brown Christmas. That project would be Guaraldi’s first of seventeen collaborations with Charlie Brown TV specials projects from 1964 until his death in 1976. Chances are, this was your intro to jazz, kids. So, thanks Vince!

I Saw Three Ships – Sufjan Stevens

Here’s a mystically nautical Christmas tune from fey-indie poster boy Stevens. What are the three ships, exactly? I’ve always wondered. Still, a favourite. Stevens had been putting out a home-recorded EP of Christmas music every year for friends and family since 2001. Now, you can hear a whole whack of this holiday-themed work on his Songs For Christmas compilation.

Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer – Ella Fitzgerald

“What do you know about Rudolph and his nose?” sings Ella. Well, I know that my six-year old now loves Ella singing this 1960 version of my girl’s favourite Christmas song ever.

Light of the Stable  - Emmylou Harris

Here’s a down-home Christmas tale from a country music innovator. This tune seems to hearken back to the age when country music was evolving out of Irish folk music, played by the inhabitants †of the Appalachians; families gathered around the fire to sing – and to keep warm!

The Christmas Song  - James Brown

There’s not a single ecstatic cry to be found on this version of Mel Torme’s classic Tin Pan Alley Christmas favourite. He sings it soulfully and gently, with strings and everything. Downside? Maceo doesnít take a solo.

Run Rudolph Run – Chuck Berry

From one of the forefathers of first-wave rock ‘n’ roll music as we know it (’4os boogie-woogie piano licks †played on Country & Western electric guitars equals mega-selling, cross-cultural musical phenomenon) comes this seasonal favourite that positions our red-nosed herd animal hero in a uniquely American context.†It’s been cheesily hacked out by many a bar band since (what Berry song hasn’t?). But, the original that was recorded as a B-side to “Merry Christmas, Baby” in 1958 still kicks bottom, festively speaking.

Merry Christmas (I Don’t Wanna Fight Tonight)  - Ramones

Jump around the kitchen with the kids while you’re making Christmas cookies. Onetwothreefour!

Mary Had A Baby –  Bruce Cockburn

Since the early 1970s, Cockburn had planned a Christmas record, based on a booklet of traditional songs given to him by his parents as a child. In 1993, he recorded this Christmas call-and-response spiritual adapted for his Christmas album, all about what went down in a Bethlehem stable one night. Favourite line? “Moving in the elements”.

Long Way Around The Sea – Low

Here’s an original song from a band from Duluth Minnesota (coincidentally to this list, that’s where Bob Dylan grew up, kids!). This one’s a quiet, understated, minimalist, and decidedly wintry Christmas tune about the Christmas birth from the Wise Men’s point of view.

Love Came Down At Christmas – Shawn Colvin

When you’re recording an album while 8 1/2 months pregnant as singer-songwriter Colvin was, it’s pretty natural to sing about motherhood. And really, motherhood is a big part of the Christmas story, right? The song is featured on her excellent, and extremely restful Holidays & Lullabies album.

Maybe This Christmas – Ron Sexsmith

“Maybe this year, love will appear deeper than ever before”. In this troubled world, who knows? But, a big part of Christmas is the hope that it will.

Merry Christmas!


Perfect Strangers show pairs New West artists and local citizens

Perfect Strangers Art Show

Perfect Strangers Art Show

The day Shelley Rothenberger came to sketch my portrait, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Like most of the subjects of the New West Artists Perfect Strangers show, I had never sat for a painter before. I was one of 25 New Westminster citizens, chosen to represent a broad cross-section of people, including the mayor, a local historian, and a barista. Each subject was randomly paired with a member of New West Artists, an upstart artist-run group supporting both career artists and emerging talent.

‘My’ artist is a working artist with a studio near New Westminster SkyTrain. Shelley’s work is striking, dark and moody. She told me she gravitates towards edgy subjects: fierce-looking biker-types, toothless hockey players, and abstracted screamers. Needless to say, I, as a soft, suburban blogger and mom of two, am not at all her “type.”

We sat in my sunny dining room while my toddler scampered around the house tucking in her dollies, bringing me ‘presents’ and demanding intermittent cuddles. With only a few hours to work while my son was at preschool, Shelley had to sketch quickly. She had never come to this part of town before, and misjudged the time it would take to bus.

Arriving late put her even further behind. But although she fretted at first about whether she would be able to capture what she needed with so little time, once she started sketching she grew enthusiastic. She encouraged me to get comfortable and as she drew, we talked. She complemented my father-in-law’s oils that hang on our walls, and I told her about how I used to draw and paint and long to do so again (but never seem to find the time). As a teacher of adult continuing education art classes, Shelley pointed out that it’s never too late to start, and shared a few anecdotes about her students. Over coffee and the scratching of Shelley’s charcoal stick on the paper we talked about work/life balance, the joys and struggles of motherhood, life in New Westminster, life lessons we had learned, and lots more in the brief sketching session.

Like all the subjects of this show, I was not permitted to peek at the work in progress. It is Shelley’s choice how she will represent me in her art, so like everyone else, I don’t know whether to expect a straightforward portrait or a bizarre, abstracted representation of myself on canvas. Either way, this has been a wonderful way to create new connections between New Westminster artists and the community at large. I’m looking forward to seeing Shelley’s work at tomorrow’s opening gala for the Perfect Strangers show, along with the work of the other artists involved in this project. The show opens at 6:30pm at River Market, and the paintings, photographs, sculptures and other artworks will remain on display until November 27.


Free Bobs & Lolo concert at Royal City Centre Nov. 26

Bobs & Lolo

Bobs & Lolo

British Columbia tot pop stars Bobs & Lolo are coming to New Westminster for a free concert to kick off Royal City Centre‘s Christmas activities this year.

On Saturday, November 26 the Juno-nominated sweet-voiced duo will perform a special family show starting at 11am. The mall will also offer free face painting by Mrs. Picasso, 12noon to 4pm. You can preview some of the tunes they’ll sing on the Bobs & Lolo YouTube channel.

The mall will also be offering pet photos with Santa every Sunday between November 27 and December 18 from noon to 4pm.


Award-winning New West author JJ Lee to speak at local library Dec. 1

New Westminster author JJ Lee

New Westminster author JJ Lee

New Westminster author and nominee for the Governor General’s Literary Award JJ Lee will talk about his new book The Measure of a Man at the New Westminster Public Library on Thursday, December 1 at 7 pm. Space is limited, so the library is asking people to pre-register at 604-527-4667.

TF blogger Jen Arbo reviewed The Measure of a a Man on our site in October, saying, “Measure of a Man is a great read, and I’d have to rank it as one of the better books I have read this year. It felt like the beauty and creativity of fiction but with the truthfulness of non-fiction.”

Part personal memoir, part social history of the suit, The Measure of a Man is also about fathers and sons and learning what it means to be a man. When JJ Lee decided to alter his late father’s last remaining suit for himself, he embarked on a journey into his own past. He reveals the heartbreaking tale of his father and recounts the year he spent as an apprentice tailor at the last of Vancouver’s legendary Chinatown tailors where he learned invaluable lessons about life. Woven throughout these two personal strands are entertaining stories from the social history of the man’s suit, the surprising battleground where the war between generations has long been fought.

JJ Lee is the menswear columnist for the Vancouver Sun and broadcasts a weekly fashion column for the CBC Radio in Vancouver. You can also find out more about him and his book on his blog or on Twitter.


BOO! Westminster: Local Halloween events for the whole family

The second annual Petrifying Pooch Parade, hosted by local pet-sitting business Calli Co., is Saturday, October 29 from 12-2pm in the Queen's Park off-leash dog park.

The second annual Petrifying Pooch Parade, hosted by local pet-sitting business Calli Co., is Saturday, October 29 from 12-2pm in the Queen's Park off-leash dog park.

Halloween is just around the corner, so here’s a handy dandy list of events for everyone (and we do mean everyone) in the family. The pets in your life will be snout over tail for the Petrifying Pooch Parade, the horror fan will scream with joy for the Haunted Hall and you can even get a chance to PUMP yourself up with a Halloween workout!

With all this Halloween fun, New Westminster has become BOO Westminster.

Mwa ha ha ha ha

Drag Divas Halloween
Saturday, October 29t, 10:00 pm, Heritage Grill
Join MZ Adrien and the Guest Divas Moaning Lisa and Erica Divine (with a special cameo by Tish Snooky). The gurls are planning some fabulous fun with some of the spoookiest characters around. Prizes prizes prizes, food, drink and a whole lot of fun! Wear your costumes and be ready some divalicious drag.

Halloween Costume Party
Saturday, October 29th, 6 pm -1 am Terminal City Pub
It’s the time of year to play dress-up and party like animals. TheTerminal City Pub is having it’s annual Halloween Costume Party. Prizes for the top three costumes, shooter specials all night, dance floor with killer tunes and UFC Pay Per View. Contact the pub for ticket inquiries.


BYOP (Bring Your Own Pumpkin) and work out in costume at the October 31 Halloween PUMPkin workouts in various locations around New West.

BYOP (Bring Your Own Pumpkin) and work out in costume at the October 31 Halloween PUMPkin workouts in various locations around New West.

Halloween Fun
Friday, October 28th, 3:30 pm, New Westminster Public Library, 716 6th Avenue
Ghostly stories and a Halloween craft await kids ages 4 – 10 at this free event.

All Treats, No Tricks
Sunday October 30th, Noon -3 pm, 810 Quayside Drive,
The River Market is celebrating Halloween and the grand opening of four new merchants. There will be live entertainment, crafts, and pumpkin carving. Your kids can show off their costumes and trade for treats at select merchants.

2nd Annual Petrifying Pooch Parade
Saturday, October 29th, 12 pm – 2 pm, Queen’s Park Off Leash Dog Park
Save the date – you won’t want to miss it! Dress up your doggies in their favourite Halloween costumes and join other dog lovers for this SPOOKTACULAR event! Refreshments will be provided for both doggies and humans.

Halloween PUMPkin Work Out
Monday, October 31 various locations and times throughout Boo Westminster
Bring your own pumpkin (5 to 10 lbs), dress up in your spooky best and head out to the PUMP-kin work out. Be motivated, encouraged and inspired to a new life of health and fitness, and have a good giggle while you are at it. Email newwest@survivorbootcamp to reserve your spot.

World Animal Day Children’s Art
Sunday, October 30th from 12 pm- 4pm, Centennial Community Centre
The event brings animal awareness to young people and organizers are inviting children to wear animal costumes with prizes going to the best and cutest. It is being put on by the New Westminster-based Campaigns Against The Cruelty to Animals

The Metro Hosts 2nd Annual “Haunted Hall” – a Spooktacular Fund-Raising Event for the Entire Family
October 26-October 31 1 pm – 8 pm, 759 Carnarvon Street
This Halloween, The Metro will once again be transforming its 8000 square foot events centre into Haunted Hall – a spooktacular fund-raising event in support of local charities. Families of all ages will be entertained by over 8000 square feet of cobwebs, ghosts and goblins, spooky sounds, tricks and treats, pumpkin patch for little humans and haunted hall tours with live spooks for the not so faint of heart. Entry is $5 per person or $10 for a family pass in support of The WITS Anti-Bullying Program and Purpose Society.

Family Spook House Adventure
Thursday, October 27, 10 am – 12 pm, Queensborough Community Centre
Come enjoy the indoor Spook House and enjoy a celebration of costumes and carefree fun. Don’t forget to wear your costume for a spirited Halloween. Lots of equipment like the bouncy equipment, ride‘em toys, gym equipment and more. The activity leader will be sure that your morning is fun and interactive. This is also a great opportunity to meet other families
in the neighborhood.

It’s a Halloween Party!
Friday, October 28, 9-11:30 am, Queen’s Park Arenex
Ghosts and goblins from the Motoring Munchkins drop-in program are invited to dress as their favorite Halloween creature and join in the party fun. There are plenty of tricks and treats for all! Entry fee includes a digital emailed picture of your child against a spooktacular backdrop.

Monster Madness

Wednesday, October 26, 3:30 pm-5 pm Centennial Community Centre
No bones about it – prepare for that ghoulish night by making hobgoblin crafts, terrifying treats and mucous membrane milkshakes. The sca-a-ary activities continue with spooky stories and howling fun.

Count Chocola’s Creatures
Wednesday, October 26 6-7 pm Centennial Community Centre
Have fun making creepy chocolate and tricky treats just in time for Halloween. You’ll create ghosts on broomsticks and spooky snacks that will captivate even the non-squirmish. Make special eerie decorations for your room and treat yourself to ghastly witches brew.

Family Halloween Hoopla
Saturday, October 29, 1:30-3:30 pm Centennial Community Centre
Calling all monsterous moms, Dracula dads, ghoulish grandparents and spine chilling children to an afternoon of witchy, wacky fun. Try your skills playing eerie games, get creative making creepy crafts and cookie decorating. There’s spooktacular fun for the whole family including a magic show by Johnny B Good.

Haunted Halloween Family Skate
Saturday, October 29 6:30 – 8 pm Moody Park Arenta
Moody Park Arena’s horrific Halloween experts have a “Spooktacular” evening of fun planned for the whole family to enjoy. Prizes will be awarded for best costumes.

Haunted Halloween Happening Party
Friday, October 29 6 – 8 pm Queensborough Community Centre
Join a fun filled ghoulish night of activities at the Queensborough Haunted Halloween Happening Party. Our leaders will be making wicked crafts, face painting help you carve some scary pumpkins. The night will end with a magic show by “Johnny B Good” Remember to dress up for this Family event.

Costume Contest
Friday, October 28, 6-8 pm Queensborough Community Centre
So you think you can make the best costume? Stop by the Haunted Halloween Happening Party for a night full of Halloween fun! There will be a costume contest that is fun for all ages – strut your stuff for a chance to win a prize! Contest starts at 6:00 pm! You may get in the contest line as soon as you register. Awards will be announced at 7:45 pm

Pumpkin Carving
Friday, October 28, 6-7:30 pm Queensborough Community Centre
Join us for our 6th annual pumpkin carving party at the Queensborough Community Centre. Bring your own pumpkins and we will provide all the tools and creative patterns. Best of all, they do all the clean up! Please RSVP your attendance as registration
is required.

Pumpkin Carving Contest
Friday, October 28, 6-7:30 pm Queensborough Community Centre
Halloween is just around fun and participate in our Carving Contest. Be as wild creative as you like! If you cannot get a hold of a pumpkin in your area, feel free to use any vegetable or fruit. The important thing is that you carve it yourself. Original carved pumpkins only, no generic stencil cut pumpkins allowed! Awards will be announced
at 7:45 pm sharp!

CGP Halloween in Wonderland
Wednesday, October 26, 6:30-8:30 pm
I’m late, I’m late for a very important date…No time to wait. Join Alice, the Cheshire Cat and
the Mad Hatter as they bring their Wonderland madness to Canada Games Pool.

For info on even more events in the Lower Mainland, this writer is a big fan of the yoyomama halloween and pumpkin patch listing.


Local Author Book Review: Measure of a Man by JJ Lee

Psst…we have a signed copy of JJ Lee’s book to give away! Instructions at the end of the post.   The giveaway is over – regular reader Pamela Findling won!

Local resident JJ Lee is exactly what I love about New Westminster. He is affable and welcoming, debonair and interesting, and importantly, he takes part in our community. JJ Lee is a CBC and Vancouver Sun mens’ fashion columnist who recently released his first book, Measure of a Man: The Story of a Father, a Son, and a Suit. Measure of a Man is a memoir that blends social history of the suit with the often tumultuous relationship with his dad. It is based on a full length radio documentary for CBC’s Ideas.

The book is so lovely to read; at times incredibly witty and wry, and at other times endearing and touching. It also explores themes I wasn’t expecting to find in a book about a suit or a book about mens’ clothing.  I found myself thinking about children who live through less than ideal experiences as they grow up, and I pondered the resiliency of those kids. I asked Lee what he thought. “…when you think about it, how is it possible that a book about menswear, suits, and fashion history, can be so entangled with thoughts and ideas around fatherhood and parenting, but indeed it is. I’d hate to think all children survive their parents’ mistakes. I think literary childhoods tend to be tales of resiliency because that’s the stuff of drama and storytelling. Bad stuff happens in childhood. Those who survive get to write about it.”

Also surprisingly, I found myself learning an awful lot about suit wearing, style, and fashion history while reading the book. Lee seamlessly weaves together anecdotes and discussion about his family and his relationship with his father with incredibly interesting pieces of fashion history and commentary. I should note my personal style isn’t really fashionable, per se; I call it “West Coast Mom Army”  - fleece, merino wool, denim, gumboots, and rain jackets. I buy clothes on technical merit and durability, and then, secondarily, fit and colour. That said, I was inexplicably drawn to the beautiful conversational sections in Measure of a Man about fashion: the sections detailing the impactive and trend setting visionary fashion of Edward VIII, for example, or the incredibly thorough section about a pocket square/ handkerchief, their purpose and folding techniques for them. I also counted no less than five references sprinkled throughout the book to the Always-Sometimes-Never rule, which designates which buttons are opened and which buttons are closed on a suit jacket.

More than once I found myself chuckling with delight, moved from the sheer passion Lee exudes when discussing fashion. Take this discussion about pocket squares (itself only a fraction of a larger and longer section detailing the pocket square), in which Lee writes:

“Why can’t a pocket square be like a face, changing with moods, whimsy, and circumstances? A man with a permanently fixed half-smile would eventually be thought of as insincere, if not mad. So it goes with the pocket square. It requires only the flourish of the hand to give it new life, a new expression. A quick plunge into the pocket, and a quick tug partly out, followed by a glance in the mirror, and the final manipulation is magical. A neatly folded square for the morning business meeting can be transformed into a scrunched rosette by happy hour. Ta-da.”

The history lessons in Measure of a Man got me thinking about my own son and how children’s clothing is generally cheaply and foreign made, and how that might change over his lifetime. The most important thing, says Lee, is that we pass the knowledge on, regardless of how we are related. “Someone needs to teach men one can dress sharply without being a snob or hung up,” says Lee. “Understanding fit and proportion is everything. And it cost nothing. Guys just have to help each other how to do it right.”

Measure of a Man also examines a portion of the formative years of the city of Vancouver with an amazing insight into the legendary Modernize Tailors, an institution on Vancouver’s Eastside. ”The tide of history has swung back in favour of dressing up,” JJ says. “Fine tailors will always be needed. They may come from countries all around the world and men who like attentive, well-made clothes will need them all. I do think tailoring needs formal apprenticeship programs in Canada. David Wilkes, who is a great young tailor mentioned in the book, cobbled together enough to educate and train himself. It can be done. But it is rare.”

Interestingly, New Westminster’s BC Penitentiary had a tailoring certificate program for inmates before its’ closure in 1980. From the New Westminster Public Library’s amazing historical photograph collection:

View of the interior of the Tailor Shop at the British Columbia Penitentiary. Photograph is taken looking north on the east side. This type of shop was located in the Industrial Building, shops C-1 to C-4 and Vocational School F-1. This was just one of the industrial trade shops. Inmates could take training leading to apprenticeship certification in tailoring, barbering, auto body, auto mechanics, painting, carpentry, sheet metal, and welding. Equipment from these shops was moved to the new Kent Institution in 1979, in order that inmates transferred from the Pen to Kent could continue their training. The pen opened in 1878, and closed on May 10, 1980. From the New Westminster Public Library Archives. Source: Jim Clawson Accession Number 1582

As a fledgling book author, JJ Lee says he struggled with keeping on task. “Writing is awful for me because I listen to sports talk radio: ‘BMac, Taylor, and Tomlinson, Goldie, whatup! JJ in New West. Here’s my take,‘” he jokes. “I’m very distracted. Also, there’s the internet, so don’t expect War and Peace from me.  I would have never written a book without my editor, Anita Chong. She approached me and encouraged me to explore my relationship with my father, more so than I did in my radio documentary. So, I don’t have the same experience as many aspiring writers.”

On his blog in June, Lee acknowledges his path isn’t really a traditional writer’s path. He posts, “I know it wasn’t fair. I did not slave on a manuscript for years. I did not wake up at 4 in the morning to peck out some pages before the kids woke up. I did not go through the pain of rejection letters. I was lucky.”

“Mind you, I went through an entirely different kind of pain: writing a book proposal – really, what the hell is that?” he jokes.

Lee says New Westminster is very supportive.  ”This community can be very kind to writers. It is affordable and safe and that mean’s it can give a writer and his or her family time to take a stab at the risky business of writing for a year or two like we did.”

He cites Queens Park and Moody Park as two of his favourite places and lists the schools as part of what makes New Westminster so great. And like so many of us, JJ Lee lists New Westminster’s inexplicable yin-yang as a draw. “The diversity is rich and it’s simultaneously urban and a small town. Perfect.”

JJ Lee is also in good company here in New Westminster. “I am aware of great writers being in this city. They are ones that I admire immensely. Annabel Lyon wrote a beautiful book. Steven Galloway is a star and it freaks me out to think your barber talks to him every few weeks. But I’ve never met any of them. I just breath in the vapours and hope I pick up some of their mojo… I know my friends like the fine memoirists, Steve Burgess, who wrote Who Killed Mom, and Robyn Michele Levy, who wrote Most of Me - but they’re comrades from CBC.”

Measure of a Man is a great read, and I’d have to rank it as one of the better books I have read this year. It felt like the beauty and creativity of fiction but with the truthfulness of non-fiction. I find it very refreshing to read a book that makes me re-evaluate something I strongly believe and formerly thought was unshakeable. I have spent the last few days since finishing the book thinking about what I’d read and talking about it to others. I found myself thinking of my own father and his style of dress. He was a furnace man, a very physical and hard worker, and  I remember navy blue polo shirts, cheap denim, wool socks and pull on work boots. There’s a scent, too – diesel and smoke and Sunlight powdered laundry detergent, which he used to scrub his hands with after work.

Measure of a Man also left me wanting to learn more about the social history of clothing, an area I’ve never really had on my radar. I asked JJ Lee if he had plans for another book. “I have hopes to write another book but it really depends on readers. Books sales matter. Readers making choices matter. They’ll decide if I get the chance to do it again.”


JJ Lee is active on Twitter and maintains a great blog. He’s available for book clubs too!  Measure of a Man: The Story of a Father, a Son, and a Suit is available locally at Black Bond Books (their first order sold out, more coming next week, they tell me) and New Westminster Public Library (hardcopy only so far, e-book coming) or order hardcopy or e-book online.

Or… better yet…. get a free signed copy from us! Tenth to the Fraser is very honoured to have one signed copy to give away. To enter, leave a comment and tell us what piece of clothing you most clearly remember your dad wearing (or any special guy in your life). We’ll draw one random winner next Thursday, October 13th at 2PM. 






10 Movies Made in New Westminster

Screenshot of an autographed headshot from the most charismatic man in show business, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, who filmed The Tooth Fairy in New Westminster. Photo from the New West Parks, Culture & Rec filming site:

Autographed headshot from the most charismatic man in show business, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, who filmed The Tooth Fairy in New Westminster. Photo from the New West Parks, Culture & Rec filming site:

Movies capture our imaginations, and take us to another world. But, sometimes that world can look strangely familiar, especially living here in New Westminster.

A myriad of films and TV series have been filmed here in New West. Smallville, Supernatural, The X-Files, Fringe, and many other TV series have been filmed here. TV star of Perry Mason, and Ironside, Raymond Burr, was born here. It’s a TV town!

Over the years, several locations for major Hollywood films around town have doubled for American cities, and small towns too. This is a testament to the diversity of this town of ours, which often plays not only a simple backdrop to the drama, but in some cases is something of a non-speaking character, too.

So, here is a selected list of 10 films that have captured New Westminster in celluloid. They have added a dash of the dramatic to life here, and have infused some life into the local economy, too. But, they have also reminded us, in many cases, what a richly varied landscape we can enjoy living here, too.

(click through on images to view Wikipedia fair use rationale for each.)


1. Stephen King’s IT (1990)

Stephen King's IT

Stephen King’s terrifying and lyrical 1986 novel IT was made into a two-part TV movie and filmed almost exclusively in New Westminster, with our town portraying the sleepy, and very haunted, town of Derry, Maine. In it, seven friends fight a child-killing, shape-shifting entity hailing from outside the universe, since become a permanent resident beneath the town.

In a poetic scene, one of the heroes, Bill Denborough (Richard Thomas) brings his wife Audra (Olivia Hussey) out of a catatonic state, suffered as the result of a confrontation with the creature. He does so by taking her on his childhood bicycle, Silver, down a steep hill, bringing her back to life. That hill is 6th Street, starting at Queens Avenue, to Royal avenue, and down onto Carnarvon. The Paramount Theatre and Copp’s Shoes also have cameos in scenes filmed on Columbia Street in downtown New Westminster, with many other New West locations to spot through out.

Word on the street is that they’re planning a re-make of IT. No word on whether New Westminster will be reprising the role of Derry.

2. I, Robot (2004)

I Robot

Science fiction pioneer Isaac Asimov’s 1950 volume of short stories I, Robot, in which he invents the three laws of robotics was turned into a high octane, full-on blockbuster action film starring Will Smith. Smith plays a police officer with a serious distrust of robots, assigned to a murder case wherein the prime suspect is – you bet – a robot.

Where New Westminster played a sleepy scenic town in IT, here it doubles for a 2035 version of Chicago. That city is known for its raised “el” (short for “elevated”) railway lines that move trains over major streets. Remember the chase scene under the “els” in The Blues Brothers? Fortunately, our Front Street is rather Chicago-like in this respect at least, with the (in)famous raised parkade over the road that is a peach of an imitation for the famed Chicago transit lines.

3. Watchmen (2009)


The Old Terminal pub has been the site of many a drink-up and a laugh for myself and friends over the years I’ve lived here. But, who knew that they’d film a movie there for which I’d wait patiently for decades? I read Alan Moore’s dystopian 1987 graphic novel Watchmen in 1989, and spent twenty years coming up with cast lists for the movie version.

The world of the novel, and the film, is populated with superheroes, many of whom turn out to be more like anti-heroes, facing no less than the end of the world. An auto repair location was also a New West location, site of Hollis Mason’s shop, the former superhero Nite Owl who serves as mentor to the new Nite Owl, played by Stephen McHattie.

4. Rumble In The Bronx (1996)

Rumble in the Bronx

Jackie Chan’s unparalleled martial arts prowess is the centerpiece of this action flick, set in the titular Bronx in New York City. But, even as the kicks fly and the punches are thrown, not even Jackie’s superhuman acrobatic and unarmed combat skills could quite hide the celebrated, and much beloved New Westminster view of the mountains! Hiiiiii-YAA! This film was also shot in downtown New West.

5. Bird On A Wire (1989)

Bird on a Wire

From horror, to sci-fi, to dystopian superheroes, to kung-fu films, New West has proven itself to have quite the dramatic range. Even the screwball rom-com can be included in our city’s acting portfolio. Movie hero, and recent voice-mail message star Mel Gibson, along with the eternally perky Goldie Hawn conducted their fiery on-screen romance amid flying bullets right here in New West. The former BC Penitentiary makes a cameo as the prison from which bad-guy (and former earth wanderer in the Kung-Fu TV series) David Carradine is released.

6. Shooter (2007)


Starring a former underwear model Mark Wahlberg, and complete with a cameo by the world’s coolest singing drummer Levon Helm, New Westminster serves in a key scene when wrongly-accused super-sniper Bob Lee Swagger played by Wahlberg escapes from the authorities who believe that he is an assassin. The chase scene that follows the assassination ending with a car in the river (played by the Fraser) was shot at the bottom of 6th street and New Westminster Quay, along with shots of a tugboat under the Pattullo Bridge .

7. Diary of a Wimpy Kid (2010)

Diary of a Wimpy Kid

Two-hundred block of 2nd Street in New Westminster was one of the locations featured in the recent Diary Of A Wimpy Kid, based on the series of children’s books by Jeff Kinney. The film chronicles the misadventures of a kid called Greg, his friend Rowley, and their hardships upon entering the jungle that is middle-school. The sequel was also shot here in August to October of last year, with a number of other Lower Mainland locations included in the shooting.

Actually, several children’s films have been shot in New West, with The Santa Clause 3 (with Tim Allen and Martin Short), and the Tooth Fairy (starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) being but two.

8. The Boy Who Could Fly (1986)

The Boy Who Could Fly

Along with The Wonder Years and The Princess Bride kid actor Fred Savage, New Westminster son Terry David Mulligan appears in this story of an autistic boy who believes that he has the power of flight. The center of the action where heroine Milly and her autistic neighbour Eric explore the ins and outs of gravity defiance are two houses on 5th Street, just south of Sixth avenue. That happens to be a favourite area of mine for walking around, since it’s one of the prettiest areas of our town.

9. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (2005)

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants

There aren’t many movies, not nearly enough in fact, with the word “pants” in the title. But be that as it may, this one, which is about four friends whose lives begin to diverge despite a pledge to stay connected, features our own Columbia Street bridal district in one scene.

The movie was shot in multiple Lower Mainland locations, including Coquitlam,White Rock, and Vancouver.

10. Twilight Saga: New Moon (2009)

Twilight Saga: New Moon

Angst-ridden vampires and their unquestioningly devoted human paramours have proven to be liquid gold in book form, so naturally (or supernaturally) the story of Bella and Edward have also been a shoe-in success at the movies, too. Luckily for our city, several locations have served as the basis for all of the gothic, teenaged drama.

Columbia Street served as a key location for New Moon. The Paramount theatre is transformed into an important locale for the continuing romance of our heroine, and her pale, sparkly suitor.


New Westminster can boast number of films and a number of genres in an impressive portfolio. Some are on this list, but many more are not. Some films have been better, more celebrated, and more successful at the box office than others, of course. But, our city has played its part in the creation of new worlds, and in sparking the imaginations of movie-goers all over the world.

And as is my tradition here on Tenth To The Fraser as resident music geek, here is a list of five songs, this time about, or mentioning, the movies!


New West Doc Fest fundraiser coming up Sept. 28

On October 21 and 22, New Westminster will be the place to be for documentary film, with the launch of the first annual New West Doc Fest at Douglas College.

The event, organized by New Westminster Environmental Partners and the Green Ideas Network, will feature documentary films focusing on environmental issues, as well as student films from local film school, Pull Focus.

Featured films will include H2OilTappedBurning WaterThe Vanishing of the Bees, and65_red_roses – as well as Q&A’s with speakers such as Fin Donnelly, MP; John Gibeau from the Honeybee Centre; Nimisha Mukerji, the co-director of 65_red_roses; and Matt Horne from the Pembina Institute.

A fundraiser to help with the cost of running this festival is coming up on September 28th at The Heritage Grill (447 Columbia Street). Your $20 ticket entitles you to a choice of one glass house wine or draft beer. Plus choice of chicken, beef, veggie, or lamb burger with salad or fries; or a pasta option. There will also be a silent auction with amazing things donated by local businesses and individuals. Tickets are available at the door or you can buy them online here.  A very worthwhile fundraiser for a great cause.

For more information please visit the festival’s website at or check them out on Facebook.

Hope to see you at the fundraiser and at one (or more!) of the film screenings.

Information, schedules, summaries, and ticket info are available on the New West Doc Fest website.


Book clubs in New West

This is a guest post by Megan Sargent, an avid reader who has lived in New West for three years.

If you are an avid reader like me, then you might be on the look out for a Book Club to join.  I love the two book clubs that I belong to.  They challenge me to read books I would have never have read before, ever. (for example I read a Steam Punk book, and to my surprise I loved it!).  It is very interesting to find out people’s opinions and points of view, and to look at different aspects of a book (and life) in a new way.I think a lot of people are worried about going to a book club if they haven’t read the book.  Actually, I am guilty of this on more than one occasion, but I still find the discussion very interesting. If you are interested there are a few book clubs around town.

First there is a Victorian Book Club that meets at the Irving House hosted by the New West Museum.  They meet on a bi-monthly basis and as the name suggests this book club is focused on Victorian Literature.  The next meeting is on September 17, 2011 and we are discussing Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte.  If you would like to attend please call the Museum (604-527-4640) and let them know.  The 11am meeting is full, but they are having another meeting at 5pm for those who want to join.  What is really neat about this book club is that you get to sit in one of the rooms and drink tea, how Victorian!

Second is a book club that I co-run, so I’m going to brag a bit about it.  It’s called New West Readers and we meet on a monthly basis at Oliver Twist Pub.  We read a wide variety of books and while we talk about the book, we also discuss a wide variety of other topics as well.  Our next meeting is on September 28th at 7pm, we’re the big group upstairs. We are a fun bunch of people and would love to have you come out!

Third is a book club called Bookcrossing.  They meet at the Waves on Columbia Street on a monthly basis.

Fourth is at the New Westminster Public Library called Book Club Café.  It doesn’t look like the website has up to date information on the book club, but for more information call 604-527-4667.

Thanks and happy reading!