Parks, Culture, and Recreation Summer Movie Series Returns!

After the success of last year’s four outdoor movies at Queens Park, the City of New Westminster, G&F Financial and local realtor Derrick Thornhill have decided to expand to eight movies throughout the summer for a free community viewing series. Beginning July 12th, the community is invited to bring their blankets and/or chairs every Friday night to Queens Park Stadium to watch one of the eight all age friendly movies that were selected by a voting process. In total, 244 unique (one entry per ip address) votes were made to narrow the twenty six possible movies down to the eight that are being shown. Voting was fierce, but the clear runaway favourite was Back the Future. The summer movie series will kick off July 12th with that very movie, starring BC’s own Michael J Fox as the time travelling high schooler with a sweet ride and a kooky professor sidekick.

There isn’t a concession, but everyone is welcome to bring your own snacks (just remember to pack out your trash or place it in the trash can!). Movies start at about 8:30pm, but the stadium will be open at 7pm so feel free to bring a picnic and boardgames and enjoy a warm summer evening before the movie starts.

In the weather isn’t cooperating, call the Parks Hotline 604-527-4634 on the Friday morning to see if the movie is still on. Queens Park Stadium has lots of parking and is accessible via transit.

Download the poster here. The complete schedule is:



Preaching the gospel of community in New Westminster

Rainbow-spotting in New Westminster's West End. Photo: Briana Tomkinson
Rainbow-spotting in New Westminster’s West End. Photo: Briana Tomkinson

One of the things I love about New Westminster is that there is a very strong sense of community here. At times, local events almost feel like church revival meetings as we all come together to reaffirm our friendship and faith in The Church of New Westminster. We have been saved from the anonymous hell of suburban living, and escaped the perilous prices of downtown. Our congregation is diverse and evangelical, and will enthusiastically preach the gospel of community.

As I was walking through the West End on a recent sunny Sunday I felt again the deep pleasure and conviction that *here* is a good place to live. I felt grateful for the quiet, tree-lined streets, the children riding their bikes, the people walking their dogs and the pack of children I would find back on my block, deep in raucous front-yard play. It got me thinking about the elements of community. What builds community? And why is New West so successful at this, more so than any other city I’ve lived in?

New Westminster was planned in a time when people’s lives were not so independent and anonymous. The smaller city footprint, with its older homes and narrow streets gives us an environment that is more conducive to building community than some newer parts of Metro Vancouver.

Many parts of New Westminster are dominated by older homes. Mine was built at the end of the 1940s and many of the homes on my block are even older. There are a few ways I think older-style homes improve the sense of community:

  • The garages suck. They are inadequately small, tumbledown affairs stuck at the back of most older homes. It’s often more convenient to just park on the street in front and use the garage to store all the random crap that homeowners accumulate. Instead of entering and exiting your home encapsulated in your car, neighbours encounter each other as they go to and from their homes. You know when your neighbours are home or if someone’s home sick when their car is parked out front. I never realized how much this matters until we moved into our home with its dangerously leaning garage and awkward back gate.
  • There are few driveways in front of homes. Related to the first point, but offering a different suite of benefits. No driveways means safer, more walkable streets. When I go walking with my kids in my neighbourhood I can let them run ahead on the sidewalk for long stretches without having to worry that a driver will back in or out without seeing that there’s someone there. No driveways also means greener streets. Instead of a concrete pad and the faceless door of a garage, we see green grass, leafy trees, front stoops and flower beds.
  • Older homes need a lot of maintenance. Not so awesome for your wallet, but home repairs are great conversation-starters with the neighbours. We’ve swapped advice with our neighbours on roofing, landscaping, window replacement, plumbing, drain tile and more. When your house is new and shiny (or at least not falling apart) this stuff isn’t on your radar yet. Interior cosmetic repairs have less neighbourly conversation value: we see the outsides of each other’s homes more than the insides.
  • Porches. Sadly, my home has no front porch, but many of my neighbours do. Porches contribute to a front-yard culture of informal conversation, and add eyes to the street, improving safety.

Pedestrian-friendly streets are another huge factor in building community. When people pass each other face-to-face, each little nod and smile builds familiarity over time. This doesn’t happen when you pass another driver in a car. Several factors impact how pedestrian-friendly a street is:

  • Short blocks. In older cities like New West, blocks are short. For pedestrians, this means that you feel progress when you’re walking – long blocks *feel* long. It also provides more options to vary your route, which makes walking more interesting and allows more ways to avoid walking on busy streets.
  • Small city footprint. It doesn’t take that long to walk or bike from the West End uptown or down the hill to the edge of downtown, from downtown to Queen’s Park, from Glenbrooke to Sapperton. In most parts of the city, it’s only a short walk to get to a business district to buy milk, indulge a craving for sweets, meet a friend for coffee or select fresh vegetables.
  • Frequent, (mostly) reliable public transit. In our wee city we have five SkyTrain stations. For most trips, the wait to catch a bus is 15 minutes or less. Our system is not perfect. There are dead zones in the city that are awkward to access via transit and I know some there have been problems with some community shuttles serving the Quay. Still, it is easier to take the bus or SkyTrain in New West than anywhere else save Vancouver’s downtown core.
  • Green boulevards. Maybe not all our streets are as green as they could be, but New Westminster’s network of beautiful streets covers a huge part of the city. On most walks, sections of ugly streets don’t last long.

Aside from the city’s physical traits, I think there are a few other elements that help connect us:

  • A single high school. Almost all the children who reach their teenage years in New Westminster end up at NWSS. Grads who choose to raise their own families in New West end up with a large network of local friends and acquaintances.
  • Twitter. Holy cow, what a network. Vast groups of New Westies have met and formed new social groups over Twitter. If you’re not there yet, check out the #NewWest hashtag to meet some new friends.
  • NEXT New West. It’s a new group, but is a very powerful way for younger adults to make new social connections in the city and explore new things to see and do. It’s awesome.
  • Kids. Through school PACs, activity programs and organizations like Little League and Scouts, parents get to know each other through their kids. After a few playdates, the parents make friends too.
  • Dogs. Almost as good as kids for helping their ‘parents’ make friends. Particularly in neighbourhoods like the Quay, where most dogs are walked along a single route (such as the Quay boardwalk), dogs can be a great boon to community. You get to know the other dog owners in your neighbourhood over time.

And, of course, you can’t forget the diverse efforts of individual community boosters. There are a ton of them in New West, managing clubs, creating events, volunteering to run festivals, blogging about different aspects of city life, and organizing events to bring people together, from pub crawls to art shows to house parties. New Westminster is lucky to have more than its share of people actively working to make our city a better place to live.

What do you think contributes to New Westminster’s strong sense of community?

New summer camps come to New West

Trying to figure out how to keep your kids busy and out of your hair this summer? Here’s an option—Urban Academy is offering all sorts of summer camps this year, right here in New Westminster.

The arts-infused school is excited about this new offering and sees it as a natural extension of their arts-infused curriculum.

this is a picture of a woman dressed in a costume that is somewhat fairy and somewhat Mother Nature. She is gesturing with er hand and making a funny face. She is outdoors in a park.

“We’re looking forward to opening our doors for camps this summer,” says Michael Bouchard, Urban Academy’s head of school, in a press release. “We’ve got something for everyone, and it’s a great way for kids to continue to learn and have fun when school’s out.”

The full-and half-day camps are all a week long and will run throughout the summer at Urban Academy, in the former Robson Manor. Topics include French, drawing, painting, science, clay, and music theatre and options are available for kids from five to sixteen years-old.

All of the camps will be led by teachers from Urban Academy, except for the Clay Creations one which will be taught by an established artist.

Camp details are as follows:

  • Creative Puppetry, ages five to seven, July 11 to 15, 9 a.m. to noon, $126
  • Become a Puppeteer, ages six to 11 years, July 11 to 15, 12:45 to 3:45 p.m., $126
  • Music Theatre, ages five to 12 years, August 22 to 26, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., $226
  • Clay Creations, ages six to 11 years, July 25 to 29, 9 a.m. to noon ,$130
  • Fun in French, ages six to 12 years, July 25 to 29, 12:45 to 3:45 p.m., $126
  • Introduction to Photography and Pinhole Cameras, ages 11 to 16 years, July 4 to 8 or July 11 to 15, 9:00 a.m. to 4 p.m., $315 (materials included are valued at $60 per student)
  • Drawing and Painting 101, ages 11 to 16, July 18 to 22, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., $290 (materials included are valued at $60 per student)

The comprehensive camps give kids a unique experience and go beyond what many similar camps do. For example, in the photography camp, students will build a darkroom, take a photography tour of downtown Vancouver, and visit a print shop where they will print a short series.

Limited spaces are still available for most camps but are selling fast. More information is available at

Please call the school at 604-524-2211 to register and secure your child’s spot.

Family Place opening satellite drop in at 12th Street

My friends at Family Place sent me this note I thought I’d share:

New Westminster Family Place is pleased to announce that we are opening a new program at 1170 – 8th Avenue (corner of 8th Avenue and 12th Street, on the main floor of the building that has Sprott Shaw upstairs).

This program will run every Friday morning from 9:30 – 11:30 starting April 1st.   Join us for fun and games, circle time and wonderful crafts.  Meet your neighbours and make some new friends.  For information call 604 520-3666.