Vancouver Observer's BeeVancity team powers up city's arts and culture scene
"Where are the important goals? Of course, it's human rights ... and culture. Culture is the most important thing, I would say, because that's what brings joy to life. That's the value of living."
-- Hans Rosling, TED conference 2007
Scrolling through the BeeVancity event page on The Vancouver Observer, the first thing that strikes a reader is how many extraordinary, inspiring events are taking place in the city every week. From flash mobs to pillow fights, art parties and foodie events, Vancouver is bubbling over with so much activity that it makes you wonder why it people call it "No Fun City".
Ajay Puri is a longtime coordinator for the lively and diverse team -- including contributors Miraj Khaled, Kelly Marion, Evi Vassious, Iva Gruden and Ariella Fong -- that finds where the action is happening in the city. A nationally recognized community leader and innovator as well as full-time health researcher, Puri has spearheaded movements such as EastOfMain.com, Rangi Changi Roots and is also part of the steering committee for the Quality Forum, which gathers experts to dive deep into ways to improve health care.
Puri explains that the goal of BeeVancity -- as explained by the "Bee" acronym of "building, engaging, empowering" -- is to strengthen Vancouver's cultural scene by promoting the grassroots events that have big heart but small marketing capacity.
"What we try to go after are events that don't have a huge budget, but are Vancouver-based and provide an opportunity for people to connect in the local communities on the topics that matter to them," Puri explained.
"It could be on dialogues, or events where you can bring people together like a flash mob, evening events where you dance and have fun."
While the mainstream media is good at covering big-name artists like Alicia Keys or sports entertainment, it rarely gives space to the fun fashion fundraiser for Downtown Eastside women or a Greek-themed toga party, and that's where BeeVancity fills the gap.
The BeeVancity event newsletter and blog is like a culture-lover's paradise, and is often recommended by locals to newcomers to the city who want to know more about the local culture. It gives an essential place for small event organizers to get the word out about their work, and gives Vancouverites a place to search for original, fun and social places to meet friends, rather than shelling out $150 or $200 to go for a hockey game or big concert.
Photo of "Dinner with Drag Queens" event by Kelly Marion
"There are people who don't want to go out – especially because it rains so much and people are tired during the week, but when they get this BeeVancity email, they see how much is happening in Vancouver, and that it's not the (stereotype) of the boring Vancouver, no-fun Vancouver. This is the purpose, to show that it's actually a really energized and engaged city," he said.
The Bees try to personalize the events, thanking the people who have sent in the suggestion by name, such as "Thanks, Myriam!" or "Thanks, Julien!" It's a kind gesture, given Vancouver's reputation as one of the most impersonal and loneliest cities in the country.
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