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18th Annual DTES Heart of the City Festival

Over 100 events throughout the Downtown Eastside and online

We are thrilled to announce the 18thAnnual Downtown Eastside Heart of the City Festival!

As the Downtown Eastside community starts to emerge from the pandemic, the Festival is excited to reconnect with our over sixty community partners, including UBC Learning Exchange, Firehall Arts Centre, City Opera, KW Studios, and many more.

This year’s festival theme, Stories We Need to Hear, resonates today as our community grapples with the dramatic impact of the pandemic, ongoing displacement, the fentanyl crisis, and the reality of bigotry and systemic racism.

In the words of late DTES poet Sandy Cameron, “When we tell our stories we draw our own maps, and question the maps of the powerful. Each of us has something to tell, something to teach.” We take strength from the compelling lived wisdom and creativity of Downtown Eastside-involved artists and residents who illuminate the community’s diverse and rich traditions, knowledge systems, ancestral languages, cultural roots and stories.

The 2021 Festival features twelve days of live and online events, including music, stories, poetry, theatre, ceremony, films, readings, forums, workshops, discussions, art talks, history talks, and visual art exhibitions; including the Art in the Streets program with surprise pop-up music and spoken word activities on sidewalks and small plazas throughout the historic district. Highlights of the 2021 Festival include: We Live Here, a large-scale outdoor project projecting hyper-speed videos of Downtown Eastside artists’ artwork, produced by Radix Theatre; Honouring Our Grandmothers Healing Journey Launch with three days of ceremony, teachings and storytelling honouring grandmothers who travelled to the Downtown Eastside (with Further We Rise Collective and Wild Salmon Caravan); Indigenous Journeys: Solos by Three Woman profiles local artists: Chemukh’s Dream by Priscillia Mays Tait (Gitxsan/Wet’suwet’en), Tell Us When They Came by Kat Zu’comulwat Norris (Lyackson First Nation), and The dance within the dance is the dance by Gunargie O’Sullivan aka ga’axstasalas (Kwakuilth Nation); Grace Eiko Thomson, esteemed elder and activist reads from and talks about her book Chiru Sakura (Falling Cherry Blossoms), which chronicles her and her mother’s journey through racism, and Grace’s life-long advocacy for the rights of Canadians of Japanese ancestry; DTES Front & Centre: In Memory of Joyce Morgan, a community musical showcase honouring beloved Carnegie Community Centre volunteer and pianist Joyce Morgan; My Art Is Activism: Part III, Downtown Eastside resident Sid Chow Tan shares videos from his extraordinary archival collection that highlight Chinese Canadian social movements and direct action in Chinatown, particularly redress for Chinese head tax and exclusion; Hearts Beat 2021, a collaboration with Carnegie Indigenous Programs and UBC Learning Exchange, celebrates the shared traditions of drums, song and dance between Indigenous and Irish cultures; the Downtown Eastside ensemble Illicit Projects presents Incarcerated: Truth in Shadows, three shadow plays dedicated to people who have faced unjust treatment in Canada’s incarceration system; and 50 Years of Creative Collaboration: Terry Hunter & Savannah Walling highlights the creative journey and artistic history of Vancouver Moving Theatre and Festival co-founding directors Terry Hunter and Savannah Walling.

The mandate of the Festival is to promote, present and facilitate the development of artists, art forms, diverse cultural traditions, history, activism, people and great stories about Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside District’s historic neighbourhoods on Coast Salish homelands, including Chinatown, Gastown, Hastings Street corridor, Strathcona and Powell Street. The festival involves professional, community, emerging and student artists, and lovers of the arts.


October 27, 2021
November 7, 2021
Free – $25
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Vancouver Moving Theatre


Event Organizer
British Columbia


Various Venues in the Downtown Eastside, Vancouver
Various locations throughout the downtown Eastside
Vancouver, British Columbia V6A 1L3 Canada
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