Culture Days invite participation in the arts

Talk like a pirate or sing with the opera - Culture Days come to Victoria, Sept. 28 to 30.

Ballet Victoria dancer Andrea Bayne will be among those participating in Culture Days.

Have you always wanted to talk like a pirate? How about taking the stage to perform a little Shakespeare, or sing with the opera? Maybe you’d like to learn how to tell a really good story, or hear the first reading of a new play.

The opportunity to do all of these things and more will be offered to the public as Culture Days come to Victoria, Sept. 28 to 30. The activities are part of a national celebration of arts and culture intended to get people talking about how culture enhances their lives.

“It’s all about celebrating arts and culture in all its many forms,” says Tamara Leigh, Culture Days B.C.’s Provincial Task Force Chairperson. “We have over 300 activities registered in B.C. and nearly 7,000 activities nationwide.”

The goals of the movement are fourfold: accessibility, awareness, participation and engagement.

“We want people to realize that arts and culture is for everyone,” said Leigh. “We want them talking about all the faces of art and culture and appreciate how everything – writing, architecture, art, music –  all has an impact on our lives. We also want people to understand and appreciate those parts of their lives and talk about it with others.”

To that end, beginning in early September, Canadians have been invited to tweet @CultureDays to complete the statement: #Culture is ___ to me. According to Leigh, the response has been tremendous.

As well, the CBC has just invited British Columbians to show what culture means to them by submitting photos to an online gallery at cbc.ca/bc/culture days. They’ll be offering prizes for the best interpretation submitted.

It’s music to the ears of Leigh, who’s thrilled about the contest.

“Too many of us suffer from this junior high school trauma about culture. … where we had it forced upon us and never recovered. We’re giving people a chance to get beyond that intimidation factor and experience culture in a different, personal way.”

The movement was inspired by both Quebec’s annual Journees de la Culture, founded in 1997 and by the success of Alberta’s Arts Days (now Alberta Culture Days), founded in 2008. Building on those successes, the four founding partners of Culture Days, the Canadian Arts Summit, Culture Pour Tous, Canada Council for the Arts and the Banff Centre, banded together to create a national movement to celebrate and promote arts and culture across Canada.

“The goal in launching Culture Days was to create a truly national event in which culture in all its forms can be celebrated in an interactive and inclusive way,” said Antoni Cimolino, chair of Culture Days’ national steering committee. That goal seems to have been achieved. Since its inception in 2010 the movement has grown to where it now boasts the inclusion of thousands of individual artists, diverse cultural groups, organizations, municipalities and festivals. They all come together to promote and inspire greater participation in arts and culture.

By making the events interactive, hands-on and free the public gets a behind-the-scenes look at the world of artists and the creative process. “The whole experience personalizes art and culture for them,” says Leigh.

Anyone can register their event or activity with the Culture Days organization providing that they meet its criteria.

It’s the third year for this voluntary movement and it has already become the largest collective public participation campaign by the arts and cultural community in Canadian history, says Leigh.

There are 10 activities open to the public in Victoria and another 15 are offered in communities within 50 kilometres of the Capital.

Where to go for Culture Days in Victoria:

Pirate School – Explore life through the eyes of a pirate and even learn to speak like one. Learn scrimshaw, get a tattoo or sword fight (with balloon swords).  – Sept. 29 and 30 at the Maritime Museum of BC

Behind-the-Scenes at Ballet Victoria – Watch professional dancers at work, tour the facility and take free ballet lesson to point your toes like the pros. – Sept. 28 (reservations suggested)

Spontaneous Acts of Culture – Surprises throughout the day – Sept. 28 and 29 at the Broughton Street Library

Puente Theatre Storytelling Workshop – Learn to tell tales and spin yarns with the Puente Theatre and the Victoria Storytellers Guild hour-long workshop. – Sept. 29 and 30 at the Belfry Theatre

Backstage Tours at the Belfry – Tours leave every half hour for a behind-the-scenes look at what’s involved in a theatre production. – Sept. 29 and 30 at the Belfry Theatre

Trauma Farm Reading – Be the first to hear a hot new play. A new work by Victoria playwright Charles Tidler is read. – Sept. 28 at the Belfry Theatre

Mock Auditions – Step onto the stage and try a mock audition. Get tips from the theatre’s Artistic Director. – Sept. 29 and 30 at the Belfry Theatre

Acting Shakespeare Workshop – ‘Speak the speech trippingly on the tongue’ by joining the Belfry’s Artistic Director for a Shakespeare workshop. – Sept. 29 and 30 at the Belfry Theatre

Sing with the Opera – Join the Principal Coach of Pacific Opera Victoria to explore the works of Benjamin Britten with the help of the POV chorus. – Sept. 29 and 30 at 1291 Gladstone Ave.

Canadian College of Performing Arts Carnival of Classes – A backstage pass for all to experience the fun and hard work of training in the performing arts. Sample classes in dance, acting and singing and a lot more! – Sept. 29 at 1701 Elgin Road

More information on Culture days can be found at CultureDays.ca.

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