LETTER: Victoria resident finds history of new busker festival distasteful
Victoria’s Terry Burrell wrote: It is a wonderful thing that Victoria’s downtown is experiencing a renewed sense of activity, thanks in part to the response from the City of Victoria and the Downtown Victoria Business Association (DVBA).
I don’t think it can be ignored, though, that the recent actions of the DVBA around usurping an already existing, highly visual public festival are nothing short of cultural mutiny and theft.
Although I understand there was strong internal resistance to the move, the DVBA board and members made a concerted effort to displace the existing Victoria International Busker’s Festival with a new festival — with a very similar name, on the same weekend, at the same location and utilizing the same funders.
Effectively the DVBA, with the direct support of the City of Victoria, targeted a well-established cultural establishment and decided to take it. This should be sending shivers down the backs of everyone promoting events and festivals in Victoria. If the city and the DVBA like your event, your festival, your idea — but not you or your politics, should you express them — they have the ability to just take it.
The result is a visibly disorganized, under-prepared event that projects only a portion of the attendance of the original event, with reasonable estimations projecting only 25 to 40 per cent attendance compared to previous busker festivals. That is a significant drop given the significant resources of this new festival.
In short, they took over a festival and expect to lose most of its audience. I wonder what the effort was for. I understand that John Vickers, who established and championed the Victoria Busker’s Festival for more than 15 years, is a controversial figure with more than a few unpopular views stated publicly. But they didn’t just take his festival, his idea and his passion, they took that of everyone who contributed to the success of the festival and its vision over the years and privatized it.
This should be ringing alarm bells in the larger events community. The city and the DVBA have made it known that your event, your festival, your interest, your passion, are now open to public acquisition. I don’t envy anyone with an original idea that may help downtown today.
Saanich joins wildfire fight, sends four firefighters to Williams Lake
Saanich Fire Department is joining the B.C. wildfire fight, sending four firefighters and one engine to Williams Lake.
Following a morning briefing the foursome set out for the first ferry. As they await their first mission from the Williams Lake staging location, the crew will be deployed under the direction of the Office of the Fire Commissioner.
“At the moment our crew is there for structure fires and structure protection,” said Deputy Fire Chief Dan Wood. “The crew is on a six- to 14-day cycle, depending on the situation.”
Capt. Robert Heppell, a Saanich firefighter of 28 years, will captain the crew.
“Most of my expertise is with structural fires, fortunately there’s a great deal of experience in our group with wildland fires,” Heppell said. “It’s good to have that mix of experience.”
Heppell will travel with longtime Saanich firefighter Ron Benedict and two other firefighters, Aaron Charlton and Lauren Beddington. The latter duo bring much-needed wildfire experience as they originally came to the Saanich Fire Department from the B.C. Wildfire Service.
Charlton was based out of Riske Creek near Williams Lake for four years and Beddington was based out of Princeton for seven.
“We travelled to Kelowna, Seattle, back east, Yukon, it’s a very interesting part of that job, to see different places and parts of B.C.,” Beddington said. “[But] we’ve never seen anything like this, not this fast. We’ve seen big fires, but not like this.”
Beddington explained the importance of having experienced firefighters who can deal with the structures when the wildfires come into the urban areas.
“Once wildfires interface with buildings, it’s very beneficial to have structure firefighters, who are good at what they do, while the forest service is good at what they do,” Beddington said. “The structure firefighters will know how to deal with hazardous materials in buildings and protecting them.”
Tenants disappointed by renoviction
Tenants from 15 apartments are being forced to find new accommodations this summer as they’ve been evicted from Thornwood Place apartments at 1028 Inverness Rd.
Stacey Piercey is one of the tenants, and said the eviction letter came with only two months notice, an unfair amount of time to find new lodgings in the middle of a housing crunch with Greater Victoria’s vacancy rate at .05 per cent.
“This is a renoviction, two months is not enough, we’ve been here three years,” Piercey said. “This is happening all over the city. From my perspective we’ve lost control of the economy, we’re taking units off the market.”
The new owner of the building is believed to be VPEA, a company that houses international Chinese students in Canadian cities and is repurposing the building, though they did not return a call from the Saanich News.
Coun. Fred Haynes said this is another reason Saanich needs to heighten the priority on local housing and affordability.
“Let this be a strident call to the need for housing in Saanich,” Haynes said. “International students are an important economic [and cultural] factor but we need to house our working class.”
While most of the tenants have already moved out, Piercey and her partner have come up short on finding a decent accommodation. In protest, they’ve filed a dispute over the eviction and have a hearing scheduled for Sept. 7.
Piercey’s not the only tenant against the eviction.
Brent Summerfield has lived in the building for 12 years and collated a list of recent upgrades, including a new hot water system in 2017, roof upgrades in 2016, hardwood floor additions in suites from 2015 to 2017, all new exterior light fixtures in 2014 and more.
The Residential Tenancy Branch later ruled that Summerfield had the right to continue living at 1028 Inverness Rd.
Victoria woman sets up fake meeting to buy back stolen bike
Saanich Police were able to reunite a victim of bicycle theft with her bike after the stolen item was spotted for sale in a Used Victoria post.
Robyn Misovic’s road bike, a Giant, was taken from her backyard on Haultain Avenue in Victoria. It was a rare blunder by Misovic, who left her bike unlocked in the yard as she planned to work on it.
When she came out in the morning, she realized the mistake.
“The one night in my entire life I left my bike out to do repairs, and I forgot and left it outside,” Misovic said. “I couldn’t believe it, I was totally dumbfounded.”
A few days later her husband found an ad on Used Victoria that matched the bike.
“There was no doubt in my mind it was my bike, it had my upgraded seat and pedals,” Misovic said.
She set up a meeting to visit the seller at the 4300 block of Santa Fe Place in Gordon Head and informed VicPD, who referred her to the Saanich Police.
To her credit, Misovic had also registered the two-year-old bike with VicPD’s Bike Registry program, which helped when Saanich Police dispatched an officer in the area to Santa Fe. The officer came across someone riding a bike that matched the description and, with the bike registry details, they were able to make an arrest, said Saanich Police Sgt. Jereme Leslie.
“The suspect is being charged with possession of stolen property and was held in custody for outstanding [charges],” Leslie said, adding he will also be charged with breach of probation.
Busker goes from bus rides to the recording studio
Esther-Ruth Teel can regularly be found busking at Victoria’s Inner Harbour. But it’s getting to her performances that is sure to catch a few eyes.
“It’s quite an interesting scene when I’m going downtown because I’m wearing a ball gown, wearing high heels, carrying my harp and taking the bus,” said Teel, adding she draws more than a few odd looks. “I have lots of interesting conversations.”
The 23-year-old Saanich musician is now getting ready to move from the tranquil serenity of the Inner Harbour to the ornate beauty of Christ Church Cathedral for the release of her new CD, The Sea is Wide.
“I was looking at all these songs and realized they all had this common thread of the sea, almost like it’s a character in a story,” said Teel.
Teel has always had a love for music, playing piano and performing in choirs, as well as earning a degree in voice performance at Victoria Conservatory of Music. She will go on to study pipe organ at the University of Toronto in the fall.
Teel said working in a studio is an entirely different experience than busking.
“The first time I heard myself recorded, it was just shocking. Music is usually this very transient thing, it’s there and then it’s gone. But then it was there and stayed there. It was strange to listen to this moment that was crystallized.”
But performing in the studio just can’t match the excitement Teel gets from busking downtown.
“I feel like it’s some of the most honest performance that I do. There’s no sort of class distinction, it’s not just people who can afford to buy a concert ticket,” said Teel, adding she draws some extremely diverse crowds. “A lot of people who are surprised by liking music that’s a little bit more classical in character. The people who are watching you are really choosing to watch you.”