Ellice Street Festival a celebration of community

Two-day event showcases West End's creativity


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This weekend, for the 20th time, the Ellice Street Festival will take over the space between Sherbrook and Langside streets for a weekend of community and creativity.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 06/06/2019 (1465 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

This weekend, for the 20th time, the Ellice Street Festival will take over the space between Sherbrook and Langside streets for a weekend of community and creativity.

The festival is largely hosted by the West End Cultural Centre, with support from numerous area organizations including the Spence Neighbourhood Association, the West End BIZ, the West Central Women’s Resource Centre and CKUW, among others.

The WECC’s community outreach co-ordinator, Jessee Havey, has worked on the Ellice Street Festival for a few years, and though she says it “takes up every breath” she has for many weeks leading up to the event — which this year runs June 7-8 — it’s her favourite time of year.

Matt Duboff
The Ellice Street Festival will feature a diverse musical lineup and a hoop dance performance.
Matt Duboff The Ellice Street Festival will feature a diverse musical lineup and a hoop dance performance.

“What always blows me away this time of year is what a true community collective effort it is. And it is so frickin’ cool and humbling and gives me so much hope,” Havey says.

The festival events kick off Friday night at the WECC at 8 p.m. with the Sunshine House Spectacular, which includes drag queen bingo with the Sunshine Bunch (complete with a collection of prizes donated by West End businesses) and a performance by JD and the Sunshine Band.

Also on deck is a special showcase from the students of the Spence Neighbourhood Association’s new Social Circus Intensive drop-in program. The youth participants, aged 16-19, will be fresh off a three week circus-arts course that runs through the basics of juggling, riding a unicycle, clowning, stilt-walking and acrobatics, and they will be strutting their stuff before bingo starts.

Saturday’s festivities take place outside on Ellice Street from noon until 4 p.m. and include a host of musical performances from the likes of Indian City, Super Duty Tough Work, Mulligrub, the Lion’s Den (duo featuring Daniel Jordan and Daniel Péloquin-Hopfner of Red Moon Road) and the camper bands from both Girls Rock Camp and Adult Rock Camp.

The day will start with the West Central Women’s Resource Centre’s drum group performing a welcoming song after two-spirit elder Charlotte Nolin offers a blessing.

Shanley Spence will also be on site to perform a hoop dance and Brielle Beardy-Linklater, a two-spirit activist who recently made history as the first trans woman to take a seat in Parliament, will be the day’s mainstage MC (or “badass-ter of ceremonies,” as Havey has dubbed her).

In addition, there are activities for all ages, including a space for making crafts, face-painting, a kid’s play area, a merchant village, community tables, a quieter area run by the West End branch of the Winnipeg Public Library and a barbecue.

“It’s the 20th anniversary and it’s a really big deal this year, or at least I’m trying to make it a really big deal. I’ve certainly tried my best to celebrate and honour the Treaty One lands we get to hold this festival on,” Havey says.

“It’s a really diverse lineup musically, in terms of gender, age-demographic-wise, and there’s lots of fierce Indigenous representation, as well as queer people of colour.”

But the Ellice Street Festival does more than offer the West End community some fun and fellowship for a few hours; it helps show area residents there are good people doing good work to help make the neighbourhood a better, safer place to live.

“I think that it is a community that, while extremely vibrant, is mostly known to the general public for its weaker points.

“I think it’s safe to say now more than ever, it’s really important that we reclaim that street for a day and make it a really safe, really positive, really communal space.

“Especially working in the area now and being there every day, I think that people who live in the area and the businesses that operate in the area need to see what all we have there because everyone is stuck in these little buildings and apartments, and as the community outreach co-ordinator, I’m absolutely blown away by the work that’s happening in this area,” Havey says.

“I think people need to celebrate and they need to be reminded that for all its weaknesses, it’s a really, really strong, vibrant community with incredible people living in it and they help make this festival happen. It’s so important on so many levels. I think the fact that it’s a music festival is definitely second to the fact that it’s a celebration and it’s about taking back their street and their ‘hood.’”


Twitter: @NireRabel

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Updated on Thursday, June 6, 2019 10:24 AM CDT: fixes typo

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