August 12, 2020

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You can always go… downtown

New video campaign reminds Winnipeggers how vibrant city can be

Remember downtown Winnipeg?

A new music video campaign, Downtown Sounds, aims to offer a vivid reminder of what we've missed since the COVID-19 pandemic led to the cancellation of countless concerts and sporting events, and a worldwide shutdown that's kept most of those who work downtown at home.

The videos, which Downtown Winnipeg BIZ produced with city businesses Synonym Art Consultation and Studio 393, transform downtown's most famous landmarks into a stage for five local musical acts. They're meant to encourage viewers to remember all the fun the city centre has to offer, the loss the artistic community has withstood owing to the shutdown and that businesses are cautiously reopening while pandemic restrictions are eased, says Kate Fenske, Downtown Winnipeg BIZ's chief executive officer.

"We want to create a connection, while also doing something different," Fenske says of the video campaign. "We want to take people back to the places they might be missing."

The five videos will be released one per day via Downtown Winnipeg BIZ's YouTube channel. Leading off is Leonard Sumner, the Juno Award-nominated Anishinaabe singer-songwriter, who is seen performing atop The Forks parkade with downtown as the backdrop.

Filming took place over the Victoria Day weekend and includes footage shot from a drone — with permission from Nav Canada — which zoomed over rooftops for dramatic views of downtown sites.

Among the week's highlights will include a debut of new single by Winnipeg's Sierra Noble, a video shot at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights and another from the stage of an empty Time(s) Changed High & Lonesome Club, the first time music has emanated from the Main Street honky-tonk in more than two months. Downtown Winnipeg BIZ won't release the full video schedule, hoping to build momentum day by day.

"It's a very different feeling to be at one of your favourite live venues with no one there, because it's usually crammed with people," Fenske says.

Leonard Sumner performs on the roof of The Forks parkade.</p>

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Leonard Sumner performs on the roof of The Forks parkade.

Saturday's performance is also being kept under wraps, but it will come from the Pacific Avenue studio of Synonym Art Consultation, known for curating art events and for its annual Wall-to-Wall mural festival. Synonym collaborated with Winnipeg singer-songwriter Begonia on a digital release party for her 2019 album, Fear, and created the music video for the album's title track.

The pandemic shutdown has shown how important the city's entertainment venues, such as Bell MTS Place, the Burton Cummings Theatre and the Centennial Concert Hall — not to mention the many smaller inner-city nightclubs — are to the vibrancy and the economic viability of the downtown, and Winnipeg in general, Fenske says.

Among the week's highlights will include the debut of a new single by Winnipeg's Sierra Noble.

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Among the week's highlights will include the debut of a new single by Winnipeg's Sierra Noble.

For instance, the National Hockey League halted its season March 12, the day after the Winnipeg Jets defeated the Edmonton Oilers 4-2 and left the Jets in a Stanley Cup playoff spot with 11 games to play. Many restaurants and bars were looking forward to being a part of the buzz, not to mention the street parties organized by Downtown Winnipeg BIZ. Without the Jets and their fans, bars and restaurants have had to shut their doors, some for good.

"Downtown Winnipeg doesn't have the residential population to support the businesses on their own," Fenske says.

alan.small@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter:@AlanDSmall

Alan Small

Alan Small
Arts and Life Editor

Alan Small was named the editor of the Free Press Arts and Life section in January 2013 after almost 15 years at the paper in a variety of editing roles.

Read full biography

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