Cranking up the fun

Winnipeg Crankie Festival returns from Nov. 5 to 7


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This article was published 26/10/2021 (459 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

A festival of imagination will once again enchant its audience as performers transfigure story and music through a contraption dating back to 18th century Europe.

Winnipeg Crankie Festival, now in its fourth year, pays homage to the crankie — a hand-powered device that spins scrolled art. As the crankie speeds up, the image comes to life through a panorama-like effect.

In the spirit of all that is whimsical, Winnipeg Crankie Festival is hosting four variety shows inspired by this early motion-picture invention.

Supplied photo Performer Al Simmons will be gracing the Winnipeg Crankie Festival stage on Fri., Nov. 5 at the West End Cultural Centre and Sat., Nov. 6, at the Crescent Arts Centre.

Leonard Podolak founded the festival, with the help of many collaborators, he said.

“We’re trying to really just expand this in the community and get as many of the stakeholders involved and make it as accessible as possible,” Podolak said.

On Fri., Nov. 5, the West End Cultural Centre will host Crankie and the Blues beginning at 7 p.m. Headlining the evening are featured artists Al Simmons, Big Dave McLean, Burnstick, Debra Lyn Neufeld and Romi Mayes.

Simultaneously, Crescent Arts Centre which emanated from and is located in Crescent Fort Rouge United Church at 525 Wardlaw Ave. — a.k.a. the “Cranktuary” — will be hosting The Day of the Dead, with The Mariachi Ghost.

“It’s all in good fun with all respect required,” Podolak said. “We have a really great relationship with Crescent Arts Centre and the church.”

This twin flame show will include a streaming performance by Mexican/Canadian hip-hop artist Boogát from Toronto’s Small World Studios, and a set by well-loved local magician Brian Glow.

The Crescent Arts Centre will welcome all “Crankheads” to A Prairie Panorama Spectacular! on Sat., Nov. 6. Headlining the show is Winnipeg folk duo The Small Glories and singer-songwriter Madeleine Roger.

Prairie Panorama is a new addition to this fall’s festival. The workshop pairs established local artists with emerging creators from rural communities. For one, well-known singer Walking Wolf Ray (Co-Co) Stevenson partnered with Gimli’s Kael Sauerborn on a tune.

“When it comes from the heart and the artists believe in the idea, it’s amazing what they do and what comes out of it,” Podolak said.

All five Prairie Panorama pairings worked with a visual artist to match the song to a crankie display.

The festival recorded these collaborations, which will be presented as a video series and podcast in the near future.

“They really gave themselves to the project — everybody,” Podolak said.

Al Simmons will host and perform at the Fri., Nov. 5 show at the WECC and the Sat., Nov. 6 spectacular at the Crescent Arts Centre. As he does, Simmons plans to put into motion whichever song or tale or costume the particular moment calls for.

“I’m thrilled to death to be able to do a show with a live audience watching — I think it’s fantastic … It seems almost like a dream that I’m able to do shows,” Simmons said.

Simmons recalls his first Crankie Festival.

“It was such a magical thing,” he said. “The Crankie Festivals I was at prior to this were just free and easy and fun and no pressure. It’s almost like this is the way the world should be.”

The festival will be cranking up the music and whimsy one last time on Sun., Nov. 7 at Crescent Arts Centre. Local music mainstays Scott Nolan and Glenn Buhr will play material from their newly-released album, The Suburb Beautiful.

A full list of each evening’s lineup of musical artists and crankies is available on the Winnipeg Crankie Festival’s website at

Tickets are available on a sliding scale. The minimum price is $20 and the suggested price is $35.

Katlyn Streilein

Katlyn Streilein
Community Journalist

Katlyn Streilein was a reporter/photographer for the Free Press Community Review.

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