Bill Friesen knows artists are often pretty low on the economic totem pole, with little pay and poor working conditions. That’s one of the reasons why the Deep Bay artist began organizing the Mayworks festival in Oceanside.
Begun in Toronto in 1986, the Mayworks Festival of Working People and the Arts was designed to celebrate working class culture.
“The Labour Council in Toronto had their office in a poor area of town and they found out that’s where the artists were, working in poor ventilation. The idea was to give artists a venue at least once a year where they get paid for whatever they did, whether it be writing, painting, making music or poetry.”
Friesen started Mayworks on Vancouver Island in 2005 and the festival has only grown in popularity and scope.
“It started in Parksville on the Island and at that time there was no other Mayworks festival in B.C.,” he said. “The labour movement promotes it and offers organizational skills as well.”
The festival, which celebrates the culture and history of work and workers through the arts, kicks off this year with the popular empty bowl soup kitchen, organized by the Arrowsmith Potters’ Guild and the Oceanside Coalition for Strong Communities.
The event itself is slated to be held on May 14 at the Parksville Community and Conference Centre, but the Arrowsmith Potters have been hard at work since last year, throwing and firing their clay soup bowls, while coalition members have been organizing contributions for the live and silent auctions and, of course, the soup.
This year, the gourmet soup for the soup kitchen is being created by chefs at Tigh-Na-Mara Resort, Lefty’s Restaurant, The Beach Club, Bayside Bistro and Lounge and Alain Bernard.
Participants will be able to sample their creations from one of the hand-thrown bowls while being entertained by the Kumbana Marimba Band.
All proceeds will be donated to the Salvation Army Food Bank.
The artistic action continues on May 19, when Mayworks presents speaker Matt Grinder, who will introduce an innovative new theory about political structure and economics. This talk, with a discussion session to follow, will take place at the Oceanside Community Arts Council at 132 McMillan Street in Parksville, from 7 to 9 p.m.
Two other events have been slated for this year’s festival, Friesen said. First, there’s what he’s calling a Mayworks Mashup at the Errington War Memorial Hall on Saturday, May 28.
“There are going to be two singers, Charlie Fox and poet and singer Tracy Myers, who will explore the theme of work and workers in words and music, followed by a dance with the local band, Counting Time.”
The following day, Mayworks presents an open house at Friesen’s sculpture garden in Deep Bay, with music by the Kumbana Marimba Band, as well as refreshments.
Friesen’s garden is at 5160 Gainsberg Road in Deep Bay.