Category: Arts & Culture

Don’t let another bookstore close! Vancouver losing critical cultural and intellectual infrastructure


The People’s Co-op Bookstore is under threat of closing. They sent out this email on April 9th:


Dear Friend of People´s Co-op Bookstore

I am writing on behalf of People´s Co-op Bookstore to urge you to help save the Co-op – the oldest independent bookstore in Vancouver.

The Bookstore will close unless we raise a minimum of 15,000 dollars before the end of June. And another 15,000 before December. It’s essential that we eliminate existing debt and increase our new stock .

The good news is an anonymous donor will donate $1 for every $2 you donate up to a total of $5,000.

Your donation will help this important bookstore survive. Our goal is to build a strong progressive children´s book section and increase our traditional book stock. Another goal is to make the bookstore a friendly and comfortable hub for a range of progressive, literary and other activities in our City and neighborhood.

I hope you agree that People´s Co-op bookstore has an invaluable role to play in Vancouver, and our neighbourhood. It is a critical place to support labour, left, progressive causes, co-operatives, and local poets and writers.

You may have seen us selling books at community events. We recently sold books at the Arundhati Roy event. We plan to do more. And we will hold more book launches. We have already begun a children´s story time on Saturday morning.

Please help save an independent bookstore that provides critical material not easily found in other book stores., Progressive people need to support writers, and ideas. To have a place where people can gather. To challenge the Stephen Harper’s and Christy Clark’s of the world.

I’ve attached a dynamic roadmap for the the bookstores future (I hope you’ll take a moment to read it and I hope you’ll make a donation today.

Ways you can help:

— Please make the biggest donation you can. Large or small, your donation helps.

— Become a Co-op member ($25) if you are not already one.

— Upgrade your Co-op membership to a one year $25.00 membership and receive a 10% discount. Your donation of $250 entitles you to a 10% lifetime discount.

— Donate books to the bookstore.

— Volunteer on a committee, work in the bookstore or assist in off-site sales.

— Distribute this appeal to your email lists and Facebook friends.

I hope, like me, you believe that this bookstore is important to the people of Vancouver. And I hope you will help save it. Please send your donation to the People´s Co-op Bookstore at 1391 Commercial Dr., Vancouver, V6L 3X5 or phone the bookstore (604-253-6442) to make a credit card donation. (Online donations are not yet available.)

In solidarity and with much thanks for your support,

Brian Campbell Chair, Fundraising Committee

PS. Don’t let another bookstore close. And please don’t let a thinkers and activists progressive bookstore close. You and other people in our community working together can save it, and more importantly, help it to grow and bring progressive ideas too many more people. As the forces of conservatism grow stronger, it’s important to fight back with books, ideas, and a community space. The People’s co-op bookstore, is critical to this fight.

[Podcast] Vancouver: Consumption City Forever?

Photo by Andy Longhurst

Photo by Andy Longhurst

Part two of the conversation with urban economic geographer Elliot Siemiatycki about Vancouver’s future economic trajectory

On the program, the second part of the conversation with urban economic geographer Elliot Siemiatycki about Vancouver’s transformation from a productive city into a city of consumption, dominated increasingly by real estate and tourism. We discuss what the future might hold for Vancouver as a city of consumption – and whether it might be advantageous for the city to chart an alternative economic path forward.

Dr. Elliot Siemiatycki is a postdoctoral fellow at York University in Toronto, and he completed his PhD from the University of British Columbia in 2013. His PhD research examined Vancouver’s urban economic transformation over the last three decades in his dissertation – Consumption City: Precarious Labour and Capital in Vancouver, British Columbia. 

[Podcast] Vancouver: Consumption City


Trump Tower Vancouver construction. Photo by Andy Longhurst.

Economic geographer Elliot Siemiatycki discusses Vancouver’s transformation from a productive city into a city of consumption

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Above all, the many paradoxes of Vancouver’s contemporary economic development trajectory are exposed in the words of local workers, firms, commentators and industry experts: Vancouver is simultaneously the most livable and unaffordable city in the world; Vancouver is a leading creative city in which creative firms and workers alike struggle under conditions of precariousness; Vancouver is mythologized as a healthy, sustainable, lifestyle city while these very qualities often must be sacrificed by working Vancouver residents. Tracing the underlying story and challenges of Vancouver’s emergence as a global consumption city provides important insights into 21st century urban development.                           –Elliot Siemiatycki, PhD

On the podcast, urban economic geographer Elliot Siemiatycki discusses Vancouver’s transformation from a productive city into a city of consumption, dominated increasingly by real estate and tourism. We examine how the city’s structure, feel, and image of itself have shifted over the last three decades – and how the rise of precarious employment is implicated in this transformation.

Dr. Elliot Siemiatycki is a postdoctoral fellow at York University in Toronto, and he completed his PhD from the University of British Columbia in 2013. His PhD research examined Vancouver’s urban economic transformation over the last three decades in his dissertation – Consumption City: Precarious Labour and Capital in Vancouver, British Columbia. 

[Podcast] 2013 Year in Review

the city twitter icon - finalOver three podcasts, we revisit the year’s critical urban discussions on topics and ideas ranging from transportation along Vancouver’s Broadway corridor, the degradation of work in postindustrial urban economies, gentrification in Vancouver’s Chinatown, feminist urban futures and social movements, the making of Stanley Park, arts and cultural spaces, and much more.

In Part III of the 2013 Year in Review, former city councillor and Women Transforming Cities founder Ellen Woodsworth discusses the major issues from the past year.

Part I

Part II

Part III (featuring Ellen Woodsworth)

[Podcast] Neoliberal urbanism: Artful alternatives?

Jamie Peck discusses neoliberal urbanism and the creative city paradigm

frontierListen and subscribe to the podcast here.

Listen to the Q&A portion of the talk.

What does it mean to say that cities like Vancouver have taken a “neoliberal” turn, embracing market-oriented policies while paying little more than lip service to questions of social welfare, affordability, and environmental sustainability? Does the embrace of “creativity” really hold the promise of an alternative path, or does it threaten more of the same? Exploring these questions, Jamie Peck charts the rise of the neoliberal city, calling attention to its mutations, its limits, and to its alternatives.

Jamie Peck is Canada Research Chair in Urban & Regional Political Economy and Professor of Geography at UBC. An economic geographer with interests in labour studies, urban theory, and the politics of globalization, his publications include Constructions of Neoliberal Reason and the co-edited collection, Contesting Neoliberalism: Urban Frontiers.

This talk is part of the Spaces of Contestation: Art, Activism and the City Speaker Series, part of the project Collective Walks – Spaces of Contestation, curated by Mariane Bourcheix-Laporte, and was recorded on November 12, 2013 in Vancouver.

‘My Brooklyn’ Filmmaker on Race, Class, and Redevelopment

On the podcast, The City discusses the intersections of race, class, and redevelopment in Brooklyn, New York with My Brooklyn filmmaker Allison Lirish Dean. In the filmmakers’ own words:

My Brooklyn is a documentary about Director Kelly Anderson’s personal journey, as a Brooklyn “gentrifier,” to understand the forces reshaping her neighbourhood along lines of race and class. The story begins when Anderson moves to Brooklyn in 1988, lured by cheap rents and bohemian culture. By Michael Bloomberg’s election as mayor in 2001, a massive speculative real estate boom is rapidly altering the neighbourhoods she has come to call home. She watches as an explosion of luxury housing and chain store development spurs bitter conflict over who has a right to live in the city and to determine its future. While some people view these development patterns as ultimately revitalizing the city, to others, they are erasing the eclectic urban fabric, economic and racial diversity, creative alternative culture, and unique local economies that drew them to Brooklyn in the first place. It seems that no less than the city’s soul is at stake.

Meanwhile, development officials announce a controversial plan to tear down and remake the Fulton Mall, a popular and bustling African-American and Caribbean commercial district just blocks from Anderson’s apartment. She discovers that the Mall, despite its run-down image, is the third most profitable shopping area in New York City with a rich social and cultural history. As the local debate over the Mall’s future intensifies, deep racial divides in the way people view neighbourhood change become apparent. All of this pushes Anderson to confront her own role in the process of gentrification, and to investigate the forces behind it more deeply.

The film is an important reminder of how seemingly mundane processes of zoning and land use change can dramatically change urban landscapes, and these changes may entail the loss of vibrant, racially diverse neighbourhoods and the displacement of lower-income residents and affordable, independent businesses. While the contexts may be different, these broader processes are at work in cities across North America, and certainly in Vancouver.

[Podcast] Zoned Out? Towers, Upzoning, and the Future of Grandview-Woodland

Commercial Drive at E 1st Avenue in the Grandview-Woodland neighbourhood. Photo courtesy

Commercial Drive at East 1st Avenue in the Grandview-Woodland neighbourhood.

In June, City of Vancouver planning staff released the draft community plan for East Vancouver’s Grandview-Woodland neighbourhood. To the shock of many residents who were extensively involved in the consultation process, the City is proposing to upzone substantial parts of the neighbourhood including approximately ten 22-36 storey towers in the Broadway and Commercial area. These proposed changes raise important questions about the preservation of existing affordable housing stock and the implications of major condominium tower development on the social fabric of the neighbourhood. Has community trust in the planning process been eroded with these surprising land-use directions? Where did these directions originate from if not from community consultation?

On this special podcast, we discuss the draft community plan, concerns about the future of the neighbourhood, and broader issues of public engagement with community leaders, residents, Translink, an urban scholar, and a member of the Mayor of Vancouver’s Engaged City Task Force.

The City of Vancouver’s Corporate Communications department was given seven days advance notice for an interview. After more than four email and phone exchanges throughout the seven-day period, an interview was finally refused on June 24th. Corporate Communications indicated that a spokesperson could not be provided before the Tuesday, June 25th deadline.

Feedback on the draft plan can be submitted online until July 3rd. A new workshop to discuss the Broadway/Commercial sub-area and the proposed transit-oriented development has been organized for July 6th, which you must RSVP for as “space is extremely limited.” The Grandview-Woodland Area Council is hosting an open forum for residents to express their opinions about the draft plan on Monday, July 8th from 7-9pm at 1655 William Street.

[Podcast] Interventions for Feminist Urban Futures


The 2013 Engaging Women, Transforming Cities Conference hosted by the Women Transforming Cities organization brought together municipal electeds, urban designers and planners, and women and girls interested in transforming our cities into places where women are more involved in electoral processes, and municipal governments are responsive to the priorities of women and girls in Canada’s urban centres. The conference was held on May 30th, 2013 at Simon Fraser University’s downtown campus.

Over the course of the summer, The City will be providing highlights from this inaugural national conference. Dr. Tiffany Muller Myrdahl is the Junior Ruth Wynn Woodward Chair in Gender and Urban Studies at Simon Fraser University, and in this podcast she discusses large and small interventions to foster feminist urban futures.

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[Podcast] Vancouver: The Best Place on Earth? Matt Hern and Charlie Demers in Conversation

VancouverSpecial1 commongroundinaliquid_1

In 2011, Simon Fraser University’s Department of History hosted a lecture series, Think you know Vancouver? Think Again. On January 27th, local authors Matt Hern and Charlie Demers addressed the question of whether Vancouver, as it is often branded, is indeed the best place on earth.

Their humorous discussion provides a critical take on Vancouver, its history (or perceived lack of history), and why we need to think about Vancouver with a bit more honesty.

In a March podcast, we heard from local author and comedian Charlie Demers (Vancouver Special; CBC’s The Debaters). In this podcast, Matt Hern (Common Ground in a Liquid City: Essays in Defense of an Urban Future; Purple Thistle Centre co-director) provides a short commentary on Vancouver and then Charlie Demers joins him in discussion.

Thank you to the SFU History Department for permission to broadcast this content.

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[Podcast] Chinatown: The Next Yaletown? // Vancouver Loses Independently-Owned Festival Cinemas

Screenshot of the Keefer Block condo development (

“Condo for sale minutes from downtown.” Screenshot taken from

Social mix is a euphemism for destroying low-income communities. This is a community that fought for – and won – the only safe injection site in North America. This is a community that had to occupy a Police Board meeting in order to get the Police Board to put out the same reward for the missing women that it put out for garage robberies on the Westside. This is a community that had to fight for seven years to get a community centre like other people have. This is a community that had to camp out on a beach for a whole summer in order to get a waterfront park like other communities have. This community has a history of fighting for human rights, and the City destroys that by condo-fying the whole [neighbourhood] and displacing low income people – that will be destroying one of the most valuable assets it has.

–Jean Swanson, Carnegie Community Action Project

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Vancouver’s Chinatown is undergoing increasingly rapid gentrification. The Carnegie Community Action Project’s Jean Swanson (author, Poorbashing: The Politics of Exclusion) discusses why a significant influx of condominiums and high-end retail  are threatening to displace the neighbourhood’s low-income residents – and why the city is approving these major developments before the completion of the Downtown Eastside local area plan. You can check out a past podcast, From Poor to Yuppie: Artists, Boutiques, and Neighbourhood Change, if you are interested in hearing more about gentrification and social dislocation in the Downtown Eastside.

On the second half of the program, we hear why the independently-owned Festival Cinemas has been sold to Cineplex. We talk with co-owner Leonard Schein about why he is calling it quits, the challenge to operate cinemas independently, and what he believes the City and province should do to help arts and culture thrive/survive in Vancouver.