Nanaimo: the Cultural Capital of Canada (!)

An area I’d like to see developed on the blog is in the general area of what can be broadly described as “culture”. It came to mind recently when I was reading the Daily News report about the consultants report to the new Economic Development Commission (Nanaimo needs an identity if it wants to grow, economic consultants say). It occurred to me that the question to ask is how can a modern little city have lost its identity? Do they think identities are something that can be thought up by committees?

What’s called culture in Nanaimo is a top-down affair funded mostly by City Hall. Remember the “Nanaimo: Cultural Capital of Canada” embarrassment?

Here’s what you have when you have a healthy organic cultural scene: ferment. A rich, interconnected scene cross-pollinating. I’d suggest it’s part of a broader problem here and in similar cities which are the result of planning decisions made over the last several decades that tend to separate us — where we live, from where we work, study and interact. You recognize it immediately when for instance you might find yourself in a “College Town” where the campus wasn’t built out in the suburbs, the downtown didn’t go into the kind of decline we’ve seen here; cafe’s and galleries and theatres are a part of the every day life of the locals, not contrivances designed to charm tourists. The irony being of course that tourists are more charmed by the authentic than the contrived (San Francisco, Halifax come to mind).

Frank Murphy

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