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From transgender Christians and the rights of sex workers to yarn bombing and the modern museum...

Interesting Vancouver

Interesting Vancouver speaker and sex worker Susan Davis presented a slide of this poster from the 1940s equating sex workers with Hitler and Tojo.


From transgender Christians and the rights of sex workers to yarn bombing and the modern museum, fascinating people spoke about topics they care about at the latest installment of Interesting Vancouver


Earlier this month, the Vancouver Rowing Club hosted the third annual Interesting Vancouver event, where an array of Vancouver-based speakers were invited to talk about anything they please, so long as it was interesting. The goal: to open listeners up to new experiences and ideas. The effect: a live experience of clicking from blog to blog.


The full list of speakers was not released until the event itself, and no introductions were made save for a Powerpoint slide bearing each speaker’s name. Such mystery, while at first a bit disorienting, helped to diminish the risk of preconceived notions and infused the night with a sense of discovery.


Creator Brett MacFarlane spoke first, via video recording, and discussed the natural tendency for the evening to centre around change. This year was no exception, with speakers that included a former amateur boxer turned office worker, a lawyer turned underground restauranteur and a transgendered woman coming to terms with her religion, to name only a few.


Some of the evening’s highlights included:


yarn bombing vancouver

Leanne Prain says to look closely at the parking meters and sign posts in
your neighbourhood for examples of knitted graffitti, or yarn bombing.


Leanne Prain on Yarn Bombing Vancouver streets

Leanne Prain, co-author of the book Yarn Bombing, explained the origins of knitted and crocheted graffiti with a delightful slideshow. discussed the art of knitting graffiti. Originating from knitters who sought a sustainable solution for their knitting projects gone wrong, the practice of wrapping parking meters, street sign poles and other objects in the public domain with colourful yarn works has exploded into a global community that has become so popular, some knitters are even being commissioned to produce public works.


The odd form of “rebellion” also provokes its share of double takes and confusion as to its purpose. Prain told the story of one policeman who remarked on a particular creation in the Downtown Eastside, “I’ve seen a lot of strange things at Main and Hastings but this is the strangest.”


Knitting graffiti is intended to be political, heartwarming, quirky and functional, just like any other art form. The only difference is, yarn tags are so cool, even your grandmother would approve.


archival photo of vancouver sex worker / escort

Back in the day, before sex workers became demonized in Vancouver, police chiefs rubbed elbows with escorts without fear of the press.


Sex worker Susan Davis: VD on legs or loving caretaker of lonely souls?

Sex worker and media spokesperson Susan Davis discussed her profession, its place in Vancouver and the changes in legislation that she is fighting for. Initially an acceptable practice in Vancouver, where police chiefs rubbed elbows with escorts with nary a need to hide from the press, sex workers became demonized as harbingers of all that is evil in society—aided in part by a propaganda campaign during the Second World War (Davis’s presentation included the propaganda poster at top, with the ghoulish VD-riddled sex worker flanked by Hitler and Tojo).


Countering the stereotype of depraved, desperate women forced into the trade by drugs and a bad childhood, Davis presented herself as an empowered woman providing a much-needed service in our culture, citing many touching examples of times in which she has brought comfort to those in need of love, connection and companionship. “Does this make me a bad person?” she asked. Beautiful and honest, Davis made a compelling case for the importance of ensuring transparency, accountability and safety in the sex trade.


craig anderson charlie demers grant lawrence conor holler night at mov museum of vancouver

One example the Museum of Vancouver’s innovative, interactive programming, Night at MOV was produced by as a send up to the old style of variety talk shows. Pictured (from right): Conor Holler with guests Grant Lawrence and Charlie Demers, along with sidekick Craig Anderson. (Image: Flickr / Rick Chung)


Amanda Gibbs: Museums go 2.0

Amanda Gibbs, cultural strategist at the Museum of Vancouver, examined the role of public spaces within the community. Once highly curated and academic, museums are now transitioning into spaces where people can interact and create meaning. MOV has embraced this shift and transformed the building’s cluttered mishmash of Victorian objects into lofty seating areas that promote communication, with chalkboard walls that visitors are encouraged to write on. Smashing look-don’t-touch notions, MOV now regularly hosts interactive public events ranging from variety style talk shows to DIY craft nights.


MOV continues to display exhibitions, highlighting objects that provoke curiosity and exciting conversations. Gibbs believes objects and the stories they tell are so powerful, it is near impossible to have a bad day at the museum, even on a terrible first date, “You may end up dating this guy again even if he’s a loser because the conversation was so great.”


Rebecca Slaven

Rebecca Slaven was born in Yellowknife but enjoys civilization and so she now calls Vancouver home. Currently she is finishing up her masters in library studies at UBC, and catalogueing the world’s largest collection of croquet images. In her spare time, she likes biking, snacking and playing her accordion. Twitter