No Poor People Here


Every summer, Prince’s Island — a beautiful island park in the Bow River, right next to downtown Calgary — plays host to a number of large festivals, including the always-interesting folk music festival, which took place last week with some big headliners and great enthusiasm. These festivals are an asset to the cultural life of Calgary, but there’s just one problem: they’re not free. Each festival surrounds itself with fences and restricts access by charging an entry fee. Sometimes the fee is relatively small, but in the case of the folk fest, it was as much as $50 for a single-day ticket. I’m torn between wanting to support a cultural initiative like this and decrying the way it occupies and privatizes an important public space.

Somebody else was less ambivalent in their opinion. This weekend, while making my way to the festival site, I came across this message drawn into the path with chalk: “Welcome to Fantasy Island. No poor people here.” It’s an apt statement, since there really weren’t any poor people at the folk fest, simply they couldn’t possibly afford to attend. Lately, whenever I visit Calgary I detect a growing undercurrent of anger and indignation, something potentially explosive that lurks among the city’s legions of working poor and homeless, many of them victims of the economic boom that has brought great prosperity to Calgary, but also a soaring cost of living. I suspect that, in the future, we’ll see more messages like the one I saw on Prince’s Island.

This entry was written by Christopher DeWolf , posted on Wednesday July 30 2008at 12:07 am , filed under Art and Design, Canada, Politics, Public Space, Society and Culture and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

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