PuSh merchandise

8:15 Second update from the PuSh Opening Gala – Opening Speeches

Following Mayor Gregor was Max Wyman, president of the PuSh Board. It was very hard to hear what he was saying unfortunately, but something that stood out was when he talked about the imp0rtance of what he calls  the ‘creative class’. He said that “sharing a cultural experience gives us more understanding of each other”. Wise words indeed!

Up next was VanCity CEO Tamara Vrooman who expressed her delight about VanCity’s contribution as a sponsor for the 125th celebration events.

Then it was Norman Armour’s turn! He saluted with a big “Hellooooo Vancouver!! As the Executive Director of the PuSh Festival, he talked about the importance of keeping the arts at the centre of our civic life and was visibly excited about sharing the stage with Vancouver’s 125th birthday celebrations. This year’s festival explores the notions of ‘cityness’ and place, and is sure to inspire many to discover all that Vancouver has to offer as a cultural hub. Norman gave a big shout-out to The Georgia Straight, CTV and all the bloggers and journalists who have played a part in getting the word out about this year’s festival; and gave a resounding rallying cry to all of those present as ambitious and passionate leaders in the arts to strive for our goals and seize opportunities in these challenging and daunting times. Our city needs us!

19.30pm First update from the PuSh Opening Gala – Mayor Gregor’s speech

(Details may be patchy as most of the speeches were inaudible until someone turned the sound up halfway through Norman Armour’s speech!)

Club Five Sixty is packed with people excited to celebrate both the launch of Vancouver’s 125th birthday celebrations (or quasquicentennial to use the correct term-just don’t ask us how to pronounce it!) and the opening of the 2011 PuSh Festival.

After some community performances (did anyone catch who they were over the noise of the crowd?) Mayor Gregor Robertson took to the stage to officially launch the City’s plans for the 125th birthday festivities – a celebration of Vancouver’s diversity: “that’s what we are all made of”.  He announced the plans for Birthday Live –  a free family event on April 6th, the official anniversary of the city’s incorporation, which will include the lighting of the Olympic Cauldron and “yes, there will be birthday cake!”; and Summer Live – three days of free performances  over multiple stages in Stanley Park taking place July 8-10th. As well as these two spotlight events, a funding program of $10 million will go towards bringing improvements and vibrancy to neighbourhoods including Gastown, Chinatown, the Downtown Eastside and Strathcona.

Throughout his speech, the Mayor spoke enthusiastically and proudly about the diverse communities which make up the city, and the role of the arts, culture and creative expression in giving voice to those communities and the city as a whole, as well as acting as a “huge economic driver for the city”. 2011 is set to be a fantastic year with Vancouver being named as the Cultural Capital for Canada and promises of “the most legendary PuSh Festival in history”.  There were thanks offered to the Federal Government, Heritage Canada, the PuSh Festival Board, staff and volunteers, and City Councillors, before  the Mayor signed off by thanking everyone for being here, wishing us all a great 125th year, and reminding people to check celebratevancouver125.ca for updates on all of the plans discussed tonight.

So what do you think of the Vancouver 125 plans so far? Will you be attending Birthday Live and Summer Live? Leave us a comment on this post or let us know on twitter (@escapadetheatre)!

The excitement is building… The 2011 PuSh Festival kicks off in a matter of hours. With so many varied and  exciting performances to choose from, we can’t wait to sample what’s on offer over the next few weeks. We’ll be live-blogging and tweeting from tonight’s Opening Gala at Club 56o – we’ll be updating this post throughout the evening so keep checking back for updates…

Push Festival 2011 publicity image