10-day Diwali Fest kicks off Tuesday in Vancouver (w/ gallery)

Share e Punjab perform at Diwali Downtown in 2010. Submitted photo.

LARISSA CAHUTE
VANCOUVER DESI

It was ten years ago that a group of active South Asian community members went to the City of Vancouver to pitch a Diwali festival.

The small group believed the Indian holiday, which celebrates the victory of lightness over darkness, good over evil, prosperity over poverty, boasted a message that should be celebrated throughout the city.

“The message of Diwali is so universal, which is I think one of the appeals of the event itself …spreading light over darkness in the community,” said Mo Dhaliwal, past board member of Vancouver Celebrates Diwali.

The event was officially inaugurated in 2003 and Dhaliwal was a board member during its second year.

In the early 2000s it was a small-scale, volunteer-run and city supported initiative, consisting of a single day with a small show at Vancouver’s Roundhouse Community Centre, drawing a crowd of about 500 mainly South Asian people.

Today that same festival, now rebranded as Diwali Fest, kicks off Tuesday, marking its 10th anniversary in Vancouver.

According to current festival producer, Sean Devine, the line up boasts an “explosion of activity” from Oct. 29 to Nov. 8 — proving just how far the decade-old event has come.

“In its first year … (it was) one day, one event,” said Devine. “Now it’s more than 10 events over more than 10 days and we typically expect to draw an audience of about 5,000 people.”

“The audience is as wide and diverse a demographic as can be … it’s not just a sea of Indian faces.”

And that was the purpose of the festival from day one.

“It was never meant to be this ‘ethnic’ event,” said Dhaliwal. “It was very much meant to take the universal principles of Diwali and expose them to … the entire community of Vancouver.

“Our hope and dream was always to make Diwali not like some Indian or South Asian festival that happens in Vancouver, but to actually make Diwali Vancouver’s Festival of Lights.”

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North Delta resident, Paromita Naidu, was also a board member in the festival’s second year with the same vision, and today she feels nothing but pride when she joins in the festivities.

“It’s really exploded,” she said. “It’s crossed beyond community borders, it’s crossed religion and it’s crossed ethnicities.

“I’m really proud to know when I mention Diwali Fest to people … they recognize it and they know that a really cool arts celebration is on its way.”

It’s grown from an organizational viewpoint as well, becoming more professional with board members, a regular team of contractors, staff, sponsors and, of course, volunteers.

“It’s just interesting to see how this group has incorporated itself as its own entity, its own organization and is now thriving as Vancouver’s sort of preeminent Diwali festival,” said Dhaliwal.

And in honour of its 10th anniversary, the festival has gone even further — beyond Vancouver. For the first time, Diwali Fest will also hit the City of Surrey.

“We’ve certainly drawn our audience from beyond Vancouver,” said Devine, adding that although separate Diwali events exist around the Lower Mainland, Diwali Fest is aiming to be the go-to holiday attraction. “Ours is delivering a festival at a certain level that is perhaps a little bit more elevated, a little bit more professional,” he said.

And in the coming years, organizers only expect that to continue, reaching beyond Surrey and into the TriCities, becoming “the Diwali-focused celebration for the Lower Mainland,” Devine said.

Diwali Fest begins Tuesday with its inaugural IndiGlam Fashion Social at Davie Street’s Scotiabank Dance Centre, followed by a number of community-centred activities, leading up to the premier event, Diwali Downtown, Nov. 2 at the Roundhouse Community Centre, with live performances, crafts, a bazaar, food and “a secret grand finale.” The 10-day festival closes with a more intimate event, Chai House, at the Surrey Arts Centre on 88th Ave., which will see performances by NaQsh IPB Punjabi rock band, Lapis, DJ A-Slam and Chin Injeti. For more information visit DiwaliFest.ca.



Picture 1 of 11

Vancouver Celebrates Diwali, 2010. Submitted photo.

EVENTS LISTING

Tues. Oct. 29: IndiGlam Fashion Social, $25, Scotiabank Dance Centre, 677 Davie St., Vancouver, 8 p.m.-11 p.m.
Check out the latest designs from Dolce & Gabana, Canali, Hugo Boss, Armana Collezioni, Surrey’s Rimpy Sahota, Bhana Designs, Satya Paul Sarees and India’s Ridhi Mehra. After party with DJ A-Slam.

Wed. Oct. 30: Diwali @ The Library, Free, Central Public Library, 350 W. Georgia St., Vancouver, 12:00 p.m. – 12:30 p.m.
Lunchtime music and dance performance in the Downtown Atrium

Fri. Nov. 1: Diwali Workshop, Nominal fee, West End Community Centre, 870 Denman St., Vancouver, 4 p.m. – 6 p.m.
Professional artists and facilitators leading workshops in rangoli design, diya lamp painting, Bollywood dancing and mehndi hand painting.

Sat. Nov. 2: Diwali Workshop, Nominal fee, Renfrew Park Community Centre, 2929 East 22nd Ave., Vancouver., 10:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
Professional artists and facilitators leading workshops in rangoli design, diya lamp painting, Bollywood dancing and mehndi hand painting.

Sat. Nov. 2: Diwali Downtown, $5 donation, Roundhouse Community Centre, 181 Roundhouse Mews, Vancouver, 3 p.m. – 8 p.m.
Contemporary and classical Indian culture for the entire family, more than fifteen different music and dance performances, an Indian bazaar featuring South Asian crafts and food, and a room-sized rangoli

Sun. Nov. 3: Diwali Workshop, Nominal fee, Trout Lake Community Centre, 3360 Victoria Dr., Vancouver, 12:30 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.
Professional artists and facilitators leading workshops in rangoli design, diya lamp painting, Bollywood dancing and mehndi hand painting.

Mon. Nov. 4: Diwali Workshop, Nominal fee, South Vancouver Neighborhood House, 6470 Victoria Dr., Vancouver, 12 p.m. – 3 p.m.
Professional artists and facilitators leading workshops in rangoli design, diya lamp painting, Bollywood dancing and mehndi hand painting.

Fri. Nov. 8: Diwali Workshop, Nominal fee, Thunderbird Community Centre, 2311 Cassiar St., Vancouver, 5 p.m. – 7 p.m.
Professional artists and facilitators leading workshops in rangoli design, diya lamp painting, Bollywood dancing and mehndi hand painting.

Fri. Nov. 8: Chai House, $20, Surrey Arts Centre, 13750 88th Ave., Surrey, 8 p.m. – 11 p.m.
Intimate cabaret performance featuring Juno-award winning soul singer Chin Injeti.

lcahute@theprovince.com
twitter.com/larissacahute

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