50 Artists | 5 Stages | Rain or Shine! volcano@resist.ca | Info/Volunteer Line: 604.255.0163 Photos left to right: Euphrates/The Gossip/ Dope Poets Society/ Ward Churchill/clann zu

15 YEARS OF PEOPLE’S CULTURE: A look back at the Under the Volcano Festival of Art & Social Change

Under the Volcano !5th Anniversary

Under the Volcano started out as a means to get diverse youth together, and today we bring diverse peoples together. First Nations and settlers alike, we come here to share our stories outside of the mainstream media vortex. The Festival is a cultural tool to educate and inspire real alternatives to the overwhelming oppressive forces of patriarchy, racism, capitalism and control by the haves over the have-nots in these post-9/11 days of the US empire. We need Under The Volcano more than ever. This year, ore than 100 community groups join with artists from around the world and mix with several thousand BC residents in our 55-acre forested site.

In this fifteenth anniversary year the Festival programming again reaches out to Ireland, Iraq, Egypt, Philippines, West Africa, India and the Cree and Cherokee Nations. We program with our attention to injustices internationally, but we are also busy looking amongst ourselves - and around ourselves - in our communities. We particularly address this year the unfinished business of our white-washed settler history here in urban and suburban Vancouver.

Our Festival venue has been generously provided by the Tsleil-Waututh Nation, whose unceded territory covers the expanse of Indian Arm and much of Vancouver, including the Burrard Inlet. They have shared these waters and lands with the Squamish Nation and Musqueam Nation for thousands of years.

To mark the 15th anniversary, Under the Volcano has embarked on “Whey-ah- Wichen Facing the Wind Cultural Heritage Project.” Looking back 50 years, we see a rich history of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation sharing this site with settler artists, squatters, and counterculture arts festivals. Whey-ah-Wichen, or in English, “facing the wind,” is the name for Cates Park.

Unknown to us when we started this festival in 1990, 20 years previous thousands of young people gathered at the same site for pleasure faires, renaissance, and country faires. Then in 1971 the Maplewood Flats squatter community was burned out by the local government with promises of progress and a shopping mall.

More on this cross-cultural community art project is available at a new website: www.whey-ah-wichen.org or info@whey-ah-wichen.org.

Also for our 15th year, we would like to especially acknowledge our hosts, the Tsleil Waututh People (“People of the Inlet”). On the programming front, the Festival is working with members of the Nation to bring you interpretive canoe rides, traditional foods, a forest walk, children’s storytelling, and song and dance.

The Festival pays tribute to the cultural heritage of our site, including our namesake, the autobiographical novel “Under the Volcano,’ written by Malcolm Lowry. He penned this famous literature on this site, where he lived with his wife Marjorie, until the squatters’ community was forced out 50 years ago. 81 homes squatter shacks were situated on the foreshore, in what later became Cates Park. The Festival’s spoken word traditions are joined with diverse music, dance, and theatre, as well as a great children’s program, workshops, community tables, local artisans, and more.

Using the “Under the Volcano Festivals” banner, we have expanded and produced dozens of events in BC, including several festivals in the Kootenays. These have all been tagged by our popular logo, designed by Kwakwakawak’w Artist Gord Hill. Hundreds of people have collaborated and brought their inspiration to this volunteer-run “people’s culture” project. Too many to name here, hundreds of people have spent parts of their summers doing this work. As well, several people have given thousands of hours of their time over the years, including founder Irwin Oostindie and long-standing collective members Jeremy Galpin & Meegan Maultsaid.

In the Festival’s early years we challenged Lollapolooza’s Pepsidrenched corporate sell-out of music and politics. Fifteen years later, things have stayed the same with our non-corporate environment and “by donation” ticket policy which ensures no one is turned away from public events because they lack the money.

Our history

The Festival was born out of Vancouver’s very active indy music scene in the late 1980s. Some of us were active with CattleProd (Vancouver’s busiest and progressive promoter in the 1980s), and we were inspired by the autonom movement in Europe and the fledgling D.I.Y. scene in North America. Some of us were DJs at CiTR and COOP Radio. In 1988 we started a non-profit society called Youth Art Works, and in 1989 we opened up youth-run arts centres in warehouses in an industrial area of North Vancouver and in Gastown. No Means No, Brilliant Orange, the Evaporators, and others played at our all-ages shows.

Photo of UTVWe soon found that producing gigs at places like Seylynn Hall was too expensive because of exorbitant municipal rental and deposit fees. Not settling for status quo, we did an outdoor protest gig outside Seylynn to demand better access to these community spaces for youth. When we saw how easy it was to produce a spontaneous outdoor gig, we figured the next move was to start an outdoor youth music festival in a park. We built up the Festival from 300 people the first year, to 1000, to 2200, to 4000 and then to 8000. It’s wavered between 5,000 - 8,000 since. We did this mostly by grassroots promoting, handing out thousands of flyers, and spending many late nights postering all of the GVRD.

Festival organizers also worked on other projects like publishing ARTEST: Youth Arts & Issues Magazine, operated First Street Studios, produced Rock For Choice (the annual benefit for abortion clinics) Mayworks Festival of Working Class Culture, and others.

With so much pain and alienation in the world, there is always going to be a need for gatherings of people with like minds wanting to refuel their resistance batteries. We could have gone for corporate sponsorship years ago, in fact we were going before Lollapalooza, and when it came to town the first year we were attacking it for its corporatization of alternative culture. We don’t want to move to Thunderbird Stadium, and we don’t want the sponsorship which could float this around North America. As long as we stay a sustainable size, we will survive anything.

Many Hurdles, Many Highlights

Old 13th Annual UTV PosterCommie Fest

A headline from right-wing North Shore News columnist Doug Collins declared our Festival to be the “Commie Fest” and warned all good citizens of the perils of attending. He also tried to embarrass local officials enough into revoking our arts funding.

Vancouver’s Postering bylaws

But Doug Collins was not the only conservative force trying to shut us down. The City of Vancouver was so upset that Under the Volcano Festival organizers exercised our constitutional rights to freedom of expression by postering. They tried fining us and tried haranging District of North Vancouver officials into revoking our park permit.

Threatened by young people’s voices

“E Division” is the headquarters of the RCMP in the lower mainland and these gentle folks went over the heads of the local North Vancouver detachment to try to stop our North Vancouver event, not once, but twice. Their first was a phone call to the staff at the North Vancouver Parks Department lying about how “the last time the band ‘Roots of Resistance’ played there had been a riot.” Of course there never was a riot, and ‘Roots of Resistance’ was not a band, but a political organization comprised of young people of colour from Vancouver’s immigrant communities and First Nations.

Stolenwealth Games

Our tribute to Victoria hosting the Commonwealth Games in 1993 emphasized the not-so-pretty effects of the Crown and Canada’s on their colonialist objectives for BC’s unceded First Nations’ territories. The orca resistance stickers were very popular.

Gustafsen Lake

In 1995, Under the Volcano united many forces to protest the largest armed policing action in Canadian history against a small band of sovereigntist protesters near 100 Mile House in BC.

Inter-Nation-All Hip Hop & Hardcore Festival

POWER out of Portland brought its political hip hop message to Vancouver for our Whey-ah-Wichen/Cates Park event, and as well, in 1995, for a special youth festival. This event was to mark the 25th Anniversary of the North Vancouver Arts Council, and was a coproduction with Under the Volcano. Souls of Mischief and Casual (from the Hieroglyphics crew) also performed, as well as locals CUB and Sparkmarker. This was the largest ever hip hop event to date in Vancouver. Due to the misfortunate positioning of the stage (and huge sound system) at the Norseman Field location (Lonsdale @ Hwy #1) homeowners up the mountain became part of the festival’s audience. They were shocked to hear POWER’s revolutionary lyrics bounding up the hillside and overwhelmed 911 operators with phone calls (to request the ‘3 Tenors’ perhaps). The resulting controversy in the North Shore News was actually very favourable for the Festival, ensuring local officials heard the resounding public support for youth programs in public spaces.

Under the Volcano Festivals - Kootenays

Volcano Founder set up shop in the West Kootenays and opened an office in Nelson, BC, as a base for several film, music, and interdisciplinary arts festivals. Nelson may be quaint, but its Nelson City Police staff outnumber its arts and recreation municipal staff 23 to 4. Together with the rural RCMP, they obstructed and harassed organizers as we produced dozens of major cultural events over a two year period. Of the 100+ national touring artists featured in our festivals, highlights include Buffy St. Marie, Lester Quitzau, Hanson Brothers, Malaika, Ellen McIlwaine, Amos Garrett, Cordelia’s Dad, Martin Simpson, the Scrappy Bitches Tour, and all-night raves on Morning Mountain. Today the Under the Volcano Kootenay Moving Pictures Film Festival continues, and is in it’s 11th year. (www.kootenayfilmfest.com)

Security Bond for Festivals

North Vancouver RCMP teamed up with a District Councillor to instigate a $5000 bond fee payable in advance. The RCMP argued this was to provide for potential RCMP cost over-runs for overtime wages in its monitoring of our tremendously safe event. In 15 years we have hardly any public safety issues with a self-regulating and respectful combined audience of approximately 100,000. Through a media assault back, we managed to stop the harassment.

Police blockade

Just a few year ago the NV RCMP also demanded to station a half dozen police vehicles at the park entrance with a search of our patron’s cars. This police escalation and harassment had the threat of stopping peaceful citizens from exercising their right to assemble in a public park. These days a dozen plain clothes and dozen uniformed police has become their normal level of monitoring. All this as the “charitable” Hose ‘N Reel Festival attracts 3000 to a drunken beer garden at North Vancouver’s Mahon Park.

Artist Moments

Hundreds of artists have been presented over the years, here’s just a scratch at our surface...

David Hilliard – co-founder and Chief Of Staff of The Black Panther Party in the 60’s and 70’s, David’s workshop with Jeneda from Blackfire and Splitting The Sky was a political highlight for the festival.

WithOut Reservation – One of the first Native American hip hop crews ever, They hooked up with Festival organizers attending an Indigenous Environment Network gathering in Oklahoma, and later headed north to attend the Festival.

Aztlan Nation followed up the next year by heading north from California with their Chicano hip hop challenging US bloody domination of their territories.

Consolidated brought their eco-justice and anti-patriarchy message to the park.

Claude Mackenzie of Kashtin played to a hot summer night’s crowd, including an audience of many First Nations families.

Tribe 8 letting it all hang out with antics by that year’s Festival MC Archer Pechawis Boukman Eksperyans brought their liberation voices from Haiti, as they toured in the fledgling “world music market” of the 1990s.

Kokora Dance brought a unique performance flavour each time they performed their butoh dance.

Insult To Injury/ Submission Hold – in both of their incarnations, bringing their own brand of anarcho-punk and community activism to the stage

Hope For The Future

15 years of community organizing, many challenges, many political and artistic victories, and a continued passion for celebrating our resistance. As long as the fight for social justice and people’s liberation continues, so do we. Spread the word, culture matters.

By Irwin Oostindie



hosted by resist!ca | design by sub.Antix