10/02/2012 02:12 EDT | Updated 12/02/2012 05:12 EST

How Vancouver Is Championing Real Stories, Community Connections

Human culture has always had an oral tradition where stories were passed down from generation to generation to retain history, entertain and connect communities. The modern world, and the rise of mobile and digital technology, has significantly harmed this tradition where SMS, Twitter and status updates through social networks are less about stories and are more about moments in time that do not add up into anything particularly significant.

It's not that the modern, connected world isn't good for story telling, it's just that are not enough of us that are willing to take the step of sharing culturally rich stories or making time to sit and listen to others speak up and tell their stories. The somewhat isolationist culture that is becoming more prevalent is not good for the oral tradition to flourish. Here in Vancouver we do have some champions of both technology and live events in keeping culture and conversations alive.

Earlier this month, there was the 'Extra Ordinary,' a sold-out event at The Playhouse hosted by Rain City Chronicles.

RCC is a series of storytelling nights that has been running since 2009 featuring a diverse roster of Vancouverites. They believe that everyone has a great personal story to tell and their mission is to provide a community space for sharing these stories.

On that night it was a special edition called 'Extra Ordinary' that was part of the Vancouver Foundation and SFU Public Square week. Speakers from varying parts of the community came together, such as Sean Condon (publisher of Megaphone), Sarah Maitland (founder of Writers' Exchange) and Sonny McHalsie (cultural advisor of the Stó:lō Research and Resource Management Centre).

These represent a diverse set of speakers that were not only thought-provoking but also entertaining and their stories truly impacted the audience in a way that was unexpected. It was also bolstered by musical performances by e.s.l and Portage and Main.

Seven days later, an event was held called Interesting Vancouver at The Museum of Vancouver. One of the event organizers, Mark Busse, enticed me to attend by explaining how that, "for all Vancouver's charm, it can hard to live in this city for a variety of reasons, and IV brings Vancouverites from all walks of life together through storytelling without being stifled by a theme or self involved speakers who feel the need to preach, teach, or toot their own horns."

I also asked him about what the event is trying to achieve: "Simple, to enrich the cultural DNA of our city by sending every member of the audience home with a few new friends and interesting stories to tell that may even inspire them to try some new interesting things in their own lives."

On that evening we heard from a number of people in the community including:

  • Lloyd Berhardt (how adoption influenced his ideas about capitalism)
  • Rockin' Ronnie Shewshuk (why employees in today's organizations are disengaged, and how applying the lessons he's learned from barbecue can make the workplace a great place again)
  • Corinne Lea (how the Rio Theatre was almost destroyed by the B.C. Liquor Control and Licensing Branch and how bureaucracy limits arts and culture and is currently killing innovation and progress in British Columbia).


Take these evenings and also remember that local bloggers such as Vancouver Is Awesome and Scout Magazine really provide digital platforms for community stories and we really are making a difference as a whole.

These are all just a small part of the solution and I want you to ask yourself two questions: When was the last time you had an evening with friends to tell stories and pass on historical knowledge? When did you last connect with someone offline that you found to be fascinating through dialogue?

If you are one of the many that cannot remember then go out into your community and find events where you can listen, learn and connect. If you can't find them then create them and start at home with your friends and build it out from there.

If you find it difficult to dedicate time to creating something then share this article (and the links within it) with family and friends through email and on Facebook, Twitter and elsewhere online. That will be a good start in raising awareness, encouraging people to get off of their computer and kick starting the next phase of our oral and online story-telling culture.