Workshop & Presentation Outlines

It’s important to be clear, the Social Spaces Summit is a gathering. Our hope is that you (all of you participant-organizers) are coming together to share ideas, wisdom, experiences, and skills with your spaces and to make new friendships. This is not a conference or some other sort of over-programmed, over-structured, formal “presentation” event. We want to humbly create a venue and space for groups and individuals to come together in an equalized manner. The Purple Thistle is not “putting on” the summit, so much as facilitating a rich and fertile environment for these conversations to happen. We (like all of you) are only experts in our own experience; we have as much to learn as we have to offer.

Accessibility information for each space is at the bottom.



Welcoming by Khelsilem Rivers //

Rivers, on the Thistle Institute Collective, is a time-traveling Indigenous magician of epic proportions. An evolved Indigenous who has transcended and regressed past contemporary and traditional labels. Rumoured to be from this territory and from the world at the same time.


Matt Hern //

The Purple Thistle (2000-2011)

This talk will be about the founding and evolution of the Thistle (and other spaces in East Van throughout that time). I will discuss some of the specific strategies we have used over the years and some of the challenges we have dealt with, our rationales, and thoughts around why and how these spaces have been worth the struggle. Other themes will include hospitality, difference, mess, accumulation of garbage and cleaning regimes.


Ruby Smith Diaz //

Facilitation. Social Justice. Heart.

Keepin’ it Real: Learning to Face Ourselves for Stronger Communities
Oppression can be hard to unlearn, and sometimes even our biggest efforts to be anti-oppressive can still be hurtful to others. In this workshop, we’ll be looking at our awesome selves, and also the parts of ourselves that are sometimes less awesome, in order to build stronger foundations for our communities. This is a hands on collaborative workshop, so come with an open mind and gentle heart.


Son Edworthy & Philip McCutcheon //

Community Wise Resource Centre (The Old Y Centre) ((Calgary))

Stories for Space / Space for Stories
Stories can educate, affirm and inspire us in immeasurable, unpredictable ways and sharing these stories helps us feel less alone.  Social Spaces can function as an “in-between” space, not work and not home, no cost associated, where we can meet each other and exchange ideas, information and stories.  Popular education style, we will explore our social spaces in theory and in practice, through stories.
Part 1 – Stories for spaces (45 min) After introductions, facilitators will share photos and talk about three of the spaces we have been involved with, focusing on practical information about creating and sustaining collective spaces and the reasons why we feel this work is important.
Part 2 – Space for Stories (60 min) The second part of the workshop makes space for others to share their stories through facilitated discussion and fun activities. Participants will help shape the content, based on key themes such as, “collective decision-making in practice,” “vision and values/points of unity,”  “renting/leasing vs. owning vs. squatting,” “fundraising and creative accounting,” “registered non-profits, cooperatives and anarchist collectives.”


Jeff Davis & The Spartacus Books Collective //

Spartacus Books

This will be an informal discussion with a few of us collective members in our space about what we do, how we run as a collective, what it looks like to run a social space alongside a ‘business’, and some challenges regarding the intergenerational and experiential differences without our collective.


Jim Carrico //

Red Gate (past & present)

I’ve been un-managing artist-run spaces, mainly in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, for almost 30 years.  They were located at 36 Powell St (1984-91), 47 West Hastings (1992-2004) and most recently at 152-156 W. Hastings (aka the Red Gate, 2004-2011). In many ways these spaces were the same place in different buildings; the people and most of the stuff simply migrated from one place to the other. Like islands that are geographically separated, yet supporting similar life-forms and relationships, these spaces were once numerous and inter-connected enough to make up a functioning cultural ecosystem of self-directed, self-organized, and self-supporting activity, outside of the funding, supervision or control of state and corporate hierarchies. With the rapid gentrification of the neighborhood this “habitat” for such an ecosystem is quickly disappearing.
This workshop and discussion will cover some of the history of these aforementioned spaces in the DTES, and some strategies for renewing and reconstituting these endangered “cultural wildlife refuges”.
(For those of you interested in a historical survey of the Red Gate, circa 2007-2011: )


Dani Aiello, Nathan Crompton, and Sean Antrim  //

The Mainlander

Here today, Evicted tomorrow: The Political Economy of Cultural Spaces in Vancouver
Over the past four years, dozens of cultural institutions — once seen as the cultural mainstay of the City — have been evicted and displaced. With the second-term election of a harsh neoliberal municipal government, this ongoing process of displacement is showing little signs of relenting. The Mainlander will lead a discussion on the political economy of cultural spaces in Vancouver, including a engagement with questions surrounding the current class position of artists and cultural workers. Looking through the lens of City initiatives such as the Homelessness and Housing Plan, ‘Creative City’ initiatives, and the Green Capital Economic Strategy, the discussion will focus on displacement and gentrification as localized instance of a global strategy of capital accumulation and neoliberal city-building.


Sara Ross & Allison Prime //

Beehive Collective House and Cherry Tree Fort Collective

Domestic Collectives: a radical approach to day-to-day living:

Challenge the stupid confines of the nuclear family with bravery and skills.
Domestic collectives are one way to share the work of daily life, and to actualize values of social and environmental justice right in the home. Together, we can hold safe space for individual and collective growth, and literally support each other in the work of powerful, healthy living.
This workshop will be participatory in nature, with facilitated discussion. We will look at some of the systems and practices that help domestic collectives thrive, specifically ways to increase connection and decrease conflict in the home: sharing food, structures for regular social connection, flexibility, and shared values.


Son Edworthy & Philip McCutcheon //

Community Wise Resource Centre (The Old Y Centre) ((Calgary))

When People control the Commons
In this workshop we will explore how gentrification, the enclosure of common space, affects neighborhoods and the role of social spaces in this process. Through a facilitated discussion we will ask a number of questions fundamental to many social spaces.
What is the role that artist-run and social centres play in this movement of displacement?

What responsibility do these spaces have when it comes to gentrification?

What can/should be done to ensure that social spaces can continue to enhance access to the commons? Social centres are active participants in public space. The activities of organizations in public space are negotiated but on what terms and with what outcomes… and for whom do they benefit in the long term?
CommunityWise staff will explain where their space is at when it comes to these issues and will draw upon our individual experience in other collectively run social spaces Robert’s Street in Halifax and Haymarket Cafe in Calgary. We ask participants to share what projects they have been involved with and what challenges they may have faced while operating in a neighborhood undergoing gentrification. We will follow through to examine how values, unity and solidarity fit in during points of drastic change in a community.
Ultimately, this is a question of what we can do to stem the unbridled growth and displacement that shadows our efforts to preserve grassroots community power.


Aja Rose Bond & Gabriel Soloman //

THE STAG Library (Strathcona Art Gallery)

Fostering social spaces in our homes

The STAG Library is an actual semi-public, semi-private reading and lending library that acts to find an ambiguous location between private property and the commons. We run a library out of our home, picking up from a long tradition of using houses and apartments as music venues, art galleries and reading rooms. We see the broader use of domestic spaces as a tactic for resisting not only the broader control of public space by the city, but as a place where communalist ways of living can be explored and fostered. We are also interested in reclaiming the role of Art and Literature as central to radical life and refuse to abdicate its production and exhibition to larger institutions.

We would like to share our space with you during this workshop, and have a discussion that touches on a few of these different themes: Libraries, Private/Public, Domestic Spaces, Art & Literature.


Isaac Oommen – Panel Facilitator //

VMC / 12th & Clark / Redwire Magazine

Losing Radical Organizing Space – Lessons and Transformations
This will be a panel discussion with a short introduction by the facilitator, followed by a ten-minute presentation by three panelists:
Caitlin Ffrench from the Anti-Poverty Committee
Riel Manywounds from Redwire magazine
Magnolia from the 12th and Clark collective
The brief presentations will be followed by questions and discussion on the experiences of running specific radical social spaces, how those spaces were lost, and the more general impacts and lessons for organizing.


Cole Smith //

Dechinta University participant Fall 2012

Wandering through colonial space
During this session the group will participate in a ‘wander’; A walk around the East Vancouver area. Participants will be asked to record in their own ways their experiences and observations of the production of settler-colonial space. The concept of settler-colonialism will be introduced at the outset of the workshop, and participants will be asked to consider how this relates to the development of a story map. The group will then collectively develop a map to visually represent the ‘settler-space’ of East Van. As a settler, I feel I have much to learn from stories of place and histories of dwelling. The process of colonization not only erased indigenous identity, it also erases its own. Through this session I intend to ‘produce a space’ as well as a map that aids in understanding the occupation and colonization of everyday life.

This method is primarily informed by the Dene First Nations and how they map through story. Also, but concepts that originate with European thought: the situationalist practice of ‘psychogeography’ and Henri Lefebvre’s concept of the production of space.


Richard Day //

Weirdoville 1.0  ((Ontario))

This talk, and the discussion that follows will be about the role of intra- and inter-group relations in holding spaces. I will focus on anti-oppression which, as it is currently practiced, can often have quite damaging effects on the morale and cohesion of groups, through often unconscious behaviors like the ‘race to innocence’ and the ‘race to radicalism’. Holding a space usually means getting along not just with each other, but with the neighbors as well, even though they are not likely to share our ethical and political commitments. How can we preserve what is fundamentally important – and absolutely necessary – about anti-O, while shedding some of its more debilitating aspects?


Rianne Svelnis //

SWAMP Theatre of the Oppressed

Back to the Body (3 hours)

Our culture teaches us that education and learning takes place in our heads. Institutionalized, mainstream academia as well as activism, functions largely through the use of these types of learning:

‘rational’ and ‘critical’ thinking; analysis; memorizing; being talked at / repeating back

We are not only taught to concentrate our learning process exclusively in our minds but we are also taught to actively ignore the wise, intelligent, useful information the rest of our body is sending us at all times. This deliberately cuts us off from out body’s wisdom and intuition in order to make us more easily controlled, and less capable of imagining alternatives.

When we cut ourselves off from our body’s wisdom – when we stop listening – we get sick. And when we get sick, our communities get sick and the world gets sick.

The Swamp utilizes Augusto Boal’s Theatre of the Oppressed as well as various dance and movement techniques to invite ourselves back into our bodies; to inhabit our own space. Swamp would like to offer a balance to the valuable discussions and information-sharing already taking place in radical spaces by accessing, exploring and sharing the personal and collective stories that we carry in our bodies.

The physical exercises and games are led gently and safely and people of all forms of experience and ability are encouraged to participate.


Bryan Welch //

Kites Nest & A Curious Summer ((San Francisco / New York))

Skrill: A guided conversation about the economics of radical spaces.

I’m looking forward to the opportunity to talk with other people who are grappling with how to make ends meet for their project, while working to rethink or dismantle the capitalist paradigm. The paradoxes that radical social spaces struggle with are unique, and I’m excited about the prospect of a bunch of us rare birds inhabiting the same room together and getting into some real talk about money. Designing sustainable budgets & equitable sliding scales, non-monetary compensation for volunteers, how to bring in money without diluting your politics – as directors of a community learning center, these things are never far from our minds. I’d love to swap our successes & failures, triumphs & compromises with those of other summit participants, and get some analyzing, dreaming, & strategizing done as well.

As people who seek to dismantle capitalism, how can we get more comfortable thinking and talking about money?
How can we put into practice a mentality around the work we do that takes into account all the non-monetary contributions that keep our projects going – all the donations, volunteer hours, labors of love? How can we make a budget that includes all of this, and how can we sustain these non-monetary infusions of value into our projects?
What are we doing right? Why do our volunteers & participants keep coming back? How are we creating a culture that makes our volunteers & participants feel valued, taken care of, loved? How could we screw that up?
Is there some sort of anti-capitalist business model we could fashion that explains how we operate? What can we steal from the world of business and repurpose based on our values?

Budget show’n’tell: sharing how each of our projects work financially, with actual numbers.

Drawing the whole: a drawing exercise in which we will try to create a visual model of how our projects really work, with all the non-monetary love, effort, and value represented.

Business model generation for radicals: we’ll see if we can modify a business model template so that it makes sense in a radical context.


Anthony Meza-Wilson //

Purple Thistle Institute collective member / Gallery Gachet Volunteer Coordinator

Unsettling Social Spaces
As non-indigenous people to this land what obligations and responsibilities do we have to the land and the people who live in dispossession here? What are the characteristics of being an ally? What tangible steps can we take toward the return of indigenous land and the support of indigenous systems of governance? This workshop will attempt to answer some of these questions while looking at the ramifications of creating, as non-indigenous people, social spaces working for justice on stolen indigenous land. We will have a conversation on strategies and ideas we have for unsettling our spaces and our communities.



Physical Accessibility information


The Dogwood Centre has one ground-level entrance followed by 6 stairs with a railing to the kitchen and common room level. The common room has one entrance with 3 stairs. The doorways are 38 inches in width. There are two gender neutral washrooms in the space, one of which is on the ground floor.

The Thistle has 16 stairs up to the second floor, they are 38 inches in width with a railing. There is no elevator. There is one gender neutral washroom at the space.

Rhizome has detailed accessibility information here; The results of an accessibility audit conducted by the Radical Access Mapping Project.

Spartacus Books is wheelchair accessible.  It has a ground-level entry, and the entire space is ground level. The front door and bathroom (gender neutral) are 31 inches across. 

The STAG is 10 stairs up to the main floor of a lane-way home. The front door is 38 inches across. The bathroom is located on the second floor, and while gender neutral, is unfortunately not wheelchair accessible.

Each of these venues are a maximum of 20 minutes walking time from each other. Please contact Dani during the Summit for information on travel assistance.