Max Wyman: Speaking on Cultural Activity, Creativity at Vancouver Public Library

Max Wyman: Speaking on Cultural Activity, Creativity at Vancouver Public Library

Living the Global City series

Vancouver writer and cultural commentator Max Wyman,
President of the Canadian Commission for UNESCO, spoke at the Vancouver Public Library tonight.  His talk was described that he would address that:

As we
move from the Information Age to the Imagination Age, the role of
creative activity is fundamental to the healthy and peaceful
development of human society. For these reasons, it is beyond time to
relocate creative activity and expressive engagement at the heart of
the social agenda – with an imagination-based education as the keystone.

Max Wyman, former dance and arts critic, now cultural commentator and mayor of Lions Bay, BC., is also the author of The Defiant Imagination: Why Culture Matters.
There was a full crowd at the Vancouver Public Library, Central
Branch's Alice Mackay room, when I walked in.  There were
television cameras set up.  Vancouver City Councilor Elizabeth
Ball, in her role as board member of Vancouver Public Library, gave Max
an incredible introduction listing his many achievements.

Max started speaking about Vancouver's incredible diversity of culture,
and how both he and Elizabeth Ball were recently at an incredible event
called Gung Haggis Fat Choy, created by Toddish McWong.  He went
on to describe that it blends together Chinese New Year and Haggis,
featuring performers such as a bagpiper with South Asian tabla drums,
Rick Scott and his Chinese partner (Harry Wong), and Faye Leung – the
hat lady, Jim Harris the Green Party leader.  And that they along
with several others including a First Nations Chief were all reading
verses from Robbie Burns “Address to a Haggis”….

What a surprise, to be sitting in the audience and to have Max Wyman
saying such cultural praise about my creation Gung Haggis Fat
Choy.  He recognizes that culture is organic, and that it
constantly changes and evolves.  The performers at GHFC are those whom I
recognize and highlight, but they are already doing their own
thing.  But what is important is that the creativity and the
imagination helps us to see ourselves in ways that we wouldn't
otherwise.  And I think that is why Max Wyman cited Gung Haggis
Fat Choy as a wonderful example of the importance of Imagination and
Creativity for cultural activity.


Todd Wong with special guest Max Wyman at Gung Haggis Fat Choy dinner, January 22, 2006 – photo Ray Shum

Max gave an incredible talk, describing the importance of cultural
interchange.  He said that UNESCO was founded 62 years ago for the
mission of peace and humanity, but there are more wars going on in the
world today.  He said that the divisions between East and West,
North and South are vast.

He also told the audience that Canada is percieved as very important at
UNESCO.  He described a huge room with many many countries
represented where Canada's desk is situated between Cameroon and Cape
Verde.  Wyman said that when Canada speaks, everybody stops to

At the end of his talk, he invited people to ask questions.  The
questions were lively and the points well made. The audience was
sensitive when a young Korean man struggled to convey his ideas and
questions in English, but also could be curt when speakers were
rambling and overbearing in their personal rants.

When I stepped up to the microphone, Max recognized and welcomed
me.  I thanked him for mentioning Gung Haggis Fat Choy, and he
stated that I was one of the important cultural creators.  Wow…

I stated that when Expo 86 came to Vancouver, we saw an incredible
amount of great arts performances that we wouldn't have normally been
able to.  Our cultural horizons are limited by our own experiences
but cultural interchange with Canadians in New Foundland or Innuvik are
important.  It is also important to recognize arts creators not
always as starving student stereotypes but also as cultural visionaries
and cultural engineers.  I pointed out that the previous Vancouver
City Council had created an performing artist program at City Hall, but
that it needed to be taken out to the streets in the form of a City
Poet Laureate or City Arts Laureate and to that point I asked
councillor Elizabeth Ball, and Max Wyman, if they as arts
advocates/politicians could help support such activities.  

Max agreed with me, and said that it is most important to “take it to
the streets”, and he talked about how both he and Ball are new to the
GVRD, but are looking at ways to create community arts interchanges
within the GVRD.  In my closing, I then asked him about his
comments on CBC about the 8 minutes of Canada at the closing Olympic

Max said that watching Vancouver Mayor Sam Sullivan in his wheel chair
accept the flag, was one of the most beautiful moments of the
ceremonies, that brought tears to his eyes.  He said that Ben
Heppner sang O Canada, so beautifully, but was underwhelmed by the rest
of it.  He did mention the stereotypes, and had said he had been
less than discreet about his comments on CBC.

People really enjoyed themselves at this UBC sponsored event.  I
talked briefly with Chan Centre Director Dr. Sid Katz, who apologized
that he was unable to attend this year's Gung Haggis Fat Choy dinner,
but enthusiastically said that Rick Scott and Pied Pumpkin had been one
of his first cultural events in Vancouver.

Here is a link to a Max Wyman talk called Why Culture Matters in Moncton, NB, February 12, 2004

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