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Nanaimo's Multicultural Festival promotes community's diversity

NANAIMO - Alice Francis performs during Nanaimo's annual Old City Quarter Multicultural Festival Saturday (June 25).
Alice Francis performs as the headlining act during the annual Old City Quarter Multicultural Festival Saturday (June 25).

Learning about other cultures and making connections with people from different backgrounds can help build bridges.

It can broaden understanding and acceptance.

The 11th annual Old City Quarter Multicultural Festival is a chance for people to explore these ideas said Hilde Schlosar, executive director of the Central Vancouver Island Multicultural Society,

“It’s an opportunity to showcase the diversity that actually exists in our community,” she said. “It’s a really great opportunity for people to explore and to take a trip around the world and expand their horizons … to meet other Canadians of different ethnic origins.”

Schlosar said the multicultural festival also allows people attending the festival to dig a little deeper and learn about other cultures, beyond the different foods and cultural dances or singing showcased.

“It’s an opportunity to have conversations and learn a little more and get educated,” she said.

Alice Francis, who lives in Germany and is the headliner performer for the festival, said in an e-mail she’s travelled and performed around the world and collaborating and meeting other musicians from different cultural backgrounds shows people different ways to open up their mind and perspective.

“Most important is not to be afraid. To be open and learn from other people doesn’t mean you have to adapt or that you might lose yourself,” she said. “There is no such thing as a perfect person or society, people and communities are constantly changing as time does as well. Communities can learn from other cultures or it might lead them for better solutions for themselves.”

Francis and her band members perform a unique style of swing music, she calls neo-swing. It includes contemporary electronic sounds, synthesizers and auto tune effects, with a foundation of swing and jazz.

“We combine old style with new,” she said.

During the festival Francis will perform some old-time favourites such as Shoot Him Down and St. James Ballroom.

Francis started singing at an early age. She got her first guitar when she was 11 years old and started composing songs.

“My all-time childhood dream was to become an opera singer and I was listening to Shirley Bassed as a child,” she said. “I loved how she was able to influence people’s moods with her voice. I wanted to be able to do the same.”

The 11th annual Old City Quarter Multicultural Festival, with event host DJ Allgood, is Saturday (June 25) and runs from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Wesley Street.

The event has a diverse range of entertainment. The day kicks off with Chinese dancers performing from 10:30-11 a.m. Other entertainment includes: Jirong Huang Chines violinist; Bill Helin a First Nations storyteller and musician from 11-11:30 a.m.; Yannis Sahanis from 11:45 a.m. to 12:20 p.m.; The Clanns perform from 12:30-1:15 p.m.; La Familia takes the stage from 1:30-2:30 p.m.; latin dancers perform from 2:30-2:45 p.m.; Peter Poole is 2:45-3 p.m.; Vesna Dancers performs from 3-3:15 p.m., a multicultural fashion show by Panache Productions is 3:30-4 p.m. and headliner Alice Francis takes the stage from 4-5 p.m.

Children’s entertainment also runs from noon to 3 p.m. and includes special balloons, face painting and colouring activities.

An anti-racism play shows at 12:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. at the Delicado’s Stage. La Cantina, a licensed are will serve wine and beer from the Longwood Brewery. It is a fundraiser for the Nanaimo Blues Society.

The festival also includes exotic foods and an interactive street fair. Admission is by donation.

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