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On To Ottawa Trek: Hobo Radical Railway Theatre

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Radical street/railway theatre!
Radical street/railway theatre!

Original Peoples


Vancouver, BC. On Friday, June 11th, 2010, Five activists re-enact with comedy, drinks and historical facts, the begginings of the On to Ottawa trek Movement of 1935, at the Railway Station at the end of Glen Dr. South of Venables St.

Funny actors incite the audience sitting on the grass to join a march with locked arms across the railway to commemorate the folks who marched to the capital so many years back. Every one marches around with a sense of joy and melancholy, drinks and cigarettes on hands, a train passing-by honks and cheers to the crowd, the cops watch the spectacle from afar.       

About 75 years ago, a movement of unemployed men protesting the exploitative conditions of federal relief camps, got together and form a massive trek to Ottawa which made Canada tremble with both excitement and fear as the trekers crossed the country. It was a massive collective that grew in military fashion determined to reach the Countries' capital city and demand justice.  

On Sunday, June the 6th, there was an event in Crab Park to celebrate the 75th Anniversary of this moment in history. Last Friday, there was a play made to honor these folks. A gathering which awoke a sense of comraderie and historical "homesickness," maybe of times which were more militant and vibrant; times were critical masses were achieved.  

The play started by two workers drinking and discussing whether or not they will join the rally or protesting camp workers. Enticed by a supportive and enchanting girl, the folks decide to join the protesters and the whole audience into the rally. The state declares prison and punishement for those who will join, but the trekers have already set their minds on to Ottawa. They re-organize make a public meeting and declare the journey that changed the lives of many, by making their way into the hidden history books of leftist, anarchists, communists and other space monkeys. The crowd yelled for more, they demand the Regina Riot, but the play had already ended.     

The radical street performance, or better said, the radical railway performance, had the unplanned attendance of the police as " "bouncers" who monitored the play, and made calls anytime someone passed by, in or out, but they did not interfere with the crowd. The bonfire, drinks, joints, music and laughter caused curious cops to come nearer to watch the fun.

Although sometimes poorly prepared and a little confusing, the play was a great engaging re-enactment of different times, passionate voices, left jokes, enjoying a communal bonfire, railway music and listening to conversations of community folks committed to social change. The potential of radical street theatre remains by most part quite untapped in Vancouver as compared to many other progressive cities in the world. It is quite provoking to see its potential here. Lets hope to see more of it in the near future.       

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