Art for the common good

Organizers of a new arts and social justice festival called ‘There Goes The Nayburhood’ are hoping to inspire inclusion and positive change in St. John’s.

A new festival aimed at reinvigorating St. John’s arts and social justice communities with a renewed sense of unity and purpose is getting underway this evening in St. John’s.

There Goes The Nayburhood is about “challenging our social engagement norms by showcasing the talents and ideas of progressive people and groups, that are willing to share and possibly teach their craft to others,” the festival’s website reads. “Its over our heads too, so lets get together for 6 days, for a creative and socially conscious retreat, and learn about each other to help produce unique solutions & useful action plans.”

Running June 26 to July 1, the festival will feature a variety of artistic performances, workshops and other social events in St. John’s, Paradise and Conception Bay South (CBS), all planned with relative spontaneity and on a shoestring budget, according to organizer and CBS-based multidisciplinary artist RN Wagner.

Reasons to share and promote accessibility

The impetus came from Wagner’s experience living and working in St. John’s, where he says a lack of “safe, free and accessible art and music programs for youth, a general lack of respect for the multi-cultural community…and a feeling of overall disconnection and personal dissatisfaction with the current festivals and quality of life” were discouraging him from being in the city’s downtown area.

The final straw came when Wagner and his wife evacuated their rented residence because of a mold problem only to discover they could not find a decent and affordable place to live, so the couple moved to CBS.

As part of their effort to inject St. John’s with a safe, educational, affordable and solution-oriented festival for artists and residents of all ages, Wagner started planning the festival, the title of which he appropriated from its often derogatory usage.

“I believe that if we see the problems, it’s our duty to fix them,” he says. “There are some good politicians out there, but it’s time the people vote on grassroots solutions to issues of our community. “We all live here together, so let’s do this together – it’s our community, not the oil industry’s, it’s our festival, not my festival, and we will work with all the small fish to eat the big fish ’til they start to feel small again!”

Events that will inspire

Toronto and London-based anarchist hip-hop artist Testament will perform and participate in festival workshops Thursday and Friday. Photo courtesy
Toronto and London-based anarchist hip-hop artist Testament will perform and participate in festival workshops Thursday and Friday. Photo courtesy

On the schedule of events are a host of workshops and shows, including Thursday’s all-ages “Broken English” spoken word event, downtown cafe crawl, and “This is What Democracy Looks Like” workshop series and film screening at the Centre for Social Justice on Water Street.

The Friday Rocket Room offering features an all-day and evening all-ages arts workshop series (texture building, music, film, hip-hop songwriting) and show, featuring anarchist hip-hop artist Testament of Toronto ‘revolutionary hip-hop’ duo Test Their Logik, and several local acts.

A buskers’ showcase will carry the festival into the weekend, Saturday at the St. John’s Farmers’ Market from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., and a beach party will close it out Canada Day at Topsail Beach.

“Our audience is the ‘willing to listen, teach and learn’ audience, and…we don’t care too much about money, (but) rather the importance of economic accessibility and participation of our workshops,” says Wagner, explaining the decision to make admission to all shows $10 or PWYC (pay-what-you-can) in order to attract those most interested in participating, not only those who have enough money to attend. In addition, all workshops and film screenings are free.

There Goes The Nayburhood kicks off tonight with an improv workshop, open mic, and show at CBTGs, beginning at 7 p.m. For festival details, including a full schedule, visit


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