The Mayworks Festival kicks off in Halifax today, featuring diverse forms of art with connections to HRM, Cape Breton, Cuba and beyond. In its fourth year, the festival “strives to bring workers and artists together, using art to explore economic and social justice”…with the belief that the “Labour Movement must engage in cultural work,” says a press release issued by the Halifax Dartmouth and District Labour Council (HDDLC), the festival’s organizers. HDDLC’s Vice President Admin & Communications, Debbie Richardson, fills us in on the festival’s philosophy and purpose, and highlights just some of the events scheduled throughout the nine days.
AE: What is the festival’s history?
DR: There have been Mayworks Festivals in other cities for a number of years. The Halifax Dartmouth and District Labour Council, and in particular Margaret Anne McHugh and Scott Gillard, put together the first Mayworks Festival in 2010.
AE: Why is it important for the labour workforce to engage in cultural work?
DR: Art has always been an important way of expressing political statements. Bringing workers and artists together can create powerful images, films, plays and other forms of art enriching our lives.
AE: What is an inspiring example of bringing workers together with art?
DR: I think a great local example is The Men of the Deeps. What they have managed to do is keep alive the working class culture of the Cape Breton coalmines and bring it to a wider audience.
“…The Men of the Deeps. What they have managed to do is keep alive the working class culture of the Cape Breton coalmines and bring it to a wider audience.”
AE: What are some highlights for this year’s Mayworks Festival?
DR: Our mini theatre festival is a first for us. We will be presenting three different productions at The Bus Stop Theatre. All shows are 8pm. Reservations should be made through firstname.lastname@example.org. Tickets are $10 each or a Festival pass for all three shows is $25. Tickets will be available for pick up at the door. Cash only.
Heartwood, a one woman play by Laura Burke is being presented by The Doppler Effect. This is the story of her dealings within the Nova Scotia mental health system. We feel this is a great fit for Mayworks because of the huge impact mental health issues play in the workplace. This is very exciting for us to work with a company that has had such critical success in the local theatre community.
Steel and Coal: Work and Protest is being presented by the Big Fiddle Players from Sydney. This is an evening of stories and songs about the struggles of the working people of Cape Breton. Marx in Soho is a play by Howard Zinn in which Karl Marx (played by George MacKenzie) comes back from the dead to clear his name and defend his ideas and his work.
DaPoPo Theatre is back with us again for the fourth year in a row presenting their ever popular Café DaPoPo [where patrons can order a performance at their table] at Bearlys House of Blues on Barrington Street. Admission is $5. We recommend reserving your ticket as this is always a sell out.
AE: What advice do you have for those interested in creating or engaging in art (from the working class or any class) for social justice and a better world?
DR: I would say find something that you really believe in that is either an injustice that needs to be corrected or something that could improve the world and find a way to make it mean something to others, whether it is through music, theatre, art or other types of media.
The Mayworks Festival runs from April 26 – May 4 at various venues around Halifax. http://mayworkshalifax.ca/