Social DistanSING

Christopher Clarke Hyndman of the Quixotic Neurotics

In celebration of Neighbourhood House Week 2020 we collaborated with community members to host a unique rooftop concert (dubbed #socialdistanSING) for West End apartment dwellers to cheer from their balconies and celebrate the strength of community during the COVID-19 pandemic.

On May 5th after the daily 7pm cheer for front line workers we surprised neighbours with a Beatles inspired West End rooftop concert from the corner of Gilford Street and Comox Street to celebrate the power of togetherness and social inclusion.

Connections and relationships are at the heart of our organization,”said Executive Director Siobhan Powlowski,”we have operated in this neighbourhood for over 75 years and are proud to have worked alongside thousands of amazing neighbours like musician Christopher Clarke Hyndman to improve our community. While COVID-19 has drastically affected the programs we used to offer, our values remain as strong as ever.”

At a time when most people are staying at home, many apartment renters have been asked by landlords to keep noise to a minimum,and be considerate of neighbours. Organizers of the rooftop concert tried to find the right balance between creating a fun experience,and avoid bothering some neighbours.

“It sounds counter intuitive,”explained local musician Christopher Clarke Hyndman of the Quixotic Neurotics, “I had to convince everyone that more speakers are actually less disruptive than fewer speakers. When you use lots of speakers you can position them in all directions with a lower volume so that everyone can hear the music. That way some neighbours don’t just get thumping bass and echoes, it creates a great experience for everyone.”

This first week in May has historically been declared Neighbourhood House Week by the Mayor of Vancouver, and events are planned all across the city to celebrate the contributions of Neighbourhood Houses. This year organizers had to get creative in devising ways to celebrate the occasion together. The West End is known for its canyons of tall apartments and condo building, and ‘vertical communities’ so a rooftop concert was a perfect fit. It is not uncommon for some buildings to be over 20 stories with hundreds of residents stacked above each other. Unlike must outdoor concerts however, only residents in these buildings were able to watch the show. To make everything possible,organizers had to carefully hoist each piece of sound gear up a fire escape ladder to the roof of the three-storey walk-up apartment building where the event will be held.

“I hope our neighbours enjoy it,”remarked Jim Balakshin, the Director of Community Development, “I can’t think of a better time to host a rooftop concert to cheer people up,and bring everyone together for a common cause.”

The Association of Neighbourhood Houses of BC has been leading community development in Metro Vancouver for over 120 years, and currently operates 16 neighbourhood houses, and an outdoor camp. These facilities have become second homes for many residents, and are a place to makes connections and build long-lasting relationships with neighbours from diverse backgrounds.

Gordon Neighbourhood House has served as a community hub in Vancouver’s West End since 1942. We have a history of working alongside our friends and neighbours to facilitate connection, engagement and collaboration, while seizing opportunities for community development. In the context of COVID-19 our programming may have changed, but our values remain.