PuSh Blog

Meaningful conversations held at Human Library – A Curatorial Statement by Dave Deveau

January 16, 2016

Human Library, Stop the Violence/Zee Zee Theatre, 2016 PuSh Festival
Photo: Liesbeth Bernaerts

What a rare gift to be able to curate this project for a fourth year. The PuSh Festival version of Human Library was supposed to happen over nine days during the 2013 festival. Based on the Human Library model created by Danish company Stop The Violence the public would come discover thirty different and challenging “Human Books” and become “readers” as they were welcomed into an intimate, eye-opening and in many ways transformative conversation. We used the tag line: Borrow a Book, Discover a Person. The project was so well-received, with far more readers than we could accommodate, that it returned in 2014.

Zee Zee Theatre came on board as a co-producer, recognizing that the project aligned perfectly with their mandate to tell small stories in the lives of the marginalized. And yet the project has continued growing, the conversations have continued to resonate.

Here we are in 2016 still trying to find ways to connect with other people in our city, people who are perhaps vastly different from ourselves, but deeply human. Part of the success of the Human Library model is that it creates a safe space for meaningful conversation, something we Vancouverites crave from one another, but don’t seem to have the mechanism to find. We are a lonely city (as found in the 2012 Vancouver Foundation research) that is keen to change that, and in its own incremental way, I’d like to believe that Human Library is doing that.

For this year’s edition I have addressed a noticeable gap in the books on offer and have put a focus on mental health and addiction, a complex conversation that the city has been having for as long as I’ve lived here. If you’ve never experienced the project, come challenge yourself: choose a title that provokes you, that scares you, that confuses you. That’s what the project is about.


Dave Deveau, Youth Program Coordinator, PuSh Festival

Dave Deveau
Playwright in Residence / Associate Producer
Zee Zee Theatre