PuSh Blog

“Step Forward”: 10th Anniversary PuSh Festival Opening Speech from Norman Armour

March 06, 2014

An overwhelming number of people have requested the inspiring “Step Froward” speech Norman Armour, PuSh Festival’s Artistic & Executive Director gave at the PuSh Festival’s 10th Anniversary Gala Performance of Super Night Shot, at the Vancouver Playhouse Theatre.

So here it is. Look back to January and relive the opening of the 2014 PuSh Festival (sans cake and ice cream).

Norman Armour addressing the 2014 PuSh Festival audience at the 10th anniversary gala performanceA while back, way before ever imagining with Katrina Dunn the possibilities of a festival such as PuSh, I spoke with a staff member of the City of Vancouver’s Office of Cultural Services (at the time called Cultural Affairs). I had told this particular—indeed wise—person that I felt I had pretty good idea of what the Canada Council for the Arts was about, what its mission was; and I had somewhat of an idea of the BC Arts Council and what its sense of purpose was. But that I had often wondered what the City’s arts and culture funding priorities were. She took a brief moment and said simply this: “Place. We are about place.”

This notion has stuck with me ever since. Thank you, Alice Niwinski.

On the other side of the coin… For me the performing arts have always been about people. By its very nature it’s intensely collaborative and interactive. “People make the play!” an old friend and colleague is prone to murmur. Thank you, Chris Gerrard-Pinker.

Place and people. A nice twinning. Add a dash of verve, courage and adventure… well… As the Mario Andretti, the IndyCar driver, once quipped, “If everything seems under control, you’re just not going fast enough.”

Thank you, Gob Squad.

Festivals come in two basic types, as someone wrote in an essay for the broadsheet we commissioned for this evening’s occasion. There are “citywide” festivals and there are “civic” festivals. PuSh is the latter. PuSh’s interest is squarely with the experiences, concerns and aspirations of our city. And whether the work or artist is from here, from across Canada, Seattle, or Berlin for that matter, the PuSh Festival and its ever-evolving sense of itself and vision, is deeply rooted here. And in that way, the Festival is all of ours.

Thank you, Kris Nelson.

And thank you… to each and every one of you here tonight for making the Festival a reality, a success—a thing to be proud of, and inspired by.

Thank you, Gregor. Thank you, Sam. Thank you, Andy… for your words, your deeds and your support.

Now this Festival is here without a doubt because of the support of public agencies that had the foresight and the resolve to know that we were on to something with this idea of a mid-winter, contemporary international performing arts festival. In future, however, our fortunes will increasingly lie with the private sector. Private donations and corporate investment underlies much of the Festival’s continued growth and vitality. Indeed, the importance and potential role that our city’s private sector has to play can be found in every corner of this city’s thriving arts scene.

If you believe that the arts are key to a thriving civic economy and culture, then I invite you step forward. If you believe that Vancouver’s growing identity is directly tied to the city being viewed as a place of innovation, creative thinking, and progressive action, then I invite you to step forward. If you believe that the GDP of Canada’s arts sector, at $13.9 billion—and BC’s at$ 6.3 billion—is more than enough proof of the arts’ economic value, let alone its intellectual, physical and spiritual worth, then I invite you step forward. (Worth noting, that sports in BC produces basically the same amount at $6.8 billion in GDP.) The numbers are from a recent Department of Canadian Heritage report, based on 2009 figures.

Thank you, Pat Tobin.

Our city needs a new generation of leadership—individuals, CEOs, philanthropists, corporate entities, financial institutions, downtown business associations, local brands, high tech start-ups, restaurateurs, micro breweries, local distilleries, fashion designers, retailers… and so on. The arts are a big part of why you and your employees are living here. And this is regardless of where head office might happen to be. Your customers are arts patrons through and through. If you are doing business within this city’s limits, then you need to step forward. You are the company you keep. The arts are not on the edges; they are the centre. And in the case of the work you will see in the 2014 PuSh Festival: The niche is no longer a niche.

I promise, you will be thanked.

Okay, one final thank you. And then cake and ice cream, I promise.

There is one individual I want to single out tonight who is behind everything that is right about this organization, everything that has been done properly right from the start, everything that we stand for.

Now you need to know that she rarely steps into the spotlight, rarely takes centre stage, or grabs the mic. Normally she is to be found down in the engine room, in the galleys, or up on deck. Her doggedness, her wit, honesty, tenacity, and sheer muscle have been the backbone of this organization. She will be leaving PuSh in June, having achieved everything she set out to do. (The posting for her replacement is still up on the PuSh site; take a peek if you are so inclined. Trust me, she’d want me to let you all know.)

Thank you, Minna Schendlinger.

Now, everyone, please join me in dedicating this year’s 10th Anniversary PuSh Festival to our founding Managing Director.

Okay, everyone into the lobby for cake and ice cream!