Several reasons why people with a love of the bizarre should visit Vancouver…

Anna Smith in her Vancouver hospital

Anna Smith reports from Vancouver on wide cultural matters

This blog’s occasional Canadian correspondent Anna Smith tells me that there is an enormous amount of construction in Vancouver at the moment: over a hundred tower cranes rear up on the skyline.  She tells me a team representing fifty construction firms flew to Ireland last month recruiting workers. In Vancouver’s local Irish newspaper, full page ads are running:


This is Anna’s latest despatch from Canada:


Well-stacked shelves at Vancouver's Library

Well-stacked shelves in Vancouver’s Library

The building which used to house the main branch of Vancouver Public Library has evolved into an enormous Victoria’s Secret store and is bursting with brassieres, panties and corsets. The cornerstone, however, remains intact – So it now appears as if the Lieutenant Governor (the representative of Queen Elizabeth II in Canada) presided over the dedication of a lingerie supermarket.

The design of the new main branch of the library is based on the Colosseum in Rome and has got rid of most of its books, although a small volume of John Hegley poems survives. Most of the books have been replaced with computers which are being used without interruption by coffee-swilling, mentally-ill and homeless people who have given up hope of finding affordable housing and are engaged in other research.

Several other local buildings have recently been converted into churches. I have no idea why churches are getting popular here, unless it is something to do with so many used bookstores going bankrupt and the proximity of the United States.

The Hollywood Movie Theater on Broadway, once famous for art house and second run movies, has become a church.

Across the street from the ex-Vancouver Public Library – now Victoria’s Secret – building, the enormous Center for the Performing Arts is now home to an evangelical church. It used to stage elaborate Chinese Action Musicals.

Chinese Action Musicals

Chinese Action Musicals’ home is now an evangelical church

I only know the term ‘Chinese Action Musicals’ from the posters round here. It appears that they are a form invented by writer/director Dennis Law – a retired vascular surgeon turned theatre impresario.

He is Chinese but lives in Denver USA and has produced ten action musicals. They are said to be a combination of Kung Fu, martial arts, acrobatics, acoustic and lavish scenic wonders, erotic scenes, dance and music… and a non verbal performance spectacle of otherworldly beauty with virtuoso body movement skills.

Mr Law is the survivor of a messy divorce (he found his godson naked in his bedroom closet) and says Chinese humour and dialogue does not translate well for international audiences. His most recent productions include The Terracotta Warriors (two-thirds dance and one-third martial arts) and Tang Concubines (not sure of the percentages on that one),

Half Burns Night, half Chinese New Year - in Vancouver

Event half Burns Night, half Chinese New Year

Another impresario you might be interested in is a man called Toddish McWong, who has been holding an annual Scottish Chinese fusion cultural event here for several years under the title GUNG HAGGIS FAT CHOY. It combines Robbie Burns Night with Chinese New Year.

I have never been, but will try to go this January so I can report to you about it.

At the moment, I am taking photos of buildings in Vancouver for some mysterious architect I have never met. All I initially knew was that his name is Edward, he likes shoes and lives in Toronto. The story has now expanded to involve lady lawyers, a yacht, vipers, a cocktail party and a person who is something like that Peter Sellars character in Being There

Meanwhile, my smart phone has a problem in the form of Pope Francis.

My new screensaver is a picture of the Pope, arm outstretched, performing a blessing.

I did not ask for this, it just happened somehow.

OK, he is from Argentina and I do prefer Jesuits, if I have to have a preference.

I am glad that he says Who are we to judge? and that he said the drownings in Italy are an atrocity.

But I am not a Catholic and I don’t know how the Pope got onto my phone. It might have come from the BBC and is probably the result of the phone being jostled in my handbag shortly after reading the news.

'Sir Gideon Vein’ (copyright photograph by Anna Smith)

‘Sir Gideon Vein’ wore cravats back then (Photograph copyright of Anna Smith)

The only similar quasi-spiritual event that comes to mind from my past would be one occasion in London when performer Ian Hinchliffe appeared at the door of our flat at ten in the morning. He was half-cut as usual and was accompanied by a quiet, bewildered but ordinary-looking young man whom he introduced as The Benefactor. Ian pronounced this (being from Yorkshire) as Tut Benefactor.

Ian and Tut Benefactor paced restlessly while Sir Gideon Vein adjusted his cravat and then they  all headed off for a day at the horse races at Epsom, financed by Tut Benefactor.

Do you ever have occasion to visit Brussels? There are a couple of buildings that I need photographed there. If you know anyone who lives or works there or is passing through, let me know.

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Filed under Architecture, Canada, Humor, Humour, Surreal, Theatre