Richmond World Festival Unites Cultures Across Canada

KPU-sponsored event sees acts like Tokyo Police Club and Shiamak perform to thousands
Alyssa Laube, Coordinating Editor

A performer from the White Thunder Dance Troupe demonstrates traditional Indigenous dance to a crowd of spectators. (Alyssa Laube)

Spectacular in its size for an event in the Lower Mainland, the Richmond World Festival brought cultures from all over Canada together on Sept. 2 and 3.

Over 75 artists and 40 food trucks congregated in Minoru Park to serve and perform for crowds at the free festival, with top-tier headliners Tokyo Police Club, Dragonette, and Verbal Jint taking the stage in the evenings.

The grounds were separated into six categories, each including performance spaces: the culinary stage, Richmond Centre food truck festival, artisan market, global village, wide world of sports, and digital carnival. Nine stages were set up in total, each thematically different than the rest.

Kwantlen Polytechnic University supported the event as a community sponsor, and had a tent set up among the throngs of vendors offering products, information, and games.

Gurleen Bajwa, a student recruitment coordinator and Human Resources major at KPU, was responsible for speaking to anyone interested in the university at the festival, which he says is one of the busiest events of the year for volunteers like him.

“I’ve been answering a lot of questions about the school of design, especially in Richmond right now. That’s where the new building is so a lot of students want to know about the courses or what they can expect from university,” he says. “We’re very well-recognized, so people who recognize us from other events are coming out from the community.”

On the evening of Sept. 2, the Shiamak Dance Team presented a routine called “The Spirit of India” that included three Bollywood-inspired acts and one patriotic act. Around 60 vibrantly dressed young dancers performed to upbeat music—all of which was inspired by traditional Indian culture, but incorporated a modern twist for flair and relatability.

“Bollywood is the fun aspect, but there’s also the patriotic side which is the enthusiasm every Indian has for being Indian,” says Sukhmani Singh, an instructor for Shiamak Vancouver. “A lot of the songs are very dedicated to India itself, to the beauty of it, to the power and the culture. We even had the Indian flag come in at one point so that people could really get a feel for the culture.”

She adds that cultural diversity is integral to Shiamak’s beliefs, and that anyone interested in getting involved as a dancer or instructor should reach out to any of their studios in Richmond, Surrey, Vancouver, and other nearby locations regardless of their background or level of experience with dance.

John Donnelly of John Donnelly & Associates Event Marketing Inc., who helped emcee the festival, says that he has worked with Shiamak “a number of times at different shows over the years.”

“They always come out with the most energy and really beautiful costumes and super choreography,” says Donnelly.

Tokyo Police Club’s vocalist and bassist, David Monks, plays next to the band’s keyboardist, Graham Wright. (Alyssa Laube)

As the hours after Shiamak’s performance came and went, the atmosphere at the Richmond World Festival grew more and more electric. The celebrations leading up to Tokyo Police Club’s headlining set had hoards of concert-goers buzzing in anticipation. After the second to last band Dragonette brought the crowd’s energy up with synth-heavy pop hits like “Hello” and “Let it Go”, the band finally came on stage.

Tokyo Police Club brought excitement and enthusiasm to their set, with frontman David Monks, keyboardist Graham Wright, guitarist Josh Hook, and drummer Greg Alsop beaming from behind their instruments. Minoru Park was illuminated by stage lights and starlight until their lengthy 19-song setlist came to an end and—after buying some late-night snacks and souvenirs—attendees started to make their way home.

In part, what the Richmond World Festival offers Metro Vancouver is an opportunity to have good, clean fun outside of the well-worn venues of the downtown core. It is an opportunity for those who don’t often get to take the limelight—local poets, Indigenous dance groups, traditional artists, and cultural societies—to show what they have to share with the general public. It’s heartwarming to see kids tumbling around on gym mats while learning karate, or to witness the passion of the White Thunder Dance Troupe or the Vancouver Chinese Music Ensemble before an audience that likely has never come into contact with them before.

This part of Canada has so much more to offer than meets the eye. It doesn’t take much digging to see the cultural treasures that lay just below the surface, and events like the Richmond World Festival make them even easier to enjoy.

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