According to Wikipedia just over 600,000 people live in the City of Vancouver, and some 2.5 million live in Metro Vancouver. So what municipality do the three quarters of people who don’t live in Vancouver proper call home? There are many different answers, of course, but for some 470,000 folks the answer is the City of Surrey. The community is growing by leaps and bounds, and it’s not all big box stores and strip malls. One example of Surrey’s commitment to fostering local arts and culture is the Surrey International Children’s Festival, happening May 22-24, 2014 at the Surrey Arts Centre and Bear Creek Park. We recently connected with the festival’s Artistic Director (and Vancouver mom) Marnie Perrin, to find out more about this fabulous annual event.
Vancouver Mom and Stilt Walker
Marnie has a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theatre from SFU. She performed in the Vancouver professional theatre scene, including children’s theatre. This led her to get involved with the Public Dreams society, which in turn led her to become a stilt performer. After her two daughters were born, she became the Special Events Manager for Public Dreams when she needed a job with more predictable hours. Her experiences with Public Dreams led her to join the City of Surrey in 2006, and she helped put on the 2007 Surrey International Children’s Festival.
On her role as Artistic Director, Marnie shares, “All of the performances that we bring every year I have to see and choose.” That means attending a lot of children’s theatre. To help bring in higher-quality acts, the festival joined the Canadian Children’s Festival Network in 2008. This is a way for the festival to bring in international groups. One of this year’s highlights, Erth’s Dinosaur Zoo from Australia, is one example. Marnie says, “I’m very passionate about the artists we’re bringing in to the festival. They’re top-notch working professionals.”
Surrey International Children’s Festival
Marnie’s involvement in the Surrey International Children’s Festival is very personal to her. She explains, “I grew up in Surrey when it was farmland. I also grew up to be very creative. As I got older I found there weren’t many opportunities for a creative being. This is a way to give back to the children of Surrey. As Surrey is growing in leaps and bounds I’m excited that we’re creating artistic opportunities.”
If you attend the festival, you’ll find that it’s broken down into three areas: top-notch ticketed performances, 18 hands-on arts activities on-site and community engagement. Those on-site activities happen under tents, so that you can enjoy them rain or shine. While site admission is free, there is a small charge ($5 per child) for art activities, and you do have to pay for performances. There are activities and shows appropriate for kids from babies right on up to age 12, so there’s lots of fun to be had. If you want access to the ticketed performances as well, you can get an all-access pass for $12 for the Saturday, which will get you into everything except Erth’s Dinosaur Zoo. Plus, one perk of its suburban location is the ample free parking.
An Arts Explosion
We asked Marnie what folks are missing if they haven’t visited Surrey recently. She says, “There’s an explosion happening in Surrey right now. There’s a contemporary gallery that’s at the forefront not just locally but nationally. Surrey gets that people don’t want to come out and see industrial sites. They want to see parks and galleries and heritage sites.” They also want to attend events like the Surrey International Children’s Festival.
To find out more about the festival, including how to get tickets, visit www.surrey.ca/childrensfestival.
Amber Strocel is a writer, aspiring math teacher, suburbanite, wife and mom of two. She believes in the power of the Internet to connect people, and she believes that numbers are the poetry of the universe. You can often find her knitting, sewing, volunteering, working in her garden, and sneaking chocolate when no one's looking. She blogs at Strocel.com and shares her photos on Instagram as @AmberStrocel.