Intoxicating Northern Voice

20090109_nv2009mooseI’m starting to measure my year in terms of Northern Voice, and I was thrilled to see registration open this week for the 2009 version.
Northern Voice really reminds me of the early days of the Fringe Festival in Vancouver. Back when the Fringe was on Main Street and run by Joanna Maratta.

Like the Fringe, Northern Voice is really about a community of people passionate about what they do, people who are highly experienced sitting next to someone who’s just starting out. It’s about people who are at the top of the field interacting with people who are just being introduced to social networking for the first time. It’s about sharing experience, desires, business practices, crazy ideas and a lot of long conversations at the bar.

Back when the Fringe Festival was a real grass roots thing, anyone with 100 bucks could put on a play. Ticket prices were cheap and lineups were long. Shows sold out on word-of-mouth. On any given day you could see shows featuring some of Vancouver’s top actors (like Angry Actors Co-op) as well as total neophytes who while not experienced, shared the same passion and excitement about their craft. It’s intoxicating to be around, and even more so to be part of.

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Northern Voice features an un-conference format on the 1st of the 2 days. Literally anyone can host a session on a topic of their choice; sometimes to a packed room, sometimes to a handful of people. Its a wonder to behold as people stand up and announce their ‘session’ to a gathered crowd. It’s real honest to goodness sharing. It’s learning and teaching and experimenting and collaborating and master-class all rolled into one.

The Fringe festival used to have its own version of an un-conference. It was never articulated as a stream at the Fringe, but it was understood by everyone that the de facto conference centre was the Fringe Club in the Main Street legion. This is where you could learn from the best, trade tips and tricks with performers and technicians and stage managers from around the world. I learned tons sitting at those plywood tables drinking draft, listening, laughing, arguing and learning. Perhaps most importantly, I made lifelong friends and was introduced to lifelong colleagues in the process. Like Northern Voice, some people even met their future professional-and-or-personal-or-both partners there.

Northern Voice has a spirit fueled by people who genuinely love what they do, are intrigued by what’s possible, and who dream of what’s to come.

I used to measure my year by the advent of the Fringe – sadly I don’t anymore more.

But I’m glad to see that same spirit alive at Northern Voice.

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