2017-07-15-SKAM1The innovative Theatre SKAM company makes cutting-edge art accessible in tandem with promoting active transportation on regional trails and fostering social connectedness.

A tight group of nine cyclists aged six to 60 pull up to a small fabric tent beneath the Gorge Road underpass, dismount and settle comfortably on a blanket spread on the ample gravel shoulder of the bike trail. Welcoming the procession are two actors wearing t-shirts and life jackets. They take their posts inside the tent which is suddenly transformed into a site-specific theatre.

This is ‘Swimming in the Gorge’, a stop in the SKAMpede, an outdoor live performance festival with several events performed in sequence along the Galloping Goose Regional Trail. Each short play, dance, story and monologue is performed multiple times for small knots of audiences arriving on foot, bike, rollerblades, wheelchair, skateboard and scooter.

Swimming in the Gorge was created by Harold Hejazi – a local artist. It is an endearing story told with live animation of the social and environmental history of the Gorge waterway through transparencies and shadow puppets on an overhead projector. The script shares tales of the traditional fishing practices of the Songhees people also known as the Lkwungen Nation and the heroic efforts of a local father and his son who cleaned up the waterway.

After the applause, Hejazi points the crowd towards the next performance taking place around the bend, near a stand of Arbutus trees. The audience swiftly pedals away.

Not only does SKAMpede promote multi-modal transportation and the Regional Parks urban trail system, it is generating jobs for actors, musicians and promoting local businesses. It brings in tourism dollars from visiting audiences and artists. A woman from Vancouver chats with the other members of the tour, admiring the logistical feat of putting on this type of event. “How do they do it?” the woman asks.

“SKAMpede has very much grown out of the community interest in the project,” explains artistic producer, Matthew Payne. “The first year we did it, we thought it was a one-off. We kind of just wanted to test ourselves and see if we could actually pull off a festival on the Goose, with a mobile audience. I'll never forget our audience experiencing the project and then saying, ‘Okay, that was great. We're definitely coming back next year’. And so we looked at each other and went okay, I guess this is an annual thing. Now we're on the verge of celebrating our tenth year. It's a pretty special event."

The Capital Regional District (CRD) provides operating grants to Theatre SKAM. Events like these fulfill the CRD’s mission to support, promote and celebrate the arts in its communities. Swimming in the Gorge also promotes First Nations history, active travel, parks and improves social connections and vibrancy. All important factors in promoting a livable and vibrant region.

SKAMpede takes place annually in early summer.

© Image courtesy of Theatre SKAM

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Jen Nichols
Community Outreach Coordinator
Tel: 250.360.3007

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