SFU Woodward’s Rich Cultural History Serves as Backdrop for Spur Festival

"Abbott & Cordova, 7 August 1971" by Stan Douglas
"Abbott & Cordova, 7 August 1971" by Stan Douglas.

Spur festival is delighted to be partnering with Simon Fraser University and its Cultural Programs to present Spur Vancouver 2013 in the redeveloped Woodward’s complex. This stunning new cultural facility has a history as rich as the city itself.

Once a major department store that fell into disrepair, SFU Woodward’s has become a symbol of revitalization for Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

The complex features artistic space and condominiums but also social housing and retail stores, in addition to Simon Fraser University’s School for the Contemporary Arts with its unique dance, film, music, visual arts, and theatre training programs.

“SFU Woodward’s is part of a revolutionary mixed-use experiment,” the Globe and Mail wrote when the building first opened.

The artistic centrepiece of its atrium is a tribute to Vancouver’s local history.

A photo reenactment of the 1971 Gastown riots by award-winning Stan Douglas, spanning 50 by 30 feet, marks a confrontation that was a critical breaking point in escalating tensions between hippies, authorities and neighbourhood residents.

The image is both an artistic gem and a reminder of a past political struggle that took place in the very spot where the Spur festival will gather to discuss society’s future.

We couldn’t have fabricated a more fitting location to inspire creative thought and spur ideas that create change—in neighbourhoods and around the world.


Spur is a national festival of politics, art and ideas and is a catalyst for change in Canada.

Through nationally relevant and locally nuanced discussions, presentations and performances, the festival seeks to spur its participants to action on issues affecting Canadians. Feisty, multi-partisan, forward-looking, and solution-driven, this national railway of ideas will provide Canada with vital new cultural infrastructure for the 21st century.

Founded in 2013, the festival has already grown from three to five Canadian cities, with plans for further expansion across the country. Produced by the Literary Review of Canada in partnership with Diaspora Dialogues, Spur prides itself on its community partnerships, cultural connections and a focus on accessibility and diversity.

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