This week marks the latest installment in a Victoria tradition: The Festival of Anarchy. The festival revolves around the Anarchist Book Fair, a two-day event that goes well beyond just books: a glance at this year’s brochure yields a screening of If a Tree Falls: A Story of the ELF; radical poetry and story nights; and workshops by primitivist writer John Zerzan, musician/author/activist Margaret Killjoy, and the local IWW.
I attend and enjoy the book fair every year — but every year I leave with a question: how, in a city famed for embracing the newly wed and nearly dead, does an entire festival of counter-culture not only sustain itself but expand outward to include the entire Pacific Northwest?
Certainly the book fair’s organizers have worked hard for their success. Days before the festival, they were busy making signs and placing the finishing touches on a year’s worth of work, which begins all over again after next week. They’re part of the answer.
The rest is that when you get right down to it this city is deeply, unabashedly strange. The capital has a thriving kink community, a huge music, theatre, arts scene and an established radical community ranging from anarchists and anti-poverty groups to anti-prohibition activists. We have more weird people per capita than cities three or four times our size, and these communities overlap and support eachbother. That’s how the Anarchist Book Fair remains a staple in our city.
Unfortunately, this answer begs other questions. How, in the kitsch and cardboard of the capital, have we managed to stay this weird? How, vibrant as it is, can the alternative community be so consistently undervalued and ignored in favour of our safe old flowers and golf image?
How is it that venues for alternative art and music continue to disappear? How is it that events as successful as the Victoria Electronic Music Festival face new difficulties every year? These, I can’t answer.
More and more, the organizers of events like the Victoria Anarchist Book Fair are unable to lean on the broader community for support. We rely on a whole range of punks, artists, and weirdos to keep The Capital interesting, creative, and yes a little radical. Perhaps they should be able to rely on us more often. M