Sask Culture Days returns with hybrid festival

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Literally just a microphone. The events were online, so what were we supposed to do? Jon Tyson via Unsplash

Province-wide festival brings art, crafts, and historical tours right to your laptop

From September 24 to October 24, Culture Days is running its annual celebration of arts and culture across Canada. Culture Days is celebrating this year through online and in-person events. Traditionally, the festival is only on the last Friday of September and the following weekend, but in 2020 and 2021, due to COVID, it has been extended to four weeks.

Though not every province celebrates Culture Days at the same time, every province has their own unique activities in several of its cities. The goal of Culture Days, according to their website, is to “Affirm that every citizen is the guardian of the cultural life of his, her or their community,” as well as allowing artists and creators to interact with the public and increasing appreciation for the arts.

Culture Days started in 2010, inspired by Journées de la culture in Québec, and even coincides with Les Journées dates by starting at the end of September. Since its creation, Culture Days as an organization and a charity has grown in popularity and participation across Canada. Every year follows a different theme, and this year’s theme is “RE:Imagine.” The website states that this theme is inspired by “exploring new ideas and innovation in arts and culture while committing to building tangible change in the sector and society.”

Here in Saskatchewan, there are events available in Regina, Pilot Butte, Regina Beach, Nokomis, Saskatoon, Strasbourg, Silton, Moose Jaw, Yorkton, Humboldt, Wawota, Grenfell, Weyburn, Porcupine Plain, Maple Creek, Swift Current, North Battleford, Battleford, Shaunavon, Prince Albert, Melfort, and Creighton. Having Culture Days activities available in so many towns and cities increases the accessibility of the festival. You don’t have to live in or near a major city like Regina or Saskatoon to be able to partake in the events.

There are a total of 120 events in Saskatchewan, with over 40 descriptor tags available for each event. Culture Days has created a large number of different activities, guaranteeing that there will be something for everyone. The most popular tag is Visual Arts with 46 events, followed by History & Heritage with 39, then Craft with 30, and Indigenous with 24 events.

Activities are available in several languages including Arabic, Cree, Saulteaux, Spanish, Swahili, and Tigrinya.

From the website, you’re able to add accessibility filters to see which events are accessible for different needs. These will tell you which events have wheelchair accessibility, gender-neutral washrooms, closed captions, audio description, and sign language interpretation. The mix between digital and in-person events and the longer event time allows a greater number of people to experience the Arts and Culture festival.

I attended two events: The Broadway and Back interactive history tour from Yorkton and the Saskatoon Folkfest Culture Connect Friday show. As a history lover, the Broadway and Back interactive tour was able to give me fascinating information about the history of the city, all while in the comfort and safety of my own home. It gave information that would be taught differently in a museum because this video was a first-person view of the streets and provided a history for each building.

While a tour like this increases the accessibility of information, it still has its downfalls. The narrator speaks clearly, but slowly, and there are no available closed captions. The settings on the video kept switching between English and French depending on what browser I was using, which could cause issues for those unfamiliar with French and having their settings stuck on that language.

The Saskatoon Folkfest originally premiered in August, but Culture Days provides a link to a three hour video of the show. It includes music, dance, and recipes. While it has a wide array of cultures and things to enjoy, the audio quality isn’t consistent all the way through. It’s a consequence of having people join through video calls to engage in trivia and Q&A portions, but takes away from the experience. Captions are available for the video, but they’re auto-generated by YouTube, which isn’t the most reliable.

There are still dozens of activities available during Culture Days to check out on their website, culturedays.ca. Culture Days started on September 24 and will end on October 24, 2021.

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