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The State of No Fun City

 Megaphone (Canada) 04 October 2019

Since No Fun City sold out its premiere at the DOXA film festival this past May, filmmakers Melissa James and Kate Kroll have been busy riding the buzz the screening generated. (887 Words) - By Kevin Hollett

Megaphone_The State of No Fun City

Melissa James and Kate Kroll. Photo: Megaphone

The film documents the struggle to keep Vancouver's underground punk music scene alive in the face of encroaching gentrification and the resulting venue closures and raided parties.

Demand for additional screenings across the country keep coming in and will include a showing at the OLIO Festival in Vancouver on Sept 25 at 10p.m. at the Rio Theatre. The film will then make its way across the country the film, playing at the Pop Montréal Festival on October 2-where James will be part of a panel discussion about Montréal's indie music community's own struggles- before making its way to London as a part of the Oxjam music festival.

Before the film hits the road, we sat down with James to discuss the state of no fun city.

Megaphone: Why does Vancouver have a reputation as 'no fun city' in the underground music scene?

Melissa James: The difficulty in Vancouver lies in trying to find a venue and keep it going. It seems that the places that people start up are pretty short-lived or run into a lot of opposition. Look at the Biltmore and the hoops that had to be jumped through there. There were so many infractions and obscure bylaws that were broken-just weird little obstacles that were faced, like being shut down because the stage was a foot too big. The same thing happened to the Astoria with their soundproofing and to the Sweatshop, where it was always a question of living up to building codes that always seemed to be changing.

MP : Why are there so many obstacles to opening and running venues?

MJ: It's years and years of bylaws made to address minor problems that have piled up. The whole landscape of bylaws doesn't make sense anymore. There are issues with zoning and building codes that aren't realistic for older venues.

MP : Do you see the city taking steps to address these issues?

MJ: They're looking a creative ways of stripping those bylaws down and asking, "What is it that we really need?" It seems like the city is really interested in working with the music and arts community. It's just a matter of getting both sides to work together.

MP : What is it about your film that has caused it to gain so much attention from residents in other cities?

MJ: I think our film is about trying to show that despite how difficult things are, Vancouver has such a terrific scene that it has come up with all of these creative ways to get around the bylaws and doing what they want to anyways. I think this is how we can have an impact on other cities. If people in the city where it may be the most difficult to do all of these things are able to open a venue and get it started, than it can happen in any city.

MP : Where do you see change needed the most to make things less difficult here?

MJ: There's a need for better communication on our part. The Little Mountain Gallery had the typical complaints about noise and holding performances there, and there was pressure to close it down and cancel the shows. But what's happened is that people have really rallied around to support it. There seems to be just more discussion around these issues now. People are starting to realize that you can effect change in your community, in your city. And the way to do it is by reaching out and being as loud as the NIMBYs. It's reverse-NIMBYism. It's saying, "I want this in my back yard."

MP : Do you see this being an effective approach to creating change?

MJ: What [Councillor] Heather Deal told us when we interviewed her for the film was that she doesn't hear from our generation. She's only hearing from the complainers [about the venues]. And if no one opposes what's being said, then her civic responsibility is to answer to those people. So we have to start having our voices heard constantly.

MP : What did you learn about working with the city while making the film?

MJ: It was an eye-opener for me and Kate [Kroll]. We had never been to city hall or sat in on a meeting. But then we got to see how it works and we realized, well, this is what we have to do and this is how we have to do it. There's a better way than just complaining all the time or being surprised every time you're not allowed to do something because you haven't got the permit.

MP : What do you see as the city's responsibility?

MJ: They [the city] need to work out what's really important, what they really need to have and just stop being such tight asses. And then we also have to realize that some of these things [like permits] are necessary. And then we can work together. It's about tolerance.

For more information about the film and future screenings, visit

Originally published by Megaphone, Canada. ©


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