For many people, the basketball court in the Woodward’s atrium is a place they pass through on their way to somewhere else, while for others, the court is the destination. Various theatre, music and cultural festivals have been held in there, as well as a number of political rallies and advocacy-based events. In the evenings, the court attracts basketball players, martial artists and break dancers who meet regularly to practice and perform. People come to the court for so many different reasons that they do not readily appear as a defined group. Their interests are so diverse that often the only thing they have in common is their destination.
When people think about Woodward’s, the first image that comes to mind is the iconic red W revolving in the sky. But there is something else to watch — the basketball court on the ground floor, a half court of concrete in the shape of a circle. In contrast to the brick walkways throughout the complex, the polished concrete floor shines, reflecting overhead and storefront lights, turning the court into a stage. Stan Douglas’ billboard-sized photo mural of a staged scene representing the 1971 Gastown Riot, installed overhead, serves as a fitting backdrop for human movement on the court.
Last year, Occupy Vancouver held its first general meeting in the atrium, and to this day it is still the biggest group I have seen on the court. People streamed in from all over the city to rally and to organize the occupation of the Vancouver Art Gallery. News cameras and smartphones broadcast images and rally cries of the assembly to the world. It was the early days of the global Occupy movement, and the atmosphere of the court was electric.
For over two years, a Brazilian capoeira club has met weekly on the court. They always bring a stereo and they train as a group or in pairs, kicking and tumbling, to the sound of song and beats. Occasionally, Indio, the leader, sings in Portuguese and plays the berimbau, a four-foot tall. single string musical bow. The capoeira club at practice is a familiar sight and its members, along with other groups who meet regularly, set the rhythm and pulse of the court.
Last month, an urban farmer’s market was held in the atrium for the first time. Andrea Potter, a chef and nutritionist, gave five-minute demonstrations at her table on how to make lacto-fermented pickled vegetables, in other words, how to pickle without vinegar or canning. She told us that fermentation adds nutritional value, and eating pickles with each meal helps digestion. We learned a simple lesson about pickles that could improve our quality of life.
It is no surprise that people from outside the neighbourhood come here, but what can be surprising is what some do when they arrive. An activist, a martial artist and a chef, each person comes to the court for a different purpose. I have lived at Woodward’s for three years, and it does not matter to me which neighbourhood people come from. I am curious about what they do when they come to mine. When they step into the ring, they are part of the community, and even if they stay for only awhile, they have my attention.
Zoe Li writes about life within a one mile radius of Woodward’s and keeps the blog www.woodwardsmile.com.