Local writer seeks airport storyteller gig

YVR celebrates 80th anniversary

Kevin Spenst wants to live at the Vancouver International Airport for 80 days and 80 nights.

As a site of adventures, reunions and fantastic sculptures, the airport is a place he loves.

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"As a kid, when I was young, Christian and full of hope, our youth group had this activity where various people from the church dressed up in costume. Then we had to find them at the airport," Spenst said.

"That's my earliest memory of the old, old airport. It was like a 1970s Robert Redford mystery spy thriller."

Now a Hastings-Sunrise resident, who's about to graduate from the University of B.C. with a master of fine arts in creative writing, Spenst hopes to share stories about the airport by winning a gig as the airport's official Live@YVR Storyteller.

The job, part of YVR's celebrations for its 80th anniversary, means living and working on Sea Island for 80 consecutive days and nights. The winner will post videos, interact with the public on Twitter and Facebook and blog while in residence from Aug. 17 to Nov. 4.

"It started off as a year, believe it or not," said Rebecca Catley, director of communications for YVR.

The winning applicant will sleep at the Fairmont Vancouver Airport Hotel, receive three meals a day or "YVR bucks" to dine at the airport, be provided with a cellphone, video and editing equipment for 80 days and receive a $15,000 honorarium.

The estimated value of the storyteller contest prize is $55,650. Catley says the expense is worth it because the airport fields more requests for behindthe-scenes access each year than it can handle and the contest is a way of connecting the airport more intimately with British Columbians. (Applicants must be residents of the province.) She said no story is off-limits, including the Taserrelated death of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski.

"There have been a lot of changes that have taken place over the course of the last few years, since 2007," Catley said. "We're hoping that this person will take note of all of those changes."

For Spenst, the mission makes sense. He's presented 50 readings in one day, copresented 125 poetry readings in one day by bike and written 1,000 short stories in 1,000 days.

If he wins the role of storyteller, Spenst hopes to use the position to connect established communities and newcomers. He wants to promote local musicians, North American poets travelling to the Vancouver 125 Poetry Conference in October and other artists.

As an English-as-a-Second-Language instructor of 14 years, he sent local schools curricula he developed to compliment the three-minute video he submitted to the contest.

Wannabe storytellers have until July 18 to submit video entries. Judges will whittle down the applications to five finalists and the public will choose the winner, with voting open July 25 to Aug. 5. For more information, see liveatyvr.ca.


Twitter: @Cheryl_Rossi

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