Around seven years ago, Ali Tataryn opened Frame Arts Warehouse on Ross Ave. Artists moved in and set up their studios. Soon enough big art shows exhibited there. Concerts and plays also happened there.
It was a great space and a pretty happening place. Ali started a weekly open mic in a room in the back of the building. She called it CaRaVaN Open Mic. Mostly musicians took to the stage but occasionally comedians and poets also appeared on the stage.
That was five years ago. Paul Little dubbed it The Purple Room and when Ali left, Paul, Matty ‘Rage’, Nelson and Ronel Amata (aka Squigs) took over and took turns each week hosting the weekly event.
Sadly, Matty passed away and the three remaining hosts decided to have a different guest host fill Matty’s spot.
In August, 2015, due to safety concerns in the building, the city ordered everyone out of the building and shut it down. Most of the artists relocated, but CaRaVaN was all of a sudden homeless with nowhere to go.
The next week the performances were held in the back lane of the building. The week after that, they performed at The Cube in Old Market Square.
The next week found them in the Rudolf Rocker Studio (part of the Dragon Arts Collective) on the third floor of 91 Albert St.
I had been to the CaRaVaN on and off over the years and saw some pretty interesting entertainers.
I ran into Paul at the Winnipeg Folk Fest this summer. We were both covering the festival as media. I mentioned that I had been writing lots of poetry over the last 20 years. He asked if I’d like to read some at CaRaVaN.
A couple weeks later I found myself on stage reciting a few poems. I must admit I was a little nervous at first, but was encouraged by some of the other performers that week. I shared the stage with musicians and comedians.
I’ve been a regular ever since and it’s been a wonderful experience. There are a few regulars and you never know what to expect week to week.
During Fringe Fest, a Toronto Theatre group showed up and did a scene from their play. That same evening for the second set (there are usually two sets with a short intermission) Jennis, a duo who were on a festival tour of Canada, played an amazing set of music. Jennifer played cello, bass guitar and didgeridoo while Dennis played guitar and banjo.
Another interesting and unique feature of CaRaVaN is local spoken word artist/ poet Paul Friesen. Paul usually ends the evening with a new piece he writes while the performers are on stage. He summarizes the evening in a spoken word piece. (See video link below).
During part of the summer, the city agreed to let CaRaVaN take place at the Cube for a small fee.
Paul and the rest of the CaRaVaN gang are still looking for a permanent home for the Purple Room and Paul told me it may be happening soon.
I asked Paul why he does this and he said, “Community is the main reason for doing this.” And it certainly is a wonderful community. I have made some good friends over the last while through CaRaVaN. It’s very inspiring to be hanging around these very creative and talented folks.
As for success stories at CaRaVaN, Paul told me that Anne Marie Wilmot met Patrick Boggs at the weekly event. They formed Chez Willi who recently were nominated for a Western Canadian Music Award.
The Fifth Anniversary of CaRaVaN celebration will take place Oct. 31 at 7 p.m. at The Rudolf Rocker Cultural Centre at 91 Albert St. (third floor).
Celebrate five years of this strange, wonderful, creative, supportive, amazing, odd, imperfect, anything goes open mic! And since it’s Halloween, feel free to dress up — candy will be provided.
CaRaVaN Open Mic & Open Stage currently takes place every Monday night (sign up at 7 and show at 7:30 p.m.) at the Rudolf Rocker on the 3rd floor at 91 Albert St. A special version of CaRaVaN with headlining band can also be found at The Knndy (330 Kennedy St.) on the last Tuesday of every month.
Poetry, singing, instrumental music, storytelling, monologues, stand-up, characters, improv, juggling, magic, back flips, sketches, dance…ANYTHING GOES!
All photos and video by Doug Kretchmer