When asked what we love about Edmonton, most of us will list very similar things. We love the river valley. We love our festivals. We love the long days in summer. We love the friendliness of the people here and their willingness to invite newcomers into their lives.
Those things are on my list too, especially the friendliness of Edmontonians. When I moved here, I didn’t know a single soul. However, it only took a couple of weeks before I began being invited to parties and people started sharing their friends with me. That warmth and friendliness was one of the reasons why a temporary relocation has turned into a 30-year residency.
There’s no doubt that this is a creative city. The Fringe, The Works and the Edmonton Folk Festival are just some of the readily apparent aspects of our creativity. But there is much more to the creative nature of our city than that.
The inclusiveness of Edmontonians extends to their creative endeavours as well. Raving Poets at the Kasbar on Whyte and the Story Slam at the Blue Chair Café on 76th Avenue are just two examples of what I am talking about.
In most places I have lived, if you want to strut your creative stuff you are going to have to suck up to a bunch of literary gatekeepers who are more than willing to pass judgment on you. But both Raving Poets and the Story Slam are literary anarchy in action. They take all comers. All one has to do is to arrive early and sign up. There are no rules other than a time limit.
There are very few cities I know of where an established novelist is willing to play keyboard for an untested spoken-word artist who could either be brilliant or appallingly awful.
Maybe one of the reason Edmontonians are so welcoming is that, except for our First Nations people, one way or another, we are all immigrants to this place. Maybe that makes us just a little more willing to make sure we are there to lend a hand to newcomers whether that means volunteering at an immigrant centre or creating a welcoming space for emerging artists.
Toronto, Vancouver, and Paris are all cities with well established reputations and identities. People love them for what they are. I love Edmonton for both for what it is and what it can be.