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Contested borders and radical homes

On September 3, University of the Streets Café launches its 'City Nights' public conversation series
August 22, 2016
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By Jesse Staniforth

Alex Megelas: “We all have stories set in the context of the Montreal nightlife.”


A new school year is about to begin, bringing with it another exciting season of Concordia’s popular University of the Streets Café public conversations.

For more than a decade, the series, now organized by Concordia’s Office of Community Engagement, has been bringing Montrealers together to discuss timely, relevant topics.

“I am struck by its deceptively simple model,” says Charmaine Lyn, incoming senior director of the Office of Community Engagement. “Its promise and potential to catalyze community connections is inspiring; experiencing it was personally very moving for me.

“The series creates spaces where strangers participate in the neighbourly act of conversation. It’s one expression of the way in which the Office seeks to put into action Concordia’s commitment to creating innovative educational experiences and ‘doing’ community engagement.”


City Nights, City Lights

Alex Megelas, the program's coordinator, says that the fall 2016 season was curated around a particular theme — City Nights.

“City Nights can be seen from many different perspectives: the nightlife of the city, night as it's connected to dissidence and illegality or its relationship to health and well-being, for example. It will be interesting to see how folks respond.”

From a season pre-launch on September 3 to its season-closing discussion on December 10, the 16 instalments of University of the Streets Café will explore urbanity as it pertains to life, death, games, homes, clothes, money, health and identity — calling on an equally broad spectrum of people to animate and contribute to the conversations.

Megelas is hard pressed to make particular recommendations from the program he’s worked so hard on, but here is his shortlist:


Do We Need Borders? A conversation about lines that define territory and a celebration of the play Sunk in the Trunk

September 14 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Montréal, arts interculturels (MAI), 3680 Jeanne-Mance St.

Ten years ago — to the day — playwright Lynne Cooper, in conversation with dancer Carmen Ruiz, took part in a University of the Streets discussion which led to the creation of Cooper’s play Sunk in the Trunk, an exploration of issues of nationhood using clowning.

“Cooper workshopped her play and it had a hugely successful run,” says Megelas. “Now she’s celebrating her 10th anniversary and coming back to us with a conversation that’s incredibly important.”

The event features the playwright and the original moderator back at the MAI where they will revisit the still-relevant question, “Do we need borders?”


Progressive Homes, Radical Change: How do the places we live in inform our commitment to social engagement?

October 6 from 7 p.m.  to 9 p.m. at the NDG Food Depot, 2146 Marlowe Ave.

This conversation is about the places where we live and how they become an expression of our values and social commitment.

Lucas Puttini, a PhD candidate at McGill’s Faculty of Management, and Shirley Roburn, a post-doctoral scholar in McGill’s Department of Art History and Communication Studies, will explore ways we can connect our individual concerns to local efforts and national policies on social and community housing.

They’ll also discuss what it means for the home to become a commodity — not just a place to live, but something that’s sold and speculated on.

Megelas is excited to be holding this event at the NDG Food Depot, which he describes as ground zero for several urban gardening and food security projects. “They are increasingly bringing in more social education and social literacy as part of their work, so this conversation will contribute to that.”


Sick in the City: The streets as disease and as cure

October 17 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Y des femmes de Montréal, 1181 Crescent St.

In a conversation moderated by community organizer and McGill epidemiology professor emeritus Abby Lippman, physician Baijayanta Mukhopadhyay and street-based harm reduction outreach worker Robyn Maynard will discuss the interaction between the urban milieu and forms of health — both in the ways the city can help and the ways it can harm.

Megelas says the subject matter contributed to the decision to hold the event at the Y des femmes de Montréal. “We’re increasingly trying to situate our conversations in places where the space itself will contribute to the exchange.”


Stories of the City Night 

December 10 from 6 to 9pm: St-Henri Art Hive, 4525 Saint-Jacques St.

The fall season of University of the Streets Café closes with a storytelling event bringing together Montrealers with compelling personal narratives. Tolulope Ilesanmi is a cleaner, and his company, Zenith Cleaning, envisions the work as a spiritual service. Noga Emanuel, meanwhile, has led courses in the humanities at the Thomas More Institute. Moderator Miriam Fahmy is an editor for Journal Métro.

“Tolu is interested in looking at the moment when someone who cleans walks into a space that was bustling in the daytime and now it’s in darkness,” Megelas says. “Noga has a compelling way of looking at cities and stories: ‘If the nation is an epic, then the city is a novel.’ In between the two of them there is an aspect of the poetry of the city that I’m hoping this conversation will draw out.”


Find the complete fall 2016 schedule for
University of the Streets Café.

 



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