Launched in September 2019, with financial support from the Department of Canadian Heritage, The Living Magazine Project embarked on a journey of connecting and celebrating performing, literary, and visual artists from newcomer, immigrant, and Indigenous communities in British Columbia. The big idea was to bring the people and stories of Here Magazine “to life” in digital, print, and physical spaces. The Here Team interviewed, photographed, and engaged dozens of artists, culminating in the stories, performances, and interviews on this page and in our annual Better Together Gala, a community celebration of art and performance at the beautiful Belfry Theatre in Victoria B.C.
Video Production by John-Evan Snow. Interviews by Fiona Bramble, Managing Editor.
With Performing Artist K.P Dennis
Can you describe your background?
I am Jamaican and Sierra Leone-West African mix. And I was born in England, lived in Jamaica, moved to Ontario, and then to Victoria for school. In school, I was taking a Theatre and Creative Writing double major with a focus in screenplay. I write plays and direct and act and perform. I write poetry, and am getting into visual art and music now as well. And I dance. I took dance classes for fifteen years in tap and hip hop, a little of contemporary and a little bit of ballet.
Wow. I feel so inadequate right now. That’s incredible. Anything else you’d like to add to that?
I’ve been writing poetry for a long time. Writing fiction. Just writing any which way I can.
Did any elements of your art or performance adapt, evolve, or change in response to moving to a new environment, such as Victoria, Canada, or Jamaica?
That’s such a good question. Um, yes and no. I know when I first came to Victoria, the nature and the feel of the west coast was very impactful. And I liked how that interacted with my poetry and my sense of being. And I think also, just like everywhere, the fashion is different. (laughs)
Very unfashionable in Victoria?
It’s very laid back and chill.
You’re very diplomatic. (laughter)
Very relaxed. And it did take a long time trying to figure out how to dress casually coming here. Otherwise, really, it’s just the people who I meet, and who I talk to, and all the ideas that get shared and are floating around. Um, stylistically, it’s hard to say [how I have been impacted] just because I’ve grown so much over the past five years, six years, moving here. But I guess it is a big Victoria influence. But also, I’ve got a very, I think, England-ness, which affected my style very much as well, like the words I use, the tone, my dry humour, I would say, and also fashion-wise too. So there’s a big English influence [as well as] the west coast. I love the west coast. Even in music. I like west coast rappers!
How does your art help you build your own sense of belonging in your new community?
For theatre, I work with Monica Ogden. She’s a Filipinx YouTuber, performer, and improviser. She’s amazing. And we made one show—Monica Versus the Internet— her solo show about her life and her family, and inter-generational trauma; it’s a comedy—you laugh and cry.
Inter-generational trauma and you laugh and cry?
You’ll laugh. It’s funny! It’s good. We made another show, LUBDUB, which is like a social justice cabaret. Because it’s a very anti-racist, activist-y show, the response has been very polarized because the theatre audience is very upper class, rich, older White people, who are funny, and…
And wanting to be woke?
Wanting to be woke, but also easily offended. But our show has also brought out new audiences who had never been to the Fringe before. Lots of youth, lots of QTBIPoC folks and they were like, “Wow, we’ve never seen ourselves represented on stage. And our story is being told.” It was really amazing. And seeing what the future of theatre audiences could look like if people actually invested into it, which they don’t yet, but that’s okay, we’ll get there. Poetry-wise, this performing, writing your own words, writing your truth out and seeing the way it connects with everyone is amazing. We are never alone, you know, and our words resonate and connect.
Where were you on tour? And did you have a favourite stop?
Toronto, Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Edmonton, Victoria, and Vancouver. As a Fringe, Vancouver was probably the best. Saskatoon was surprisingly good. Although we had one person picketing our show who said it was racist towards white people, there is a part of the show at the end where we say, hey, let’s dance together, and most people danced—and a lot of older white men said thank you. So I feel like we had a lot of impact in Saskatoon. We got a five-star review there too, so they liked the show. But the city seemed very segregated and bizarre, even though it’s trying to open up. Winnipeg was like hate and love. It’s the weirdest city I have ever been to. But there are some really cool young QTBIPoC theatre artists there.
You’ve touched on it already, but in what other ways does art transcend barriers?
One way that it does is that it builds community, takes us out of ourselves, and bridges those gaps between us. It creates safe spaces, and honest spaces, and places to just be for a moment. But it doesn’t transcend barriers in the system, a system that is so inherently broken that it is so hard to get the funding, get the chances, especially as a QTBIPoC person. Fringe companies talk of safer spaces, but who are the safer spaces for? The infrastructure is not there to support and uplift QTBIPoC voices currently, but in our own spaces it is happening.
But you are hopeful, yes?
I am hopeful.
What advice would you give young, emerging artists in your discipline?
I would tell them to make the work and then put it out there. And to find people to work with because it is really hard and isolating to create on one’s own. Just make it, believe in yourself and experiment. I feel like I always think oh, is my thought even valid, blah blah blah…Just do it and see what happens. Art doesn’t exist until it’s shared.
edited for length and clarity