February 16, 2018

Organizations harmonize in pursuit of multicultural audiences

VSO, Poly Culture push for unique cultural market

Chinese ensemble 12 Girls Band’s appearance at the Orpheum is part of an effort to appeal to Greater Vancouver’s unique cultural market | Submitted

Two major Vancouver-based cultural industry players are joining forces during the Lunar New Year period to find and develop a new, “East-West literate” classical music audience unique to the Lower Mainland.

The Vancouver Symphony Orchestra (VSO) partnered with Poly Culture North America, the Canadian subsidiary of the world’s third-largest auction house, to bring Chinese ensemble 12 Girls Band to Vancouver’s Orpheum Theatre on February 19. The group, which was nominated for a Grammy Award in 2005, is known for its performances of contemporary pieces using classical Chinese instruments and has a large following in China, South Korea and Japan.

VSO president Kelly Tweeddale, who helped bring the group to Vancouver along with Poly Culture North America CEO Chen Yi, said the 12 Girls Band was chosen from a large number of potential performers that would cater to Vancouver’s unique blend of western and Asian audiences, an aspect of the Lower Mainland’s demographic that both groups would like to cultivate further.

“The first thing is doing high-quality presentations such as the 12 Girls Band, where you are bringing in something that’s going to be entertaining regardless of a person’s cultural influence, but while also having a distinctness of coming from somewhere different,” Tweeddale said. “It’s our responsibility that we don’t just promote it to certain audiences…. These are some of the oldest instruments in mankind, and to learn how they are played, that is naturally appealing.”

While this is not the first time the two organizations have collaborated on a performance – they co-operated in November 2016 to bring the China Philharmonic Orchestra to Vancouver during Poly Culture’s official launch in North America – executives from both groups said this year’s joint effort is the start of an attempt to carve out a new market segment in Vancouver’s cultural scene, one that is equally adept at appreciating orchestral traditions of the West and those of other regions.

In 2017, the two groups signed a memorandum of understanding in which they agreed to “explore the potential to work together in a number of areas of mutual interest,” with concerts, co-presentations, educational opportunities and tours.

The 12 Girls Band is one of the first events under the agreement. In addition to the performance, the musicians are scheduled to give a master class to local music schools on instruments such as the erhu fiddle and the guzheng zither.

“One of our goals is to make traditional Chinese culture more well known in the West – our exhibits in the last year featuring Chinese bronze and jade collections demonstrate our efforts – but traditional music can be somewhat stark for western listeners not used to the sounds and arrangements,” Chen said. “With the 12 Girls Band, it’s something that I think everyone can appreciate, and I think it has the potential of bringing together both Chinese and western audiences here in Vancouver.”

It’s not the VSO’s first outreach to Asia and its representative communities in B.C. The orchestra has hosted themed performances annually during festivals like Lunar New Year to target audiences in communities such as the local Chinese and Korean populations. The orchestra also toured South Korea and China in its 2008 Asia tour.

But Tweeddale noted that the VSO has learned that its efforts so far to focus on a community as large and ingrained as the local Chinese-Canadian population haven’t been enough. To cultivate a larger audience with continuous demand, a deeper effort needed to be made.

“I think what we’ve learned with the Lunar New Year celebrations … is that it really needs to be more than a concert,” Tweeddale said, noting the VSO has added the lion dance, red envelopes for guests and more casual festivities in the lobby of the Orpheum.

“Those types of things are rich cultural traditions that, for many Canadians, we learn why they happen as they happen. Even the exact date of where this event sits during the two-week celebration period is critical; you can neither be too early nor too late.”

For Poly Culture, the challenge is the opposite: how to establish itself as a major local Vancouver art-scene player when its roots are from in China. Its name recognition is already strong among newer Chinese immigrants from the mainland market that the VSO is seeking to appeal to, but it is seeking a stronger foothold as a Canadian presence.

In its first year in Vancouver, Poly has held nine major art exhibitions at its gallery downtown, Chen said. And while the exhibits have garnered strong interest from locals, Chen said the pace and the frequency of the exhibits hampered Vancouverites’ ability to develop deeper appreciation of the works.

That’s why Poly Culture plans to cut the number of exhibits this year to three or four, starting with an exhibit featuring tea-service pottery made from clay in China’s renowned Yixing region – among the most treasured works of art in China’s tea culture. The exhibit started on February 17 at the Poly gallery.

Poly Culture also helped sponsor Vancouver Art Gallery’s Claude Monet exhibit this past summer. Tweeddale said the VSO’s agreement with Poly Culture could generate additional opportunities for the orchestra such as helping it expand into multimedia performances.



Check out the art at Whistler’s World Ski and Snowboard Festival

The annual festival runs this year from April 10-15

WSSF is set to return with its signature film events this year | Photo: Justa Jeskova/WSSF

It’s not just about the powder.


The World Ski and Snowboard Festival (WSSF) is an annual celebration that takes place in Whistler Village and includes ski races and snowboarding championships, but there are events that may appeal to those more inclined to stay inside by the fire.


Festival organizers of have unveiled more details about which arts events are returning for this year's festival.


On the list: State of the Art, which has been renamed Art & Soul, Multiplicity and the 2nd Cuts Filmmaker Screening.


"When our two teams, Whistler Blackcomb and Gibbons, sat down and were going through this reimagining process going forward, we knew we wanted this component of the festival to be part of what we were putting on for 2018," said Julia Montague, communications manager for WSSF.


Last month, Whistler Blackcomb announced that its in-house event producer Crankworx Inc. would be teaming up with and Gibbons Group to bring back the season-end event after Watermark Inc. said that 2017 would be its final year producing the event. (Tourism Whistler also stepped back from its one-third ownership stake.)


That initial announcement explained that the festival would be six days instead of 10 —running from April 10 to 15 — and would mark a return of big-name events like Big Air and the Saudan Couloir Ski Race Extreme. But on top of that, they also confirmed that the 72-Hr Filmmaker Showdown, the Pro Photographer Showdown and the final party, The End, would all be included in the festivities.


"It's been interesting. The initial response when the release went out that WSSF was coming back, the overall responses were positive, but there were questions about what wasn't on the schedule. We were getting all our ducks in a row," Montague said.


To that end, she confirmed the newly named Art & Soul would return with a similar format to State of the Art at the Whistler Conference Centre. However, the opening party for the exhibit is set to take place on Tuesday (April 1) from 3:30 p.m. until 6:30 p.m., as opposed to the traditional Friday night kick off.


"As mountain people we do so many activities that feed our soul," Montague said. "The art created in our community reflects that... (The exhibit) gives artists in our community a platform to share their art with (not only) fellow artists and people who live in Whistler, but also the festival-goers."


Multiplicity, likewise, was a community favourite and fits well with the festival, she added. "It was a no-brainer for us," she said. "It's like the spirit of sitting around a campfire. It draws on a rich human tradition of story telling."

Gibbons, meanwhile, will be at the helm of the music lineup. There will be no main stage this year, but rather DJs and/or bands will be incorporated into other events like the Big Air.


No lineup has been revealed yet. "We're in a development phase. We're leaning on our partners to collaborate together," said Katrina Frew, director of festivals and events with Gibbons, referring to sponsors Monster Energy and Kokanee. "We're looking for something that will be a perfect fit, something Whistler will be excited about."


Keep an eye on for updates.

Pique Newsmagazine


When your bookkeeper is not enough

You're an entrepreneur, not an accountant. You hate (read: loathe) dealing with the numbers side of your business. You probably aren’t getting the info you need to run your business and, if you’re honest, you don’t actually know what you need – you just know you’re not getting it.

It’s a vicious cycle, and you’ve picked up a legit case of balance-sheet anxiety.

The problem lies with the way in which most entrepreneurs, particularly emerging entrepreneurs, think about accounting. They don’t have the complete picture. They think it means the basic hygiene of accounting – the day-to-day bookkeeping, payroll, expenses, filings, monthly reports, etc., etc.

Of course, that’s an important part of it. It’s critical if you’re ever looking for financing, undergoing a Canada Revenue Agency audit or looking to sell. Your financial record-keeping is like the bathroom in a restaurant. If the bathroom is a mess, it makes people wonder what the kitchen looks like. It’s the same thing with outsiders (bankers, investors, buyers) looking at your books. If they are a mess, they may not want to eat what you make in your kitchen.   

But accounting hygiene isn’t really why you have an accounting department or bookkeeper.

Sure, it is their responsibility, but it isn’t their core purpose. Way more important are the financial insights, the numbers that fundamentally drive your business. It’s up to your accountant to deliver that information to you in a language you understand – not in pages of financial statements and reports that you’re not going to look at anyway. It is not your job to interpret the financials. Yes, you can take one thing off your to-do list.

But there is one thing to put at the top of your list. You need to know what good financial insight looks like when it’s done properly. This is tough because there is so little of it for emerging businesses. Essentially, it’s a deep dive into trends, ratios and benchmarks data (the crap you don’t want to do) delivered to you in practical, understandable language. It’s a dashboard that allows you to understand your financial position in a 30-second glance and to give you confidence to pull the right financial levers within your business.

It’s time to demand more of your internal accounting team. Don’t let them get away with handling just the hygiene. Demand they raise their game and deliver financial insights so you can focus on driving results in the business, not getting caught up playing accountant. 

Spencer Sheinin is the founder and CEO of Shift Financial Insights, a business that provides simple accounting solutions and financial insights for emerging businesses, especially when a bookkeeper isn’t cutting it.




Brexit borderlines; Carillion controversy; B.C. business calendar

Brexit negotiations

As the next round of negotiations begins, whether or not the U.K. will remain part of the EU’s customs union is the key issue. Brexit’s key issues come and go almost as quickly as headlines. But as key issues come, this is fundamental, and it is particularly fundamental to the U.K.’s trade and investment relationship with Canada. The U.K.’s secretary of state for leaving the EU, MP David Davis, said, “There’s no doubt about it. We are leaving the customs union.” At the same time, the government aims to ensure a soft border with the EU to facilitate trade with Europe – a balance that will be hard to strike. Either way, with a little over a year to go, what happens during a transition period, as well as the long-term nature of the EU-U.K. commercial relationship, remains unclear.

U.K. economy

Having led the G7 pack in GDP growth in 2016, the U.K. has fallen back through 2017. It’s widely suggested this is in part connected to a Brexit-related pause in investment. In a BBC interview Bank of England governor Mark Carney suggested a slowdown could be temporary: “There is the prospect this year, as there is greater clarity about the relationship with Europe and subsequently with the rest of the world, for a … conscious recoupling of the U.K. economy with the global economy.”

The big Carillion question

The announcement that Carillion PLC U.K. entered liquidation was, foremost, a tragedy for those who will lose their jobs and for the subcontractors who serviced Carillion contracts. Yet in the same way Brexit raised questions about not only the U.K.’s place in Europe but also its own identity, this raised deeper questions about the nature of government outsourcing and its relationship with the private sector. Those who opposed the growing role of business in the provision of public services have taken this as a “told you so” moment. Yet how these questions are resolved in future policy will be critical, not only to businesses everywhere, but to the sustainability and quality of public services.

Crossing the Atlantic

Gaming: B.C.’s reputation as a centre for excellence in game development spread further in the U.K. Ten companies joined Pocket Gamer Connects in London ( supported by BC Trade and Investment and the Vancouver Economic Commission, including a reception with potential partners and investors.

•Green build: The Canada Green Building Council brought a delegation to Amsterdam and Vienna, including three B.C. companies, to look at opportunities around energy efficiency and modular building. This included opportunities to export products and expertise to Europe as well as adoption of European techniques and partnerships.

•Agri-food: The world’s largest fruit trade show, Fruit Logistica (, is in Berlin this month. Eight companies and associations from B.C. are central to a wider Canadian mission, which provides an opportunity to promote new and popular fruit varieties, including cherries, blueberries and apples. 

•ICT: 18 B.C. companies are scheduled to be among the Canadian businesses at Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2018 in Barcelona later this month ( MWC is the world’s largest event for the mobile industry. The B.C. companies will be supported by ICT West and BC Trade and Investment.

•Clean tech: Globe Vancouver ( is on the near horizon (March 14-16). European businesses are due to attend, including from the U.K., aiming to connect with B.C. and international markets. The forum is also a chance for B.C.’s domestic clean-tech industry to pitch solutions to European and other majors and source investment. 

Rupert Potter is a U.K.-based writer, speaker and diplomat who has worked in Jordan, Bahrain, Sweden and Canada. His career has included work with the U.K. government. He currently runs an independent consultancy.