Five years ago, at the corner of Kingsway and Fraser, the space for the Toast Collective was constantly being leased by businesses that were failing to put down roots in the Mount Pleasant community, and leaving just as quickly as they had arrived. Charles Ladimer, who lived above the space at the time, thought that he could do better. His original idea was to start a café, a place with “lots of breads and lots of spreads, tea and coffee,” Andrea Creamer explains to me. She is now one of the lease holders for The Toast, for which the dream of a small community café has by far been surpassed.
“There’s upwards of 50 people that use the space on a weekly basis,” Andrea tells me. We are sitting on some couches inside the space. The Toast is separated in two parts: the back room has sinks, a few shelves on both sides of the room that hold pots, pans, dishes. The front room has two couches, a small stage against the front window. It is entirely white. A few posters and art pieces hang on the walls but the room is altogether pretty bare, which gives it the feeling of being a blank canvas, a space that you could transform very easily – and that’s the idea. Andrea explains to me that, in the beginning, the eight people involved in the project had so many ideas for the space that it was hard to decide on just one. “It became that type of project where there’s a lot of energy at the meetings and they would go away from the meetings for the rest of the month and not a lot of stuff was happening. But a lot of other people were creative in other ways; there were other types of events happening – we’ve had bands play, we’ve had art shows, photography shows, big potlucks.” In the end, groups started forming around certain ideas and projects, and different sub-collectives were formed. The space has since hosted many events and workshops “on anything from composting and gardening, to facilitation techniques, to writing – I know there was a pirate radio station for a while, and it was a very small signal that only reached about six square block radius,” Andrea laughs.
The Toast is currently the playing ground of several different collectives (though, I am told, they are always open to applications from other collectives or individuals). The Junktion Kickball League, Andrea’s home-collective, is a free, drop-in kickball league. They play at Robson Park but also hold events at The Toast during the off-season. At those times, Andrea explains, they just go by the name Junktion “because it’s confusing if you come to a movie night and it’s run by Junktion Kickball League but you’re watching Wayne’s World or you’re playing boardgames and you’re like – why is there no kickball?”
The Beercat Brewing Collective offers workshops on home-brewing techniques, and of course there is opportunity for tasting. Community Yoga Vancouver holds about six yoga classes per week in the space – the classes are by donation and have a specific focus on being accessible to all bodies. They also offer a variety of workshops and classes like queer yoga, clown yoga, and “Mindfulness and movement for activists.” The group also puts together a zine that addresses issues at the intersection of yoga and politics. The Violet Wire Union is a small collective that collaborates with different artists, groups or individuals to put on events.
“It’s big ideas from people that just want to see things happen. I think that’s very much a microeconomic standpoint – change comes from small things happening.”
By Myriam LacroixBC, British Columbia