Back in the late 1980s I was approached by filmmaker Craig Berggold of the Mayworks Festival of Working People and the Arts to program the festival's cabaret. As this was the first time I was asked to contribute something other than my musical abilities (Hard Rock Miners had played previous Mayworks Festivals in Vancouver and Winnipeg), I said yes, and for three years I worked with Craig, Gary Cristall, Erin Mullen, Jeannie Kamins and others on the program.
Craig is the son of Carole Conde and Karl Beveridge, Toronto-based artists who create dioramic installations and photo-montage tableaux that feature heightened instances of cultural resistance and banal depictions of working class life. For some, this work is seen as extreme; for others, a sometimes needed hyperbolic dimension (less socialist realism than political cartooning) of a larger project undertaken by those who employ similar compositional strategies (Jeff Wall, Ken Lum, Stan Douglas), but usually in a more subtle form.
Something I have noticed since my work with Mayworks is a steady decline in a working class artistic culture, one that parallels a shrinking North American union membership and a rise in part-time employment. That said, in 2011 W2: Community Media Arts in Vancouver revived Mayworks after a five year hiatus.