Everything you need to know about Mayworks Festival’s 2024 lineup | Arts & Culture | Halifax, Nova Scotia | THE COAST
Montreal illustrator and labour organizer Tricia Robinson will create a live art display in combination with Haitian-Québecois poet Laura Doyle Péan for Bread & Roses: Can You See Us?

Everything you need to know about Mayworks Festival’s 2024 lineup

The 16th annual labour movement festival runs May 1-12 in Halifax. Catch up on all the events and where to see them.

Halifax’s longest-running workers’ movement festival is back for its 16th year. Starting Wednesday, May 1, the Mayworks Festival will bring visual artists, poets, emcees, actors, quilters and labour organizers together for a 12-day lineup of shows, workshops and exhibits that promises a little bit of everything—and a whole lot to reflect on. The annual festival was founded in 2009 to “use art to explore themes of justice, solidarity and liberation.” That doesn’t mean it’s all folk tunes and banjos or “white men in hard hats and overalls,” festival director Sébastien Labelle tells The Coast.

“One of the missions that I've had as festival director … has been to kind of challenge stereotypes of what ‘the working class’ is,” Labelle says. “[It’s] much more diverse than that. But all have common aspirations and struggles for a better life for themselves, their families and the communities that they’re part of.

“And so I feel like our programming emulates that … they’re all events that are very diverse and come from different perspectives and different communities.”

This year, Mayworks offers everything from “Working Class Heritage Tours” of the waterfront to a hip hop showcase led by activist/rapper General Khan to the bilingual Bread & Roses: Can You See Us?, a combined spoken word and live art performance that “tackles topics of invisibilized labour, union work, collective liberation and the importance of solidarity in the face of intersecting social crises.”

Labelle sees the festival lineup as a collection of “things that are reflecting on issues of our time, but also on previous social movements as well.” That stems from Mayworks’ origins in the International Workers Day (or May Day) labour movement.

“We’ve been a festival that's never really wanted to limit itself to any particular artistic discipline,” he adds. “It’s really more the content of the event, or the show, or the project.”

Most of the events are pay what you can, and some are entirely free. Some also offer free childcare and ASL interpreters. We’ve got you covered with all the Mayworks happenings below:

Bread & Roses: Can You See Us?
Haitian-Québecois poet Laura Doyle Péan and visual artist Tricia Robinson team up for a combined spoken word and live illustration performance at The Bus Stop Theatre, in both English and French. Both artists are active within labour and social justice movements in Montreal, and those themes will weave throughout the performance—“really connecting the message of that traditional song [‘Bread & Roses’] to current struggles, and to current perspectives on feminism, queer liberation and gendered work,” Labelle says.
May 1, 7-8:30pm, The Bus Stop Theatre. Pay what you can (details and tickets here).

Portrait of the Artist as an Essential Worker (Reception & Artist Talk)
Textile artists Sarah Mosher and Hannah Genosko spent the COVID-19 pandemic as essential workers at the NSLC and Canada Post, respectively. Those experiences feed into their quilted collaboration, combining printmaking and textiles to “dig deeper into the ‘essential’ label where art and work don’t often intersect.” The quilts are on exhibit at The Bus Stop Theatre from Apr. 1 until June 30, but in a special event for the festival, Mosher and Genosko will host a reception and talk about their work this Friday evening.
May 3, 5-7pm, The Bus Stop Theatre. Free (details here).

click to enlarge Everything you need to know about Mayworks Festival’s 2024 lineup
Sarah Mosher and Hannah Genosko
Sarah Mosher and Hannah Genosko's mixed-media project combines textiles and printmaking to comment on the nature of work and what's deemed "essential."

Working Class Heritage Tour: By Choice or By Force
Learn the story of immigrants and migrants to Halifax in a walking tour of the Halifax Seaport area, from Acadian expulsion to the Chinese community who found a home in Halifax to enslaved people sold on the Halifax waterfront. Labour folklorist Emma Lang leads the tours, running two weekends in a row.
May 4, 11 and 12, 1pm, starting at Peace and Friendship Park. Pay what you can (details and tickets here).

Hip Hop: The Next Gen
Halifax activist Masuma Khan—also known as rapper General Khan—emcees a night of hip hop performances by local up-and-comers Chieffy, J u í c e, BASYL, LXVNDR and Yohvn Blvck, deejayed by OKAY TK.
May 4, 9-11:30pm, The Seahorse Tavern. $10 (details and tickets here)

click to enlarge Everything you need to know about Mayworks Festival’s 2024 lineup
Mayworks Festival
From left: BASYL, Chieffy, J u í c e, General Khan, LXVNDR, Yohvn Blvck and DJ OKAY TK.

Resting Space
The multidisciplinary Becoming Old Growth trio leads a workshop inviting participants to explore their relationship with rest. “What changes when we recognize exhaustion as a collective issue rather than a personal one?” it asks.
May 5, 1-4pm, The Bus Stop Theatre. Free (details and registration here)

Crafters Resistance: Community Quilting Project Final Presentation & Meal
Think of the Worst Theatre has been inviting Haligonians to join a communal quilting project for the past six weeks, sewing squares to form three large quilts that “resemble local buildings that should be affordable housing.” (The quilts are based on the former St. Patrick’s-Alexandra school on Maitland Street, the old Halifax Memorial Library on Spring Garden Road and the former Bloomfield Centre on Agricola Street.) On Wednesday, May 8, Every One Every Day will host a community meal and showcase the final designs.
May 8, 3-8pm, Every One Every Day. Free (details and registration here)

click to enlarge Everything you need to know about Mayworks Festival’s 2024 lineup
Think of the Worst Theatre
Scraps of fabric used for Think of the Worst Theatre's participatory quilting project.

Reel Justice/Animating Justice
Dalhousie student Logan Murray curated this short film collection, showcasing “shorts from across Atlantic Canada and the country at large.” Six short films will screen over the course of 65 minutes. Then, the Animation Festival of Halifax presents an additional four short animated films over the next half-hour.
May 9, 6:45-9pm, The Bus Stop Theatre. Pay what you can (details and tickets here)

Our Legacy: Many Voices, Many Stories
Cultural producer Shelley Fashan curates an evening of guests as a “tribute and celebration of Black families, stories and songs.” Fashan invites Africville descendent Florence Mae West, singer and former Nova Scotia Mass Choir president Linda Carvery, North Preston’s gospel-singing Fraser family and East Preston’s activist Thomas family for an evening of stories and songs.
May 10, 7-9pm, The Bus Stop Theatre. Pay what you can (details and tickets here)

Fille de laitier
In this French-language performance, Quebec storyteller Arleen Thibault takes her audience for a humorous trip through her family history as a daughter, granddaughter and great-granddaughter of dairy farmers. She’s joined onstage by musician Robin Servant.
May 11, 7-8:30pm, The Bus Stop Theatre. Pay what you can (details and tickets here)

The Embodied Creation Project
Performance artist Colleen Arcturus MacIsaac (The Villains Theatre) offers a “joyful, terrified, chaotic and introspective celebration” of life, centred around the birth of their child, Wren, in February 2023. Billed as a “new performance,” it explores “how we can use our bodies to create, what queer parenthood can feel like and what we might want to embody in this world.” It also features appearances from Linda MacIsaac, Dorian Arcturus Lang and Wren Arcturus.
May 12, 3-3:30pm, The Bus Stop Theatre. Pay what you can (details and tickets here)

Lockdown Baby
Halifax poet and documentary filmmaker Nicole Jordan follows the stories of three professional performing artists—herself included—who became pregnant during the first lockdown of the pandemic. It examines how these mothers-to-be “took their art forms from the stage to the city streets to share their intimate expressions of love, fear and hope for their unborn babies.”
May 12, 4-5pm, The Bus Stop Theatre. Pay what you can (details and tickets here)

Martin Bauman

Martin Bauman, The Coast's News & Business Reporter, is an award-winning journalist and interviewer, whose work has appeared in the Globe and Mail, Calgary Herald, Capital Daily, and Waterloo Region Record, among other places. In 2020, he was named one of five “emergent” nonfiction writers by the RBC Taylor Prize...
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