We arrived two days before ArtsWells began, early enough to see Wells transform into the festival of all things art. The old casino, community hall, theatre, school field, church, pubs and restaurants host all genres of music and performance types. It's a 'choose your own adventure' festival, planning out time slots to see your favourite artists of years' past or by recommendations of passersby.
photo credit: Roosmarijn Hesse
We had time to visit Barkerville, a historic town depicting the mid 1800's gold rush in BC. With 125 buildings replicating the times and actors, tour guides, and store clerks dressed in 1860s attire, patrons are brought back into the exciting and harsh times of living in a mining town. The Court House Drama is a 30 min walk away, with cougar warnings, but a fun theatrical recreation, where you become the jury for a murder case.
Mason & Daly General Store has become my favourite store due to its lack of plastic things, and very affordable cast iron pans.
photo credit: www.barkerville.com
ArtsWells Festival began and the Vending Village was set up, transforming a strip of grass between the community hall and the school field to a row of tents filled with gear from India, leather masks, feather earrings, bamboo t-shirts and silk screen patches.
Vending was successful, since Wells is isolated in Northern BC, and people from surrounding towns come in specifically to shop in the Vendors Village, and stock up for the year. "You can't find this at our corner store," said one enthusiast mid fifty's man who bought a 125 ml jar of squeaky chompers: natural tooth powder.
Everyone at the festival was in high spirits, for every venue had extremely talented performers inside, and the streets were full of buskers, fire spinners, a mix of people from all backgrounds. Young families, older folks, tree planters, berry pickers, hippies, clowns, straight edge peeps- Wells hosts them all with open arms. This festival is tricky to get to (10 hour drive from Vancouver) but a must see in my books. Coming from watching Hannah Epperson in The Tempest, a small wooden church, to OQO in the big hall, I teared up, partly due to lack of sleep, but mostly out of gratitude of this beautiful festival.
Performance highlights: Red Haven a fusion of gypsy swing folk, Hannah Epperson a trained Violinist, singer, and looper, OQO a classical electronic folk band, Mind of a Snail - a shadow puppet group.