Blank-Fest celebrates fifth anniversary
How everyone comes together to keep YYC’s homeless youth warm
Angie Lang, Features Editor
It’s minus 30 outside and the streets are covered with snow. You can see your breath and you can feel your eyes burning from the severe temperatures. Those brutally cold days are hard for the best of us seasoned Calgarians, but imagine you didn’t have a warm home to go to or clothes to protect you from these harsh temperatures. For many youth living in Calgary, this nightmare is their reality.
Blank-Fest, an international event brings awareness to the growing percent of youth homelessness in cities across Canada and the United States. Blank-fest Calgary works with local musicians and the Streetlight initiative to raise donations for Calgary’s less fortunate.
Streetlight is a program that works with other street orientated agencies and the community to better assist our homeless youth in a positive way, by raising money and donations for these youth.
Leanne Harrison of artist management and booking group SIN agency, along with multiple volunteers come together to help Calgary’s homeless. It’s nothing more and nothing less. That is the slogan that has inspired Blank-Fest across the world, to aid those living on the streets to be clothed and fed during the winter months.
Harrison says that she became aware of Blank-Fest six years ago when she met Ken Rowel who has been running Blank-Fest in New York City for 17 years. Harisson says that Rowel has been running Blank-Fest in New York the exact same way every Christmas eve.
Blank-Fest Calgary started small with only seven blankets. Harrison says, it’s come along way since the beginning. She says it’s very unfortunate that Calgary is one of the richest cities in Canada but yet we still have a very large homeless problem.
“We should look a little closer to home,” says Harrison. “It’s something that’s always hurt me to see people lying on the street.”
Harrison says no matter where she goes she always talks to the people who are living on the street. She says that everyone has a story to tell and the reason there are on the street is not his or her choice.
The first year BlankFest started they did a call out for blankets, clothing and cash donations. Harrison says “it was so successful, it really blew my mind and it’s remained consistent overt the last five years.”
The event not only helps the less fortunate living on the street, but also helps local indie bands become recognized.
“Calgary has a really rich and talented music scene and there are a lot of up and coming bands that no one knows about.”
Local musicians donate their time and music and in exchange they get exposure.
For most teens living on the street it’s not their choice, especially when it’s minus 30 degree weather. Streetlight mobile drop-in centre works with the less fortunate and feeds them, clothes them and gives them a safe place to rest and talk for a little.
Blankfest is happening Nov. 14 at the Blind Beggar Pub from 7 p.m. to 2 a.m. Representatives from Streetlight will be in attendance with vouchers and information.
100 per cent of the proceeds from Blankfest go towards Streelight.
“We run this event for the benefit of the community and to give back,” says Harrison. “It’s our way of giving back.”