The Burnaby Festival of Learning is now Connect Fest
Over nine years, the Burnaby Festival of Learning has brought the community together to learn from each other and enrich each other’s lives. Every year, one thing becomes clearer and clearer: community learning is powerful.
Our deep interconnectedness with each other (and the planet) forms a strong foundation for vibrant community knowledge exchange.
It was time for our festival name to reflect just how important that interconnectedness is. And so was born, Connect Fest.
Connect Fest remains a festival by the community, for the community.
Where folks in our community come forward to share their knowledge, voices, traditions, and truths, honouring the land we’re on as our “classroom”, honouring the places we’re from for the wisdom they’ve given us.
So, get ready to join us April 26–30, 2024 as we celebrate how stories bring communities together, along with new knowledge, cultural exchange, inspiration, food, art, music, and more.
Inspired by an interactive, grassroots, community-based festival in Cork, Ireland, the idea for the first Burnaby Festival of Learning emerged in 2015. We felt like it would be good to bring SFU “down from the mountain” into the Burnaby community so that we could co-create a festival of learning together. In 2016, the first Burnaby Festival of Learning took place, featuring over 68 home-grown learning experiences.
What did we discover? That knowledge doesn’t just come from universities. It lives and has roots in community. Since 2016, the festival has pushed itself to feature and celebrate the power of community learning.
The festival grew every year, and more partnerships were built with and by the Burnaby community. Not only was SFU coming down the mountain, but SFU was also working hard to invite Burnaby residents up to its summit. With a wide diversity of events in a range of sizes, the festival became known for ensuring that all events were free and that everyone was welcome.
When the pandemic came in 2020, we had a hard choice to make. Knowing the right choice to make wasn’t hard, but it was so hard to feel like we wouldn’t be able to offer the same accessibility to inspiration and deep thought that the festival provided. It was starting to become clear to us that the festival provided something else, something that we had perhaps taken for granted: connection. We hadn’t yet developed the expertise necessary to pivot the festival fully online because the festival wasn’t any one organization’s event: it was made by community for community. And as a community, we were now facing a pandemic. And so the festival was put on hold for 2020 as we reeled with the challenge that the pandemic brought.
When 2021 rolled around, although we were still in the thick of pandemic restrictions and increasing health sensitivity and awareness, we were now far more experienced at online meetings. The festival pivoted to a new integrated platform as an experiment in fostering connection and dialogue together, online. There were many bumps and learnings along the way, but it was fantastic to be back together again, even virtually. The Burnaby community’s tremendous resilience and creativity was on full display.
But something else had also happened. 2020 brought with it a heightened awareness of the presence and problem of racism – both personal and structural. Sober and sorrowful revelations of past and present injustice pushed us into hard questions about complicity and the crucial need for spaces that could help us face truth and learn from and with each other. The festival was challenged to consider its role in these conversations and issues, a challenge we continually face today.
As 2022 turned into 2023 and then 2024, a new character for the festival began to emerge and mature, based on deepened commitment to what we were learning: relationships are foundational to deep and lasting knowledge.
Our learning is ongoing. As it should be. But one thing we were now certain of: our name needed to reflect this new understanding. And so the Burnaby Festival of Learning became Connect Fest.
2024’s Connect Fest invites you into an exploration of story, where we share our wisdom, voices, traditions, and truths, acknowledging the land and places that shape our experiences. Join us, April 26–30, 2024, and celebrate the awesome power of story.