Daniel Francis

Reading the National Narrative

Blue Cabin

June 14, 2018


People have been living "off the grid" in cabins and floathomes around the shores of Burrard Inlet since before the creation of Vancouver. Squatting on the foreshore was one strategy for finding affordable housing in what has always been an expensive city. Little by little these foreshore squatters were evicted from their homes to make way for port developments until today none remain.

A couple of years ago the last of the squatters cabins at Cates Park in North Vancouver was threatened with destruction by a real estate development next door. For many years the cabin had been home to the musician and writer Al Neil and artist Carol Itter. Through the intervention of the local arts community the building was saved. It has been restored and will reemerge as a floating artist residency.

Today the grunt gallery opens an exhibition showcasing the restoration of the Blue Cabin by Jeremy and Sus Borsos. As part of the exhibition Jeremy Borsos will be giving a talk describing the restoration of the building. That's on June 20 at 7 p.m. at the grunt, 350 East 2nd Avenue in Vancouver. And then the following week, June 28, same time, same place, I will be giving a slide presentation about the history of squatting in the Inlet, trying to provide some historical context for the community at Cates Park of which the Blue Cabin was a part.

A full report on the Blue Cabin project is here.


May 31, 2018


One reason to take a trip up BC's Inside Passage (see below) is to witness scenes like this.

The vessel was dawdling up Blackfish Sound near the top of Vancouver Island when this adolescent humpback decided to put on a show. It was with us for about half an hour, breeching and fin slapping and generally showing off. Coincidentally (or was it?) we were just passing by Orca...

May 10, 2018


While preparing to set sail (see below) I've been reading a fascinating account of daily life in the Depression-era government work camps established by the Department of Defence to get single, jobless men off the streets. The book, edited by Peter Neary, collects the correspondence of Alan Collier, a Toronto-born artist who travelled west in search of work in 1934 and ended...

May 4, 2018


This space has been quiet of late while I packed up the house I lived in with my family for thirty years and moved to a new base of operations. Buying, selling, moving: stressful times. But they are behind us now.

To celebrate, we are going on a cruise. An outfit called Uncruise Adventures has invited me to be on-board...

March 11, 2018


Nice to see the City of Vancouver honouring the memory of Helena Gutteridge last week to mark International Women's Day. Gutteridge was an early labour activist and suffragist who in 1937 became the first woman elected to city council.


March 8, 2018


The death of Roger Bannister last week got me thinking about Bill Parnell (that's him in the above photo).

Bannister, of course, was the legendary runner who broke the 4-minute mile barrier in 1954, then won the famous “Miracle Mile” at the Empire/Commonwealth Games in Vancouver when he and John Landy both finished the race is less than four minutes.

It is an...