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Facebook sparks revival of Lost Souls festival

A spark lit on Facebook has helped bring the Parade of Lost Souls in Vancouver back from the dead. Organizers…

By Jacqueline Ronson , in Culture Feature story , on October 28, 2010 Tags: , ,

Public Dreams encourages community members to show up in costume and in character

A spark lit on Facebook has helped bring the Parade of Lost Souls in Vancouver back from the dead.

Organizers cancelled the popular event last year due to funding cuts. But community members came together by social networking to plan an unofficial gathering in Grandview Park in the east of the city.

The renegade Parade of Lost Souls started as a “wildfire thing on Facebook,” said Pamela Turner, a supporter of the event.

“It was pretty damned exciting to see all of those people sign up and say, ‘let’s make this happen.’”

The community arts group Public Dreams is bringing back a smaller version of the Parade of Lost Souls.

“There was so much feedback from the community saying, ‘we need this,’” said Laura Grieco, General Manager of Public Dreams.

At its height, the parade attracted more than 30,000 people. This year, programming will allow for only about 3,000 participants.

The route of this year’s Secret Souls Walk on Oct. 30 won’t be revealed until the day of the festival.

Public Dreams has been able to cut major costs associated with previous events. The major thoroughfare of Commercial Drive will not be closed to traffic and there will be no fireworks display.

The cost of the Secret Souls Walk will be $9,000, Grieco said. The 2008 parade cost more than $60,000, according to the Facebook page for this year’s event.

Back from the dead

The celebration brings the pagan tradition of celebrating the dead “closer to its roots,” said Jesse Kerpan, who volunteered as a first aid attendant at last year’s gathering.

He described it “as a day when the line between light and darkness, living and dead, is blurred, and souls of all kinds can mingle.”

"Thriller" flash mob will star Imran Dhanji as Michael Jackson

The event has become a community tradition.

City Councillor Andrea Reimer said she has been attending the parade since her daughter, now 13, was in pre-school.

Reimer said that the Parade of Lost Souls is great because it is a participatory festival and it supports “getting out at night and learning that your neighbours are kind of cool.”

Hallowe’en, on the other hand, can cause parents to see neighbours as potential threats because media coverage focuses on “how to protect your kid,” Reimer added.

‘Parade of Lost Funding’

When last year’s parade was cancelled, people were disappointed, and they started talking about holding their own event, Darryl Taylor said.

Taylor started a Facebook page titled “The Parade of Lost Funding, er, Souls: October 24” so that people would have a space to coordinate.

At first there were about 10 people joining every day, then a week later there were more than 1,000 members.

Turner estimated that several hundred people gathered for the 2009 celebration, even though organizers only had two weeks to promote the event.

Facebook wasn’t the only social media tool used for spreading the word. A YouTube posting from the gathering showed kids with sequin devil horns clapping and dancing as a marching band performed and a woman danced with a hula hoop.

Last year’s gathering was “much more powerful in some ways than the original, because we made it happen ourselves,” said Turner.

Shrines bring lost souls back to life

Take back the neighbourhood

The 2009 celebration proved that “there’s what Public Dreams puts on, and then it kind of lives beyond us,” Grieco said.

Public Dreams took this to heart in its re-imagining of the event this year.

The group teamed up with the Dusty Flowerpot Cabaret to host a number of workshops leading up to the festival.

Participants made masks and shrines, learned to dance like zombies in preparation for a flash mob,  performed with shadow puppets and howled in unison.

All workshop participants will have the chance to show off their skills and artistic creations at this year’s parade.

For Grieco, it makes the celebration more of a participatory event and less of a spectacle.


  • Nice article, Jacqueline. I love the feature photo. The mass Thriller dance has become insanely popular in Vancouver.

  • Great, Jacqueline!

    Thank you for sending me this. And it was fun to Skype with you.

    Lots of love,


  • My roommate went to this event and said it was “magical — actually magical.”
    She gushed about how intricate the decorations were, and how many great performances there were.
    To think, it almost didn’t happen.

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