January has finally passed and Mirvish Village will be clearing out to make way for a residential complex by Vancouver developer Westbank. This tightly packed strip was home to an eclectic number of businesses and organizations aside from The Beguiling: the specialized video rental store, Suspect Video; a number of clothing stores including one that specialized in vintage lingerie; art galleries; chill restaurants like Southern Accent; my seamstress Cherie; the activist space Beit Zatoun; and once upon a time, an excellent little art book store, Dave Mirvish Books.
For me, the Westbank development amounts to the loss one of the most socially dense blocks in Toronto. It exemplified Jane Jacob’s description of a vital and healthy urban space – a space that facilitates unexpected connections and the growth of informal networks of interclass, social interactions. These types of spaces display all the complexity of a mature ecosystem and in my mind, the destruction of Mirvish Village is akin to a loss in biodiversity. It cannot, and will not be replaced.
If there was one thing that irritated me about Westbank’s approach to Mirvish Village, it was their glib suggestion that the “vibe” of that dense little block could somehow be preserved by putting in pretty walkways and a bunch of trendy pop up shops. “It’ll be full of bougie garbage like cushions with deer heads on them,” mused my friend. At best, this development will resemble Mirvish in the way that the rainforest room in the Ontario Science Centre resembles a real, living, breathing rainforest. It will be the simulacra of an urban community. If (and this is a huge if) the level of complexity we find in Mirvish Village is ever regained, if we are ever to see new informal, interclass networks built on relationships of mutual pleasure developing in the same street, it will take decades to grow and the outcome will be entirely different.
So I attended the last party at The Beguiling on Markham Street (now located on College!) with mix of joy and sadness. The show sold out quickly due to concerns about venue capacity from the city, but I was thankfully able to wrangle admissions for my friend Gart and I ❤
We ended up running into a bunch of zinester/comic making friends and, as is inevitable at these sorts of events, we ended up making a bunch of new friends.
Before the first act began, Miles and I took one last tour of the upstairs floor.
The store looked massive when it wasn’t packed to the gills with cluttered piles of comic gems. Everyone was encouraged to draw on the bare walls.
Peter adds his final mark:
There was great lineup of local acts, including Michael Deforge and Patrick Kyle’s Creep Highway.
I ended up really loving New Fries:
It was around 1 am when everything wrapped up. A friend had alerted me to a rave taking place just a hop, skip and jump away and the dance floor beckoned. The windows were papered over but I just opened the door and walked right in… and didn’t emerge until I’d danced out all the feels…
Mirvish Village may be gone but if there’s something I’ve learned about these sorts of unique spaces (Rochdale College comes to mind), it’s that many of the relationships people made will transcend the destruction of space. And these people will go on to build new networks in new spaces. Because it’s always the people that make any space, any organization, any scene, any city truly great. The people who organize, the people who create, the people who care, the people who keep showing up time after time. The people you won’t even ever know and who will eventually be forgotten. Without us, there’s nothing.
There can’t be over 20 people at the rave but it’s still early in the evening and everyone is super pumped. A young man in a crossing guard vest dances up to me and says, “Keep on daaaaaaancing… never stop daaaaaaaaaaancing.” And in that hollow, abandoned space made alive for one last time with sound, my friends and a bunch of friendly strangers and myself all throw our hands up in the air together and give it every fucking thing we have.