Telling Tenancy Stories Through Sound

VTU members collect tenant stories and partner with a youth arts mentorship program to create audio podcasts about housing.

Kell Gerlings speaks to about 8 participants gathered around the table; there are no slides on the bright projector behind them

Above: Kell Gerlings leads a discussion on housing and social action. Photo courtesy of VIVO Media Arts Centre


You're invited to the Housing Stories launch and celebration! Join VTU members, local Vancouver artists and radio people, and other folks at VIVO Media Arts Centre to spend an evening with Vancouver Housing Stories. A small team of engaged participants learned new audio storytelling techniques to share stories of tenants' experience -- and tenants' rights.

When: September 13 (Friday) at 6:30 p.m.

Where: VIVO Media Arts Centre (2625 Kaslo Street)

What: Project presentation, listening stations, discussion with the artists, VTU tabling and info, free refreshments, cash bar

More info:


After learning more about the fight for secure housing at a  Real Rent Control meeting, VTU member and local artist Helena Krobath (and author of this update) started gathering audio recordings in the late spring to tell people’s everyday housing stories through sound. With help from other audio folks – including VTU members Alexander Kim, Allison McClare, and John Packman – the interviews grew. Happily, the project has moved from the “side of the desk” to the front with some help from VIVO Media Arts Centre.

Helena sits with Kell and a round table of participants

Above: Arts mentorship participants meet for a session on housing justice. Photo courtesy of VIVO Media Arts Centre

Artists Care About Housing

Through a BC Arts Council grant, a “youth audio mentorship program” was organized with VIVO Education Coordinator Pietro Sammarco. VIVO is one of Canada’s oldest independent arts media distributors; a massive archive of experimental, queer, feminist, and other media; and long-time artist-run centre with a mandate to support community access in the arts. The program was promoted to audio students, artists, and VTU members, and the resulting team has brought a terrific range of perspectives. 

The interviews include audio footage from VTU members, organizers, and other renters. The goal of the project has been not only to document and record these tenancy stories, but to generate more buzz around housing realities in Vancouver among artists and media producers and provide sharable pieces to circulate online and over radio. The program participants have been working on topics such as Vancouver’s Motion B10, barriers caused by pet restrictions, and ‘urban renewal’ in False Creek. They have also produced short soundscape compositions and a radio drama called ‘Good Deal for Vancouver’ (featuring the unscrupulous Mr. Lumsord!).

Alexander Kim presents to a circle of participants

Above: Alexander Kim sketches out his production work-flow

Bringing Mentors into the Conversation

The program also brought a series of fantastic mentors into the conversation. VTU super-organizer Kell Gerlings provided an overview of local activism and advocacy and illustrated how various abilities come together to produce change. Kim Villigante, (aka the performer Kimmortal), led creative exercises that explored how our stories can empower us to speak to the bigger picture, find our voices, and connect with larger themes. Alexander Kim used his work with local podcasts Crackdown and Cited to show how podcasts can challenge the frames of news (like the damaging narrative of individual responsibility that is often used to explain people’s failure to find proper housing!). Alex De Boer and Madeline Taylor ( 101.9 FM CiTR Radio’s Current Affairs Manager and Program Manager, respectively), presented an in-depth workshop on journalistic audio production and shared their knowledge about working with conventions, conducting interviews, and more.Kim Villigante aka Kimmortal presents on creative voice

Above: Kimmortal talks about their own process as a storyteller dealing with identity and social justice.

Hear the Stories, Join the Podcast!

The podcasts  will be released at VIVO (2625 Kaslo Street) on the evening of September 13, 2019, including an exhibition of the project, conversation with the artists, and food. VTU members are extra warmly invited! The exhibition will run from Sept 17-20 for drop-in viewing/listening, and the special will also air later on community and campus radio, as well as online.

As the project wraps up, we still have tons of unused footage from tenants and VTU organizers, much of it already cut and prepped – so look out for future opportunities to join our audio production sessions! Email the VTU ([email protected]) with the subject line ‘Podcasting’.