Bruce Stewart and the Dollarton Pleasure Faire of 1972

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1972 Dollarton Faire
Vancouver Sun photo showing evictions in the Dollarton mudflats in December 1971

I was at the North Vancouver Archives this week trying to hunt down some information from the city directories. On the way out I noticed a black and white photo exhibition by Bruce Stewart. Called West of Eden, these photos were all taken over a two-week period  in 1972 at what’s now the Maplewood Conservation Area on Dollarton Highway.

Since I’m used to seeing wood ducks, chickadees and the odd deer at Maplewood, it was kind of cool to see a bunch of naked hippies frolicking around down there completely oblivious to being documented by Stewart.

Dollarton mudflats 1972
Bruce Stewart photo, 1972

Back in the ‘70s squatters used to live above the tidal mudflats in a row of shacks. It sounds kind of romantic today, but I’m guessing raising a family among salvaged materials, with no electricity or running water would not have been much fun, especially in winter.

Dollarton mudflats 1972
Dan Scott photo, October 1971, Vancouver Sun

The Dollarton Pleasure Faire held back in that summer of ’72 was one of many Faires that popped up around North American in the late ’60s and ’70s. The Dollarton Faire was meant to be a celebration of alternative living timed to clash with the PNE held across the inlet. The two week resistance Faire was also a show of support—the mudflat squatter community versus the District of North Vancouver who were determined to burn it down for a shopping mall.

I’m not sure what happened to the shopping mall, but in the end capitalism trumped the rights of people to occupy public land, and all traces of the Mudflat shacks are long gone.

Bruce Stewart photo, 1972
Bruce Stewart photo, 1972

The exhibit runs until October 10. It’s on the second floor of the Community History Centre, which is the old Lynn Valley elementary school at Mountain Highway and Lynn Valley Road.

See: Malcolm Lowry’s shack

Dollarton mudflats 1972
Bruce Stewart photo, 1972

© All rights reserved. Unless otherwise indicated, all blog content copyright Eve Lazarus.

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  1. I’ve seen these photos before. They are wonderful documents.

    Transport this scene to the Kootenays, just five years later, and you have a picture of the life I lived in for a couple of years, high in the Purcell Mountains (pun intended).

    A lot of us hippies fled the edges of the cities for more remote redoubts, where we could “do our thing” without continual harassment by the establishment, though the RCMP paid us a couple of unwelcome visits … one time on horseback, though these were no experienced horsemen!

    These were formative times, learning from old trappers and prospectors — trying to live free and sustainably. We were poor, but rich in experience and adventure.

  2. It’s quite dismaying the lack of accurate knowledge about the Mudflats, where I spent many formative years in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. Many mistakenely claim that Malcolm Lowry lived there, or Al Neil, both of whom were a mile or two down the inlet.

    I met the ‘Mudflats’ founder, Peter Choquette in 1965 and he was already living there in the furthest out (in more ways than one) cabin, which was up on stilts or pilings.

    Then Helen Simpson moved into the next cabin a little later. Some of the original squatters including old Mike were still living there and Peter got along fine with them. Whale expert Dr. Paul Spong also lived in Peter’s cabin while the latter was away in Morocco.

    Later the cabins on the shore were occupied by the Deluxe gang including Dan and Wendy Clements, Michael Deacon and others. They were a big part of putting on the Pleasure Fair. Artist Tom Burrows also built a cabin there.

    But UBC Professor, Ken Lum’s reconstruction of a Mudflats cabin is, unlike Mr. Stevenson’s photographic study, an example of attempts by our local conceptual art elite to appropriate this history without ever talking to those of us who spent a lot of time there and know what happened in those days. This work is an unfortunate and exploitative piece of public art which I wish had never been approved, or moved there.

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