After a quiet 2015, which included the first campless summer in six years, Girls Rock Camp Vancouver is back in full-force to make this a year to remember for volunteers and campers alike.
“We are happy to be back and excited for another successful year,” says Alyce Becker, a long-time organizer who’s been a volunteer since year one. “It’s always a little different every year, because of different campers and volunteers. The set-up is the same, because it’s easy to recycle that blueprint, and every year we tweak it to get better. We’ve just continued to grow and learn each year.”
Inspired by Portland’s Rock ‘N’ Roll Camp for Girls, which started in 2001, Girls Rock Camp Vancouver is a collective of local musicians and community members who help coordinate programming year-round in Vancouver, as well as orchestrate an annual week-long summer camp for girls ages eight to 17. Since 2009, the registered non-profit has used music as a way to better the lives of young women through mentorship and skill-based workshops.
“For us, music is just the vehicle for the program that instills the confidence and the skills in the youth,” explains Becker. “If someone doesn’t play music again for the rest of their life, that’s totally fine. For us, it’s showing up, being interested, collaborating with people, building those communication skills, and that skill set to bring into life.”
Workshops from previous summer camps have included music-centric ones such as songwriting and gear set-up, while other workshops centred on topics like zine-making and screen-printing campers’ own band T-shirts. The kids also form bands at the beginning of camp, and develop their musical skills over the week, culminating in an end-of-camp showcase where every group performs one original song together on the same bill. Music from past Girls Rock Camp Vancouver bands can be found online through the organization’s Bandcamp page.
Everyone involved with Girls Rock Camp Vancouver, from the organizers who spend most of the year planning to the people running workshops during actual camp week, is a volunteer, with Becker describing it as “a co-operative” and “very DIY.” However, there are still costs that come with running a week-long camp each year, which the organization funds through a combination of donations and fundraising — enter their next benefit show on March 8.
“We’re very grateful for all the community support over the years,” says Becker. “Fundraisers and donations essentially let us keep our admission fees sliding scale, so we can stay financially accessible.”
Taking place on International Women’s Day, the benefit show — the second of its kind organized by Vancouver band The Love Buzz — features eight local bands and a DJ, all for a mere $10 donation. The evening’s proceeds will then help Girls Rock Camp Vancouver cover some of their expenses, which include lunches for the campers and equipment rentals and repairs.
And while there are a number of facets and intricacies that come with keeping Girls Rock Camp Vancouver running each year, what it seems to always come back to are the connections made and the community that comes with it.
“Ultimately we want to see youth continue to play music and create projects outside of camp, and to feel empowered that they can,” describes Becker, “Girls Rock Camp Vancouver involves so many people, it really creates new relationships with people you might have never met, and opens a lot of doors for friendships.”
Show your love for Girls Rock Camp Vancouver by checking out The Love Buzz’s International Women’s Day benefit on March 8. A donation of $10 at the door gets you access to eight great local bands (including Lié, Cave Girl, and Les Chaussettes) and proceeds from the show go towards this year’s summer rock camp.