Straight up, it’s hard to meet people. And in Edmonton’s cold north, the party is often hiding behind closed doors (of course, we’re getting better at it thanks to Edmonton’s WinterCity Strategy!). That leaves a lot of us falling into a Netflix trap, keeping to our own circles and our old habits, and sometimes, forgetting that to live in a city means being a part of the thing, gosh darn it!
That’s why I’m calling all introverts, extroverts, homebodies, newcomers, Edmonton vets, business-owners, students, parents, and artists: I want to tell you that I think I found a cool place for us all to hang out for no other reason than to just…chat!
Whether you’ve just moved to Edmonton, or been here a long time, you may have heard about the event I’m referring to. It’s called Green Drinks and it happens once a month in the very heart of downtown, and though its organized by The Local Good, the event draws tons of support from volunteers who are just like you—looking for an easy, relaxed night full of casual conversation that’s so much more than just “going out for drinks”.
Still, if you’re anything like me, you might need some convincing. I literally listed the event in the Yards Newsmagazine’s Event Calendar every issue for six months and it still took me about two years to say: okay, you know what, I’m going. I’ll fricken go.
And because of what I’ve found since, I want to encourage you to get off your butt and come to the next event. And to help those of you who aren’t sure exactly what to expect, I thought I’d make the whole thing a little more transparent!
Here are five things to expect at a Green Drinks Event!
When you walk into the door of Yellowhead Brewery (Green Drinks “headquarters”), you’ll probably be greeted by a connector who is ready to say hello! Whether they’re at the “gate” or standing by the door, you can tell right away that they’re curious to get to know you.
Grab a name tag and move a bit further into the space and (as the evening’s guests start filtering in), your own curiosity will be sparked by the interesting attendees sitting at tables, or wandering around the room. The best part is that everyone is expecting a conversation, so you absolutely don’t have to be shy—ask the questions that you want to ask, and feel free to grab a beer before the “show” starts!
(To make it easy, everyone writes a subject of conversation on their name tag–I don’t know how many times I’ve used it as a starter! “So what does yours say?”)
As a part of each event, a collective of speakers take the stage, one by one telling their stories. Each Green Drinks event has a different theme, so the stories change every time. For instance, during the most recent event the “theme” was the upcoming election (ooOOoOoo), with bipartisan speakers talking to issues of climate change, conservation, education, and government. Other themes have included YEG stories, YEG makers, and Reconciliation.
The idea is that these speakers give audience members something to talk about after the “main attraction” is over. And because most speakers end up sticking around to chat, attendees are encouraged to introduce themselves! Honestly, the whole night is a pleasant buzz of voices—and they’re not coming from someone’s Instagram story.
That said, the biggest draw for me has to be the feeling I get after I’ve listened to the oftentimes incredible accounts of the lives of my fellow Edmontonians. Sometimes, these people turn out to be my neighbours, or people whose faces I recognize from walking past them in the street. Regardless, I always learn something new about Edmonton that I’d never known.
At the same time that I get to learn about my community, as a guest I also get to participate as a community-maker, creating connections with people I would otherwise never meet.
A small list of people I’ve met: a basket-maker, a cannabis marketer, an ex-member of the NDP caucus, a University professor, a journalist, a sustainability expert, a philanthropist, an engineer, and a woman who loves potatoes almost as much as me.
I like Green Drinks because the event has an extremely open atmosphere that welcomes all forms of criticism. In my experience, I have not only seen invited guests speak out against certain Edmonton policy, or history, or trends (gentrification, for instance), but I have also seen organizers address their own limitations, especially when encouraged via audience feedback and criticism.
Take this last Green Drinks event on Politics—so much room for the place to get heated, and for tension to run high, but when a brave audience member (via twitter) questioned why that night’s panel of speakers were all white, instead of shying away from the question, one of the event’s regular MCs took accountability.
She admitted that they didn’t do as well as they could have, especially considering the very issues arising in the midst of the upcoming election on Tuesday. But she also admitted (and I can back this up) that they usually do have a more diverse selection of speakers, and further, encouraged us to consider the ways in which the ideas we’d discussed that evening were incomplete without the critical perspectives of our minority populations in the fray.
(I’d also like to acknowledge that for other-abled folks (shoutout to my favourite disability advocate Olivia Hughes!), the space has its limitations. Anyone with a walker or in need of a ramp just needs to reach out to organizers to make sure Yellowhead preps for ramp access—as they don’t have it “built in”. Speakers will also be unable to get into the “stage” easily; luckily the venue supports an off-stage, crowd experience, so in terms of visuals, speakers are still front and center! In all, they’ll do what they can to accommodate as much as possible, so don’t feel shy about asking!!)
I can promise that you will not leave without having made at least one connection. Whether that connection is with another person, an idea you’ve been working on, or even if that connection is just with yourself, you are going to leave fulfilled. After the night’s MC’s round everything up, guests are encouraged to hang around for a beer or two (you can drink during the event of course) and chat with the people around you, with whom you now share an experience.
Like this past Green Drinks, I met a woman who totally surprised me as a person. She was blunt, but not overwhelming—and she had conviction! Something I always joke that I lack. And not only did she give me the nicest and most encouraging compliment/ advice out of the blue, we also had a few really good laughs together. All because she was sitting alone and instead of just walking by I decided to do the same thing that had gotten me to the event in the first place: I said, you know what, that’s it, I’m going!
Seriously, it’s Spring (I think?) and I’m inviting you. Green Drinks, Yellowhead Brewery at 6:30(ish)PM (you can follow along for the next date announcement here!) It’s fun, it’s 10 bucks, and it’s different. Conscious. No loud music, enough room to talk, and a “main attraction” to bring everyone together. One time, a guest speaker even taught us all how to dance.
All images copyright Jessica Barratt