Raising a Glass to Culture – Exploring Culture Without the Booze

By Marshall Feit

At the start of September, the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA) changed their recommendations around alcohol consumption to the shock of Canadian drinkers everywhere. The guidelines now suggest that any drinking can lead to negative outcomes such as heart disease, breast and colon cancer, and increased chances of a stroke. With the announcement, if you followed any online comments, you’d have almost thought the CCSA was coming for our beds.

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Fall/Winter 2022

Drinking is etched into our culture. It’s a nuanced substance that impacts families, bodies, and relationships. We still stigmatize those who have predispositions to alcohol use disorder and consider those who can “hold their liquor” as having a talent. Alcohol is a part of our happiest celebrations and our saddest emotions. In the face of questioning its place in our communities, we grow defensive or even go so far as to make light of alcoholism (an outdated term that does little to acknowledge the biological and trauma-driven nature of the disease now better known as alcohol use disorder).

And I’m not telling anyone to not drink. We live in this beautiful, free society where you get to decide how to live your life.

However, as my time in the creative industry has gone on, I’ve grown more and more to question why so many of our concerts, art openings, festivals, and more are based around drinking. And let me be clear, the person writing this has enjoyed their fair share of booze-fueled festivals, concerts, and bar nights.

Still, I grow more curious why beautiful cultural experiences need to be funded by beer sponsors, oriented around a bar countertop, built on the premise of getting to let loose with a few or more drinks. Having alcohol excludes youth, it creates barriers to those who struggle with addiction, and ultimately it can, if we let it, play a role in not deeply experiencing some of the greatest music and art our province has to offer. Without alcohol, the focus returns to the stage, to the artist and the endless work they’ve put in to bringing you something magnificent.

Now, before you say, “Marsh, you can go to a show and just not buy a drink,” let me also note that there are plenty of alcohol sponsored events with wide bars and huge beer selections. My point isn’t to stop anything, it’s to start something. To investigate events, venues, and spaces that are all-ages. To support performances that have made the decision to not be based around drinking. I’m suggesting we all be a little sober-curious. There’s room for all sorts of venues and cultural spaces. Let’s enjoy the alcohol-free ones too.

And always do what you want with a constant consideration of those around you. I love a party. I’m a big fan of a good time. I’m also a big fan of good music, great art, and inspiring experiences. And maybe sometimes, those beautiful things can be enough on their own. Why not find out?