Cranking up the stories

Winnipeg Crankie Festival mixes media and talent

Winnipeg Crankie Festival producer Leonard Podolak demonstrates a crankie, a modern-day version of a moving panorama. (Supplied photo)

Combining image arts with the sounds of local music, the Winnipeg Crankie Festival redefines a popular storytelling tradition from the 19th century. This year, the festival will run from Nov. 5 to 7, with live shows taking place at the West End Cultural Centre and at the Crescent Fort Rouge United Church.

A crankie is a modern-day reimagining of the moving panorama, a device that captivated audiences before the advent of motion pictures.

“The reason why it’s called Crankie Festival is because there are moving panoramas mounted on spindles with cranks at the top. As the spindles crank, artwork starts to move in the form of storytelling,” festival producer Leonard Podolak says.

Organized by themes, each night will include hosts, music with a storytelling angle and visual art. Some confirmed performers in the lineup are Al Simmons, The Small Glories, Big Dave McLean and Scott Nolan.

“It’s been a really tough two years for artists, but the one silver lining we can take away from this (COVID-19 pandemic) is that it is showing us some new paths, forcing us all to be creative and disseminate music,” Podolak says.

The second live show at the festival, celebrating the Day of the Dead, will incorporate Mexican tunes and cultural interactive programming hosted by The Mariachi Ghost. Other guests featured that day include a live-streamed appearance from Toronto-based rapper Boogát and a segment with magician Brian Glow.

“The Crankie fest is an excellent source of original creativity, so we are honoured to be a part of it. They gave us free range and encouraged us to think outside of the box,” Jorge Requena Ramos, vocalist and guitarist for The Mariachi Ghost, says.

For the first time, the 2021 edition will include a Prairie Panorama evening. This portion will celebrate emerging rural Manitoba musicians as they showcase songwriting projects they worked on alongside established artists.

“It was a project that we did that was funded by (Canadian Heritage), in which we partnered with five community organizations around the province. We paired a songwriter and performer with an aspiring musician in a mentorship program,” Podolak says.

The pairings audiences will get to see on Nov. 6 are Keri Latimer with Hailey Hunter (Killarney), MJ Dandeneau with Imrianna Jones (Flin Flon), Del Barber with The Heide Sisters (Clearwater), Walking Wolf Ray Co-Co Stevenson with Kael Sauerborn (Gimli) and Andrina Turenne with Alexandre Tétrault (Lorette). Each of these pairings aim to tell a story about thought-provoking themes.

“When I heard (Stevenson and Sauerborn’s song), it was like reconciliation in action. They put together this beautiful song about understanding and approaching everything from friendship and not judgment,” Podolak says.

To attend the Winnipeg Crankie Festival, event-goers must have proof of vaccination, photo ID and a mask handy. Tickets for each show are available for purchase, ranging from $20 to $35. For more information about the attractions, visit

Published in Volume 76, Number 08 of The Uniter (November 4, 2021)

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