Vertigo doesn’t have to be a dizzying experience. In fact, it can be enlightening and fun.

Far from disorienting, Regina’s Vertigo Series offers audiences the opportunity to experience a unique mixture of literature and music at the same event. And it gives artists the chance to share their work with the general public.

Events feature three to four writers and one musical act in a relaxed, cabaret-style environment. Writers and musicians usually alternate their performances, though sometimes they collaborate with the musicians backing up the writers. Tara Dawn Solheim, Vertigo’s coordinator, says the environment supports writers. “You’re welcomed into a community here. We’ve built a safe place where people can share their work with an audience that is deeply interested in their writing.”

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Most Vertigo events are free to attend, and if there are fees, they’re subsidized, so anyone can come.  The audience is typically made up of people who are interested in literature, but musicians bring in their fans as well. “It’s eclectic and always shifting and growing,” Tara says. “The audience includes people of all ages and varies due to content, but it’s an audience of people who care about listening.”

The content isn’t always what you would expect. For instance, last season’s finale, held in June, featured established-writer Lorna Crozier, emerging writer Cassidy McFadzean, and Barbara Kahan reading her father Irwin Kahan’s memoir. Musical guests were drummer Flo Mounier of Montreal heavy metal band Cryptopsy and bassist Troy Bleich from local metal band Into Eternity. The pair improvised fast jazz music in between readings. “I was a bit nervous about how it would go over, but it worked really well and the response was great,” Tara says. “The readings added to the music, and the music took the readings further. It was my ideal kind of event where you challenge the boundaries of each genre by putting them together in an interesting way.”

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Vertigo features local writers and musicians as much as possible, as well as Canadian and international performers. The series is successful due, in part, to partnerships with Regina businesses and organizations. Brown Communications does all of the event publicity. Crave Kitchen & Wine Bar provides the venue for free for regular events, while MacKenzie Art Gallery hosts open stages and workshops.

Open stages give emerging and established artists of all ages and backgrounds the opportunity to perform. “It’s a focal point for bringing people together. One young musician came to our open stages for years and was too nervous to perform. When she sang for the first time there, the look on her face was pure joy. It’s a springboard for people to get in touch with themselves,” Tara says.

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The Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild, Cathedral Village Arts Festival and the Creative City Centre also partner with Vertigo, most recently on the Culture Days Words in the Park event in September. It was held at the City Square Plaza Stage during a Saturday Farmers’ Market, bringing local literature to a whole new audience – more than 140 people stopped by.  “The mission of Culture Days is to bring culture to people who may not always attend events. We try to do events in public spaces so people will see it and say, ‘Oh, that’s something I want to check out next time!’”

When asked what she would say to someone who has never come to a Vertigo event, Tara sharess, “Sometimes people think that literary events are stuffy, but Vertigo doesn’t have that feeling. People can have a glass of wine or a cup of tea and relax. Come and check it out!”

Events coming up this season are:

Vertigo Series on the Eve of the Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild Conference October 22, 2015, 7:30 p.m. Crave Kitchen & Wine Bar, 1925 Victoria Avenue Readings by: Connie Gault, Elizabeth Philips and Dianne Warren Music by: Ava Wild

Vertigo Series Open Stage November 12, 2015, 7 p.m. MacKenzie Art Gallery, 3475 Albert Street Feature Literary Performer: sound and performance poet, Steven Ross Smith

Free workshop with Steven Ross Smith November 12, 2015, 2 p.m. MacKenzie Art Gallery

Photos by Dave Solheim