Drum circle at Vancouver's Third Beach invites euphoria — and bylaw violations

Attendees of a popular drum circle at Vancouver's Third Beach say they want police to let the weekly "euphoric" event continue past sunset.

David Aaron is disputing a ticket he received Tuesday for drumming past the park's posted hours

Stanley Park's Third Beach has been the site of a weekly drum circle for years. (Christer Waara / CBC)

Attendees of a popular drum circle at Vancouver's Third Beach say they want police to let the "euphoric" event continue past sunset. 

For years, the summer event — known to regulars as Brahm's Tams — has drawn several hundred people to the Stanley Park beach each week for drumming and dancing. 

During the most recent gathering Tuesday evening, David Aaron says the jam was at its peak when Vancouver police officers appeared on all-terrain vehicles.

Aaron says police asked him to stop drumming. When he asked for a few more minutes, Aaron says an officer ticketed him. A copy of the ticket — issued at 10:20 p.m. — shows that Aaron violated a park bylaw by drumming after posted hours. 

Stanley Park's hours are from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. 

Aaron says police have been civil at the gatherings, but he wants them to end the event more peacefully. 

"Sometimes, the most special part of the sunset is in those final moments," he said. 

Gloria Glo, a regular attendee for the past two years, agrees. 

"We want to create a softer buffering between the circle ... and saying goodbye to the sun," she said.

Police increasing patrol

The ritual of banging drums — and getting ticketed — dates back to at least 2009

But the event's increasing popularity has prompted Vancouver police to send more beach patrol officers, says spokesperson Sgt. Jason Robillard.

Robillard declined to comment on the ticket, since Aaron is disputing it. 

But the event raises safety concerns, Robillard says, including beachgoers openly drinking, smoking and swimming after hours. 

"We think that this is a great event, but we want to maintain peacefulness." 

Tickets are a last resort and usually follow verbal warnings, Robillard says.

"Sometimes it takes a few that are acting a certain way and they may ruin it for everybody." 

'Shameful scene of litter'

The event has also led to messes on the beach. 

"Wednesday mornings reveal a shameful scene of litter," Aaron wrote in his dispute letter to the city.

He wants to work with the City of Vancouver to improve access to washrooms, litter collection and crowd management.

Octavio Silva, who oversees special events for the Vancouver Park Board, says the group would have to apply for an event permit.

He says the park board has struggled to reach the group since there are no official contacts.

Permitted events normally finish within posted hours but organizers can ask for extensions, Silva says.

He says litter collection and washrooms typically fall on the shoulders of organizers.

Organizer 'thankful' for police

Brahm Olszynko, who started the drum circle in 2006, says a permit would be too costly. 

"You're talking about hundreds of dollars every week for a permit and insurance," he said. "This is free and for everyone. We don't collect or make any money at all." 

Olszynko says concerns about safety and litter are valid. He's liaised with police and the city over the years, but says the event is experiencing "growing pains."

"The new people that are coming just need to get into the groove of what's OK and what's not," he said.

"We're really thankful for the VPD for giving out a ticket and telling people that's it not cool." 

But Aaron says the jam should be allowed to continue without police interference.

"The people of Vancouver are yearning to connect with each other, and this group is achieving that through music and dancing," he said.

This story has been updated to include comments from the event organizer.


With files from CBC Radio's On The Coast