5X Fest: Harpo Mander

Harpo Mander’s Lens on 5X Fest​

Surrey Through My Lens” proudly shares authentic photo essays that showcase what it is really like to live in and visit our community from a range of perspectives. Harpo Mander is the General Manager of 5X Fest and passionate community builder who wants to help tell Surrey’s story to the world.

What is 5X Fest?

5X Fest is Canada’s largest South Asian youth culture celebration. It’s a multi-day, multi-venue festival showcasing music, visual art, fashion, and culture. The 5X Block Party is the event’s flagship music festival. Taking place at Surrey Civic Plaza, the event showcases Surrey’s finest, including a concert, food vendors, art installations and a vendor village. The 5X Art Party, held at the Surrey Art Gallery brings together some of the most exciting artists Metro Vancouver’s South Asian art scene has to offer for an evening of creativity and artistic expression.

(Header Photo Credit Anand Mohapatra)

Tell us a bit about yourself. What is your personal connection with Surrey? ​

I’m Harpo. I am a visionary, thought leader, community builder, storyteller, and cultural producer. I am the General Manager of 5X Fest. I’m a proud kid from Surrey who loves conversations, creating space, taking space, and cultivating space. I previously hosted a podcast titled Brown Girl Guilt, where I spoke about my experiences as a second-generation Canadian. In addition to managing 5X Fest, I am a well-known leader in my community for my grassroots work in arts & culture, for which I received the Surrey Board of Trade’s 2021 Top 25 Under 25 award.

All the work that I do is to help put Surrey on the map. I love Surrey with all my heart and I want to help tell the story about Surrey to the rest of the world.

From the Discover Surrey Team:

There is so much to discover and experience at 5X and Surrey is host to two of the biggest! Grab your tickets to the Blockparty and the Art Party here:

What does 5X Fest look like through your lens?

5X, the organization, is home and 5X Fest is my homecoming. It’s the only time all year that South Asian artists, creatives, influencers, and folks in the arts & culture world get together. People from all over Canada and the world fly into Surrey, just to experience South Asian music, talent, and art all week. It’s really such a beautiful celebration of joy and love.

What does it feel like to attend 5X Fest?​

This year, our theme is ‘Enter the Portal’ and that’s because once you’re at 5X Fest, it feels like you’ve returned back to the deep waters of yourself. When you’re at 5X Fest, you’re free to be exactly who you are, without having to pretend to be anyone else.
It’s also incredibly fun! There are a lot of energetic music performances, unique food trucks, and our on-site vendor village, titled 5X Mandi. There’s a really exciting buzz in the air!

How does the shared experience at the event help to build Surrey’s community mosaic?​

South Asian diaspora music is taking the world by storm. We’re seeing a global impact of music being made by South Asians – and Surrey is at the epicentre of all of it! 5X Fest is a showcase of the booming South Asian talent in Surrey. It’s the only place all year where folks from all over the world can come together and witness emerging artists that will eventually go on to make a global impact.

What is something people may not know about 5X Fest?​

We’ve been around since 2004 and we’re a charity! We were formerly known as Vancouver International Bhangra Celebration (VIBC) where we ran a week-long Bhangra festival in downtown Vancouver, known as City of Bhangra. In 2018, we made an intentional switch to 5X and brought our festival’s flagship event, the 5X Blockparty to Surrey.

Lastly, what inspires you to share Your Surrey through the experiences you help bring to life?​

My community, the people that make up my community, and the stories of the people that live in my community inspire me a lot. There are a lot of inspiring stories to be found in Surrey and by creating experiences for those stories to be told, I want the rest of the world to fall in love with Surrey just as much as I have.

Building Community

5X Fest is a grassroots organization — helping artists further refine their craft and making art a full-time job, financially supporting artists and creatives, actively fighting against discrimination and prejudice, and creating more opportunities for South Asians and people of colour to work in arts and culture roles.

There are many ways to get involved with 5X: Check out the links to Volunteer, Sponsor, or Donate to the charity.

Check out the Other Lenses on Surrey​

Check out the other lenses on Surrey’s six neighbourhoods – new features are released regularly. Click the link below to learn more about the project and find the galleries for the other neighbourhoods.