PermaCulture: Diversifying the City’s Nightlife

A raver at the PermaCulture Halloween afterparty in 2023. PHOTOS BY ANTHONY DUBÉ @anthonydube__ // THE CONCORDIAN

PermaCulture founder discusses rave and nightlife in Montreal.

Montreal is a city that prides itself on its nightlife. Adrien Orlowski has been an organizer of the nightlife scene for the past ten years. He has watched the scene change and evolve and has worked to cultivate a more diverse environment in Montreal’s underground.

“For so long, the rave scene has been considered a juvenile activity, something that is not serious, that doesn’t bring anything to society,” he explained in an interview with The Concordian. Orlowski founded PermaCulture, a non-profit that organizes events and conferences geared towards fostering a more diverse and inclusive environment. Orlowski and his organization want rave to be taken more seriously—he sees it as an escape from the pressures of life.

“We live in a world today that is not easy at all. There’s war everywhere, there’s famine, there are so many issues,” he said. “I think rave can be a solution to that, people get on well. People are at peace, everyone is chill.”

Orlowski talked about how the scene had all these communities that would run their own events, but they were segmented. The afro, arab, and queer scenes all stuck to themselves, and PermaCulture was created to combine the communities under one roof. “I felt like it’s been the same for decades where we only had the same type of DJs, promoters, and people coming to our events. I think in the past years, we’ve started to see a change,” Orlowski said. 

Orlowski and PermaCulture are deeply passionate about the nightlife in Montreal, but of course, there are hurdles to organizing a festival like theirs. Orlowski says the main factor is funding—before you can do anything, you need money. They look for grants mostly through the city and some sponsorships from the private sector for things like alcohol sales. However, the relationship can be adversarial at times, according to Orlowski.

Recently, the city cut funding to the nightlife advocacy group MTL 24/24, which has led to the organization having to lay off staff and cancel its annual Montreal Night Summit.

“This is a lack of consideration for all the work we have accomplished over the past three years,” said Mathieu Grondin, director of MTL 24/24, in an interview with Resident Advisor. Members of the nightlife scene view the funding cut as a way to silence the organization, which has historically been critical of the city and the Plante administration. 

A Facebook post by rave organization Homegrown Harvest reads: “They’ve completely gutted the funding of MTL 24/24, an amazing night culture advocacy group that has been publicly critical of the city’s approach (coincidence??), and are attacking the funding of great institutions like the SAT—all while juicing up the police budget yet again.” 

The Plante administration said that MTL 24/24 can refile its application. Luc Rabouin, executive committee chair for the city, added that Montreal doesn’t fund organizations, it funds events—MTL 24/24 simply didn’t meet the requirements.

The city proposed two large pieces of legislation on Dec. 19, 2023. The first is the creation of 24-hour zones, which would enable businesses within the zone to sell alcohol and stay open throughout the night, whereas previously alcohol sales would end at 3:00 a.m. The other piece is an investment package of $1 billion that is dedicated to revitalize downtown Montreal over the next 10 years. 

All of this should make it easier for organizations like PermaCulture to host events, but there is still no news on an updated nightlife policy. Organizations like Homegrown Harvest ask why the Plante administration doesn’t simply make it easier to get 24-hour licenses, as many of the venues the nightlife relies on are outside of this crucial zone.

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