Calgarian Mark Hopkins makes meeting new people easy at his bi-weekly parties which have connected hundreds of diverse strangers across the city for the past five years.
The parties are aptly titled We Should Know Each Other (WSKEO), and Sunday, Dec. 2 marked Hopkins’ 104th party.
WSKEO events are held at Hopkins’ Sunnyside apartment roughly every two weeks.
“It was a sense that, frankly, we don’t know each other, and we should,” said Hopkins of the inspiration behind his fetes.
Hopkins said when he made the transition from literary arts to theatre a few years ago, he realized many of his theatre friends didn’t know his literary friends.
Furthermore, Hopkins recognized that the arts community as a whole didn’t really interact with the political community, or people in trades or business.
“It kind of got overwhelming because I think we all benefit by knowing each other and by sharing information and values,” he said.
“So, I started inviting people to my living room,” said Hopkins.
He said around 15-20 people show up for each of his gatherings.
Some well-known Canadian faces have popped up at Hopkins’ parties including Mayor Naheed Nenshi, Premier Alison Redford, Canada’s best-selling poet, and acclaimed journalists.
Hopkins recalled a WSKEO where a group of occupy Calgary activists showed up while Mayor Nenshi’s office staff were there.
“That was really interesting to see that these people that had been debating in public were in my kitchen together,” said Hopkins.
His goal for the parties is for people to stretch their social circles and enrich their thinking with new perspectives and ideas.
“Our world view is shaped by the people we know,” said Hopkins.
The community builder said people tend to gravitate toward those who are similar to them and who reinforce their viewpoints.
He said that while it’s important for people to have a core group of friends that share their views, it can also be limiting.
“A really big part of the joy of the We Should Know Each Other parties is to have people that have wildly different opinions than I do or from each other,” said Hopkins.
“Where we can have debates or conversations that might take you out of your world view a little bit. It might make you think about something a little differently,” he said.
Hopkins plans to continue hosting the parties, and encourages others to start events similar to WSKEO.
“All of us have diverse social groups,” said Hopkins.
“Why not bring them together in some way?” he asked.
Hopkins said he is working on creating tools to make it easier for people to bring their social groups together.
The next WSKEO was set for Jan. 27 at 7 p.m. at 714 5A St. N.W.
For more information, visit the event’s Facebook page.