Skip to content

Fairy doors aim to add a wee bit of magic to downtown New West

Fairy Doors is one of four public space activations funded by Downtown New West BIA

A new public space activation aims to add a little magic to downtown New West.

In recent days, more than 20 colourful and bejewelled fairy doors were posted on trees near downtown businesses on Columbia Street, Carnarvon Street, Front Street and the River Market at Westminster Quay. Handmade by local families, they’re part of an initiative that aims to get folks to stop and experience a bit of magic – and to pop in to some local businesses and take a look around.

“It's just so sweet,” said Ruby Campbell, who spearheaded the initiative. “I think people forget sometimes how our urban settings really are the back yard for many of our residents now. We have a lot of renters, we have a lot of families moving into the downtown of New Westminster, and I think that it's important to make sure that we activate public spaces all over, not just curate it.”

Campbell said her inspiration came from fairy doors located on a trail on Salt Spring Island. When her teenage daughter was younger, those wee doors sparked some magical family conversations, such as what would a fairy look like and what kind of magical powers do fairies have?”

“They're just so beautiful and magical,” she said. “And I remember, for Sienna, it was always kind of a fun way to get her hiking and moving.”

Earlier this year, Campbell applied to the Downtown New West Business Improvement Association for one of its public space activation grants to help bring a fairy door initiative to New West. She’d first considered doing a project in Glenbrook Ravine, but ultimately decided the downtown would be a great location for fairy doors.

“We have a lot of families living downtown,” she said. “And, obviously, we have a lot of businesses downtown that we want to make sure that we kind of highlight and support.”

Campbell –  who applied for the grant before she decided to run for city council in this fall’s civic election –  said she isn’t artistic enough to paint the fairy doors herself and had considered hiring an artist to paint the doors. Instead, she teamed up with New West Family Place, which arranged for its families to get involved in the initiative and paint fairy doors.

“They're all very unique,” Campbell said. “I think they're lovely.”

In addition to the BIA public activation grant, Campbell also received a neighbourhood small grant that provided food for families attending the fairy door workshop.

On Aug. 14, 22 fairy doors made their debut on trees in downtown New West. A small canister beside each fairy door provides a place where people can leave and take tiny trinkets.

“It's kind of like when you go geocaching and people put stuff, little fun little things in there,” Campbell explained.

Family-friendly activities like scavenger hunts are planned as part of the fairy door initiative.

Activating the downtown

Earlier this year the Downtown New West BIA sought applications for its annual public space activation program.

The program aims to: foster activations in public spaces that are safe, welcoming and inclusive; build community by encouraging people to connect with each other safely in public spaces; and test new ideas and help identify/remove barriers that discourage activations of public spaces.

Kendra Johnston, executive director of the Downtown New West BIA, said the BIA had planned to provide grants for three activations this year, but increased its budget to support four projects because the jury couldn’t decide on just three.

This year’s activations include:

* Fairy Doors by Ruby Campbell, with support from Family Place. See @FairyDoorsNewWest on Instagram.

* Interactive mural at Front and Begbie streets (the rear of the Scotiabank building) by artist Shanice McIntyre. Check out her work at @shaniic3 on Instagram.

* Temporary Chalk Art by Elizabeth Cartagena VEC Art. While these temporary installations were done in May, June and July, you can see her work at @violetncanvas on Instagram and read about her in this previous article in the Record.

A fourth initiative is expected to be built over the summer and installed in the fall. It will be a mini multicultural library located outside of River Market by Aziza Bouchioua. 

Details about activities related to the fairy door initiative, such as scavenger hunts, will be posted on the Downtown BIA’s website at

Follow Theresa McManus on Twitter @TheresaMcManus