As part of last year’s Antigonish Art After Dark festival, Halifax-based Trackside Studios completed this realistic mural depicting the Antigonish Landing on the side of a building in the town’s downtown core.

PORT HAWKESBURY: On Jan. 31 Taylor Linloff was part of an episode of the CBC docuseries You Can’t Ask That which asks questions of Canadians with various disabilities.

In her case, Linloff was diagnosed as autistic in 2018, three months before she turned 24.

A few months after her diagnosis, Linloff joined an Autism Canada group on Facebook where she accessed a link to a casting call for a new CBC series looking for Canadians 18 years and older with various disabilities, including autism.

After a couple of months, Linloff found out she was selected to sit on a panel, then in November, 2018 she travelled to Montreal to record interviews.

Linloff said the show’s producers were “super inclusive” and did their homework to create an inviting atmosphere.

In addition to her newfound fame, Linloff continues to be passionate about her advocacy work for those on the autism spectrum.

Taylor Linloff

D’ESCOUSSE: Author Marjorie Simmins released her third work of non-fiction.

Simmins describes Memoir: Conversations and Craft as a celebration and a journey to the heart and soul of the memoir genre. She hopes the book will entertain, enlighten and engage the reader and writers of memoirs.

Simmins said the book is for writers with various levels of experience.

Two years ago, Simmins decided to write the book after being unable find good source material.

Simmins teaches memoir writing across Canada, most recently at the UBC Alumni Centre, in Vancouver; at StoryFest, in Hudson, Quebec; at Thinkers Lodge in Pugwash; and the Fortress of Louisbourg this year.

As a freelance journalist for 30 years, Simmins said she was delighted to interview the seven distinguished non-fiction and fiction writers who are included in the book. Some were serious; some were amusing; all were thoughtful and generous in their provision of insights and strategies.

Each interview is followed by a craft passage which reflects back on the content of the interviews, and suggests different writing exercises or considerations for the memoirist. The appendix includes writing tips; writing prompts and lists; a musing on the ghosts of the past; and finally some thoughts on the voices of ancestors.

ANTIGONISH: For only the second time in the event’s history, the Antigonish Highland Games were postponed.

Antigonish Highland Society President Bill Fraser and Antigonish Highland Games Chair David Smith announced the suspension of the 157th Antigonish Highland Games on Mar. 8.

The only other time the event has been suspended was during the First World War.

Fraser called the decision to postpone the annual Highland Games as “truly unfortunate,” explaining it has become an unofficial “come home week” and is part of the fabric of the Antigonish community.

The Trews

HAMILTON, ONTARIO: Hoping to help Canadians stay at home, The Trews released a new single and accompanying video.

Safely in isolation at his home with his family, guitarist John-Angus MacDonald told The Reporter their track “God Speed Rebel” was recorded last summer.

Lead singer Colin MacDonald agreed that the new song and video will help people self-isolate and remain at a safe distance.

Seizing on the current self-isolation zeitgeist, the video for “God Speed Rebel” was created entirely on the virtual meeting app ZOOM.

The band decided to release the single “with no plan to link it to the next record,” because they are unsure when that next album is going to come out, MacDonald said.

PICTOU COUNTY: As is the case with almost every other large-scale event, the Stan Rogers Folk Festival did not take place.

On Apr. 16, organizers announced that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the event, scheduled for July 23-26 in Canso, was cancelled.

Stanfest organizers are contemplating different ways of presenting artists to audiences, including on-line.

Stanfest organizers have now shifted to planning the 25th anniversary edition in 2021.

HALIFAX: More summer festivals in the Strait area were cancelled.

Due to the current pandemic, Festival of the Strait 2020 has been cancelled.

This year’s 26th edition of the Granville Green Concert Series was also cancelled.

Another long-running and popular summer event, the annual Festival acadien de Petit de Grat, scheduled for Aug. 5-9, was cancelled.

Noting it considered the likelihood that public health measures will extend into the summer, the Scotia Days committee said there were many concerns about Mulgrave’s annual summer festival. The committee said it will continue planning a “huge celebration” for the 40th Scotia Days Festival scheduled for July 9-18, 2021.

PORT HOOD: An amateur cook with plenty of experience became a hit for the millions of people self-isolating during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mary Janet MacDonald has seven children, and two of them are living in Alberta. When coming up with ideas to beat the self-isolation, one of those living away, her daughter Margie, came up with a great idea to fill the time; have her mother show people how to make her well-known and well-loved cinnamon rolls via FaceTime Live.

A well-seasoned cook, but with little technical experience, MacDonald decided to conduct her session in the style of a tutorial which attracted more than 600 views on the first day.

MacDonald reported that this first tutorial has blown-up into an sensation. MacDonald noted that media coverage helped give the original post even more attention.

The Port Hood resident, and mother of former Canadian Idol finalist Mitch MacDonald, said she received many positive stories.

MacDonald said her daughters uploaded all her videos to YouTube, her grandson set up an Instagram page, one of her sons established a Twitter page, and another grandson started up a website. Meanwhile, Mary Janet designed an apron and kicked around the idea of a cookbook.

ANTIGONISH: After weeks of careful deliberation, the staff and board of Festival Antigonish Summer Theatre (FAST) decided to postpone the company’s entire 33rd season.

FAST joined a long list of theatres which made the difficult choice.

STRAIT AREA: There will be very few events of any size this summer throughout the Strait area.

After Port Hawkesbury’s Festival of the Strait, the L’Ardoise Acadian Festival and Pirate Days in St. Peter’s all announced cancellations.

The town also confirmed that Canada Day celebrations were cancelled.

Organizers with Nova Scotia Summer Fest had hoped with performers hitting the stage late August their second annual show would still be able to go on, but it has taken them nearly a month to reschedule everything for 2021.

They announced their cancellation on Apr. 27, the day they were supposed to announce the supporting acts and launch their promotional campaign.

Pictured are Robyn Chisholm and Steve MacIntyre.

PORT HAWKESBURY: Steve MacIntyre said he wrote “Too Small a Town” with his girlfriend Robyn Chisholm, because he was moved by the tragic events that saw a gunman kill 22 people in a weekend rampage that started in Portapique, Colchester County in late April.

He said Chisholm was at work and they were texting each other, checking in on how the day was going, and MacIntyre advised he was tinkering around the idea of a song for the occasion but was having trouble putting it into words.

Originally, the song just wasn’t coming together. MacIntyre said after their nightly routine of taking the dog for a walk, he grabbed his guitar.

Spending far too much time on Facebook, especially these days, Chisholm had the idea of referencing what was taking place on-line with pipers giving tribute across the country, and people sending photos of the sunset.

The video of the two serenading Nova Scotians was posted to Facebook and uploaded to YouTube, where it garnered upwards of 70,000 views.

SYDNEY: Faced with the uncertainty of travel and restrictions on large gatherings continuing into the fall—and in consultation with public officials—Celtic Colours International Festival did things differently this year.

Organizers worked with long-time livestream partners Novastream to bring the spirit of the Festival online. From Oct. 9-17, Celtic Colours International Festival At Home, presented by TD Bank Group, celebrated the Island’s music and culture with a series of nightly performances and stories from Cape Breton.

Kinnon and Betty Lou Beaton

HALIFAX: Jimmy Rankin and Natalie MacMaster came away with one East Coast Music Association Award each, while Inverness County’s Kinnon and Betty Beaton received the Stompin’ Tom Award.

During the 2020 ECMA pre-awards show, Celtic Colours International Festival won an Industry Award for Event of the Year.

During the awards ceremony the next night, Jimmy Rankin was named the Fans’ Choice Entertainer of the Year, while Natalie MacMaster won in the Roots/Traditional Recording of the Year category for her recording Sketches.

The Beatons are a husband and wife duo who were born and raised in two incredibly musical households. The two have played at local concerts and dances for over half a century. Besides passing down the melodies of his ancestors, Kinnon has written hundreds of tunes, many of which are being played regularly in Cape Breton and beyond.

ISLE MADAME: It’s poignant that what turned out to be Silver Donald Cameron’s final book was dedicated to the people of Isle Madame since his heart really was in Isle Madame where the story behind his book Blood in the Water unfolded.

The true story, which Penguin Canada released on Aug. 11, was among the most challenging projects Cameron had ever tackled.

In June 2013, three upstanding citizens of a small Cape Breton town murdered Phillip Boudreau.

Beloved author, environmentalist, communicator, activist and filmmaker, Cameron passed away on June 1 at the age of 82, from complications arising from lung cancer.

Cameron never, ever forgot that Boudreau, a member of his community, was a flesh and blood person about whose life, he, the writer, was chronicling without having met him before.

Even toward the end of the process of writing the book, Cameron was still worried about “causing pain to the people I love,” by presenting the story in print form.

ANTIGONISH: At a time when theatres and stages across the globe remain shuttered due to COVID-19, artists responded with unique ways to stay connected through digital means.

For Festival Antigonish Summer Theatre, the digital shift brought them right back to the magic of the golden age of radio.

Airing in September, was the original new radio play Hector the Spectre Steals the Show.

The play aired as a six-part weekly series, with each episode being 10 minutes long. Listeners tuned in through their radio, or on-line, to enjoy the play from the comfort of home.

Written by artistic director Andrea Boyd and local artist/playwright Laura Teasdale, the story is based on the legend of the Bauer Theatre’s resident ghost, Hector, and is inspired by real stories collected from artists and community members of all ages who have had encounters with Hector over the last 30 years.

The play imagines a world where live theatre still happens, and where Festival Antigonish is producing a new play about the legendary ghosts “Blue Nun and Red Priest.” But when Hector, benevolent ghost of the theatre, sees that this ghost story on stage is not about him, he takes matters into his own hands.

Isle Madame is depicted in the documentary as a cluster of postcard-perfect Acadian fishing villages off the coast of Cape Breton.

ISLE MADAME: The documentary, The Killing of Phillip Boudreau premiered in October on the CBC.

Phillip Boudreau, a local man known for poaching lobsters, was killed by fishermen in a crime the non-local media dubbed “Murder for Lobster,” which made international headlines seven-years-ago.

With her hardest project to date, Megan Wennberg unpacked a complicated and tangled web of blame in The Killing of Phillip Boudreau. The film looks at Boudreau himself, the challenges of policing this area and the role the community played as a whole; everyone knew there was a problem, but no one did anything before it was too late.

The 44-minute documentary shed new light on this misunderstood case. It asks: What happens when members of a tight-knit community kill one of their own? Where do the lines between good and bad and right and wrong blur? And who is at fault when everyone bears some responsibility?

HALIFAX: Inverness County native Natalie MacMaster was nominated to receive the Order of Nova Scotia. MacMaster is among six Nova Scotians who will have their contributions honoured.

An award-winning performer and musician, MacMaster is the fifth musician to be inducted.

A native of Troy, MacMaster began her fiddling career at age 16. Her career now spans over three decades, highlighted by 11 albums, thousands of shows, and collaborations with a multitude of world-renowned artists.

MacMaster has become synonymous with the classic Cape Breton violin sound that has placed Gaelic music and dance on a pedestal the world over and she has performed around the globe, bringing her infectious energy to every stage she graces, including Antarctica. From the humble Glencoe Mills Hall in Inverness County, to the illustrious Carnegie Hall in New York City, MacMaster is an ambassador for Nova Scotia and strong musical roots.

Natalie MacMaster

ANTIGONISH: A new mural went up in downtown Antigonish, depicting one of the town’s most cherished places – Antigonish Landing.

It features a beaver swimming against the current with a branch in its mouth, down a vibrant blue river that eventually splits, as a small song sparrow sits on a rock, near purple, pink and white lupins as the rich, late-fall orange maple leaves hover the river that’s nestled along a scenic wooded area.

A pair of speckled trout are seen underwater near a jagged rock that pertrudes the water’s surface, a dragonfly is also present, along with a pileated woodpecker.

The larger-than-life realistic mural was spray-painted on the side of Antigonish 5¢ to $1 by Michael Burt with the Halifax -based Trackside Studios as part of the Antigonight Art After Dark festival, which ran for 11-days in September.

SYDNEY: Faced with current restrictions on travel and large gatherings, Celtic Colours International Festival did things differently this year.

Instead of hosting concerts all over Cape Breton Island this past October, Celtic Colours International Festival at Home presented a nightly series of concerts streamed live from the Membertou Trade and Convention Centre.

Produced in partnership with NovaStream and Soundpark Studios, these concerts featured a mix of live and pre-recorded performances by artists from Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, PEI, Quebec, Ontario, Scotland, Ireland, and the Isle of Man.

Thanks to the Atlantic Bubble, some artists were able to travel to Cape Breton for Celtic Colours.

And in keeping with the festival’s tradition of shining the spotlight on new, and up-and-coming talent, Celtic Colours featured first-time performers Morgan Toney – a Mi’kmaq fiddler originally from We’koma’q First Nation; The Fare Thee Well – a new group featuring Rosie MacKenzie and Shannon Quinn; Shawnee Paul—a young Mi’kmaq musician from Eskasoni; and singer-songwriter Steve MacIntyre from Inverness County.

The film Dawn, Her Dad & the Tractor is about a young transgender woman, reuniting with her estranged father after the death of her mother.

ANTIGONISH: The director of a new movie that was shot in downtown Antigonish said she became very aware firsthand the support or lack of support often times there is for young transgendered individuals particularly in a rural setting.

Dawn, Her Dad & the Tractor tells a story about a young transgender woman, reuniting with her estranged father after the death of her mother.

The production, which is actually set in Antigonish, wrapped after 18-days of shooting in total, including additional locations in Windsor, Halifax and Chester.

Originally, production was planned during the Highland Games and it was going to feature a scene that included the thousands of people that would have been lined on Main Street for parade day – but due to COVID-19 and the cancellation of the games, some serious script re-writing had to occur.

Thompson advised the film couldn’t have been possible without the generosity of the people of Antigonish, including Mayor Laurie Boucher and councillor Andrew Murray of the Town of Antigonish, Meghan Peters of the Tall & Small, Colette Rennie of Chez Deslauriers and Ingrid Risk with Festival Antigonish.

ANTIGONISH: Downtown Antigonish is set to come to life next summer as it will now be the new home of Nova Scotia Summer Fest.

The two-day music festival is moving from its inaugural location at Keppoch Mountain in Antigonish County to Antigonish’s Columbus Field.

Ray Mattie, the founder and executive director of Nova Scotia Summer Fest, made a presentation to Antigonish Town Council, requesting approval to move the festival to the town’s downtown core.

This was for two reasons, he said, which align with their mandate to develop Antigonish town and county into a world class event tourism and eco-tourism destination.

The relocation to Columbus Field also provides the opportunity for a lot of foot traffic.

From the Keppoch’s standpoint, Mattie advised they want to host a major downhill biking competition next summer – something that’s gaining popularity across Canada.

Morgan Toney

BADDECK: Two Cape Breton musicians made the old new again.

Fiddler and singer Morgan Toney and producer Keith Mullins lent contemporary arrangements to traditional Mi’kmaq songs, and the results are creating a buzz.

Toney said he only started playing the fiddle about a yearand-a-half ago while a student at Cape Breton University. After months of private lessons, he became hopeful that he could continue playing.

Toney then took his music home, which was where he learned for the first time that three of his great uncles and his late grandfather all played the fiddle, with a preference for Scottish jigs, reels and strathspeys. While in the studio one day at CBU, Toney thought about playing the “Mi’kmaq Honour Song.”

A couple of months later, Toney – who also writes and sings in English and Mi’kmaq – was planning to record the “Ko’jua, ” a Mi’kmaq dance song that has been played in Unama’ki for centuries.

Toney explained that the lyrics evolved over time but he was told by an elder that the song is about a dog that has a broken leg, and the dance, which is performed in a circle, mimics the movements of a wounded animal. There are even different dance styles for the “Ko’jua” in each Mi’kmaq community in Cape Breton, Toney says.

The song arrangement was the idea of Mullins at his new Barn Breagh Studios in Baddeck.

To promote the new single and album, Andre Pettipas and The Giants performed at the Carriage House in Port Hawkesbury on Nov. 21.

PORT HAWKESBURY: A local band released a new single off their new album.

Andre Pettipas and The Giants have released their new single Sympathy Card” from their second album No Fools No Fun. Pettipas explained that the album was supposed to be released last spring, but the global pandemic put the brakes on those plans.

The song, which has been dubbed a throwback rocker, was produced by The Trews guitarist John-Angus MacDonald, who lent his guitar abilities on the track.

MacDonald met up with Pettipas at Canadian Music Week earlier in the year and they discussed working on a song together since The Trews are a huge musical influence on the band.

ANTIGONISH: Tareq Hadhad says his family’s story is more than just chocolate; it’s about the message behind it – peace.

During a book launch on Oct. 29 at the Antigonish Farmers Market, the CEO and founder of the Antigonish-based Peace by Chocolate, told the crowd that peace is the single noblest thing cannot be possessed, seen or heard.

Written by Jon Tattrie, Peace by Chocolate: The Hadhad Family’s Remarkable Journey from Syria to Canada tells the Hadhad’s family’s riveting journey, providing an in-depth behind the scenes look at the families of Tareq Hadhad, and his father, Isam.

Tattrie, who works as a reporter in Halifax for CBC News embarks his readers and transports them to a devastating war-torn Syria where Isam’s Damascus-based chocolate factory was destroyed by bombings, before ending up in Antigonish less than five-years ago to the extended hands of hospitality from Nova Scotians.

The book, published by Goose Lane Editions, has a lot of exciting moments; especially he said when it talks about the birth of Peace by Chocolate in 2016 and the success that’s continued, and for his family there is no greater honour than telling their story to the world in a book.

The book in its true details, examines the Hadhad family behind the scenes, the real people behind the brand, the company and the people who brought them to Antigonish and despite having their story told thousands of times in the media, reading the book will add another depth to the story of the goodness in the world.

The launch of Peace by Chocolate: The Hadhad Family’s Remarkable Journey from Syria to Canada was held on on Oct. 29 at the Antigonish Farmers Market.

WHYCOCOMAGH: The book launch for Brenda MacLennan-Dunphy’s second novel, The Silence of the Vessel, was held at the Whycocomagh Waterfront Centre on Nov. 21.

In addition to doing a reading from the new work, MacLennan-Dunphy also took questions from the audience.

The Silence of the Vessel is set in Mabou, and centers around three women, who are brought together by faith, family and fate.

The novel reflects many realities of today’s world while dealing with consequences echoing from the past, according to a press release issued by the author.

Elspeth, recently retired from Cape Breton University’s Celtic Culture Department, is not sure how to deal with her teenage daughter Cecelia’s outdated and strangely troubling post-secondary plans.

As she tries to understand her strange desire to become a nun, Cecelia befriends an aging Sister of the Notre Dame congregation at the convent in Mabou.

Silver Donald Cameron is pictured with his partner Marjorie Simmons.

D’ESOUSSE: A local author was one of the winners of Creative Nova Scotia Awards.

Author Marjorie Simmins was one of three winners to receive the $5,000 Established Artist Recognition Award in the field of literary arts.

This award honours those who have emerged from their initial training and development into established artists.

Looking back at a year where she suffered the loss of her husband Silver Donald Cameron, then dealt with the global pandemic, Simmins said there were other positive events like winning an Atlantic Journalism Award, along with Cameron’s final book Blood in the Water becoming a best-seller.