The year in entertainment

Photo by Jake Boudrot -- The stakeholders of the Friends United Centre in Richmond County are spreading the word about the facility.

ST. PETER’S: Prompted by the lack of a permanent venue for artists in the area, four local women recently opened the doors to the Kiss Me Arts pop-up gallery.

The idea for the gallery originated with Brigitte Dimock and grew to include Richard, Liz Campbell and Gigi Hooper combining their artistic and retail experience for the venture in a “horizontal hierarchy,” as Dimock described it.

On January 5 they opened their doors to the public for the first time, subletting the space known as Diddle’s Café & Bakery on Grenville Street in St. Peter’s. The café closes for much of the winter. The pop-up gallery will remain in the space until late April when it will once again become a popular café.

The gallery also includes art supplies to help supplement the gallery during slow sales periods and to “encourage people to get artsy.”

ANTIGONISH: During the launch of Nova Scotia’s newest music festival on January 23 in Antigonish, organizer Ray Mattie unveiled the platform behind the festival and the inaugural line-up for the Nova Scotia Summer Fest, which took August 23-24 at Keppoch Mountain in Antigonish County.

Hitting the Nova Scotia Summer Fest stage for the first time were former Great Big Sea frontman Allan Doyle; Juno award winning rapper Classified; Halifax rocker Christine Campbell; sisters Cassie & Maggie and local favourite Anna Ludlow.

CTV’s Ana Almeida was announced as the MC for the event.

ANTIGONISH: The Shoe Project Antigonish marked the first time the project was offered in a small, rural community. The project is a writing and performance workshop for immigrant women who tell the stories of their arrival to Canada, through a pair of shoes.

Throughout the fall of 2018, the courageous group of women were led through a series of advanced writing workshops by Anne Simpson, which was followed by voice coaching with Antigonish native, Laura Teasdale. The project culminated with two performances at the Bauer Theatre on February 8 and 9.

Boyd, who was new to Antigonish, said it was fantastic and surprising they could even do this here, having different women from around the world, willing to tell their story.

The Antigonish group was composed of eight women, ranging in ages from 25 – 75, and hailed from India, South Korea, Germany, Spain, Vietnam, the Philippines, and the Netherlands.

Project participants told their stories about how they arrived in Canada – from different backgrounds and cultures from all over the world – each a unique journey, but all to make a life for themselves in a new country.

Their immigration is a central theme, and each chose a pair of shoes as a jumping off point in their writing, but that is where the similarities end. The wooden clogs, Birkenstocks, and an old pair of Chuck Taylors represent more than just a pair of shoes, they represent someone’s journey.

The Shoe Project allows the women to write their shoe memoirs while being mentored by Canadian writers and voice coaches, giving participants a voice which helps them be heard in their communities and in the Canadian mainstream.

Participants included: Romero Brown, Willie Duykers, Jyotsna Jain, Soo Kyeong Lee, Karen Bissonette, Almudena Garcia-Garcia, Yen Ngoc Nguyen, and Anu Joshi. Dancer and choreographer Liliona Quarmyne told her story of immigration from Ghana through interpretive dance.

Locally sponsored by Arts Health Antigonish, in partnership with Theatre Antigonish and Antigonish County Adult Learning Association, the Shoe Project Antigonish was funded through the national Shoe Project and Nova Scotia’s Culture Innovation Fund.

KEMPT ROAD: Those in charge of the Friends United Centre point out the vital role it plays in the artistic and cultural community.

Canadian Pioneer Estates Ltd. founder/president Rolf Bouman, and a manager of the Kempt Road facility, told The Reporter that one of the major components of the building is a space for artists to showcase their creations and work collaboratively.

After researching for many years and working to ensure long-term funding, Bouman founded in 2009 what eventually became the Friends United initiative. The idea for the convention centre started not long after when Bouman and other land developers were looking to give back to the community and do something socially responsible with their profits.

When the centre first opened, Bouman said the original intent was to tell First Nations stories, help communities and demonstrate the significance of that culture, but that has evolved.

Both the Friends United International Convention Centre and the Friends United initiative aim at educating Aboriginal artists to become self-sufficient and independent entrepreneurs through their art work.

The land developers who constructed the centre started a publishing house where the profits go back to First Nations communities. Bouman said the owners have also initiated a program where artists trade their work for land, deeded to them by the developers. And the artists have a business mentorship program which helps them get established as entrepreneurs.

Since many seminars with an international audience are being held at the centre, it allows the Native artists belonging to the Friends United initiative to display their artwork to a worldwide audience. The Friends United initiative is known to many people worldwide and has assisted in making Aboriginal artists spiritual and cultural ambassadors for Canada.

In addition to Mi’kmaw artists, Bouman said the centre features of the work of other First Nations artists, for a total of approximately 40 people using the centre and inspiring future generations. It features the largest private collection in Atlantic Canada of Native art, including Inuit carvings.

HAVRE BOUCHER: Jenny Miller, a 32-year-old stay-at-home mom of four kids, who lives on a 50-acre hobby farm and produces as much of their own food as they can, was vying for her white apron, and ultimately contending for the Masterchef Canada title.

Miller told The Reporter in an interview on March 24, that she doesn’t have any childhood memories of being in the kitchen, as she only began cooking about 10-years ago when she became a mother and wanted to provide fresh, healthy food for her family.

Her audition dish was a dark chocolate beet cake, which ended up being a big hit with the judges, one of whom was Andy Hay, last year’s runner-up of Season 5.

In each episode of Masterchef Canada, Miller had her culinary expertise tested through a series of mystery box challenges, team challenges, and pressure tests, with the judges providing direction and feedback throughout the process.

Miller, who said she is a salt and pepper girl and someone who doesn’t work with a lot of different spices, found herself in heaven inside the pantry of the Masterchef Canada kitchen, which had anything and everything you could ever need or want as an ingredient.

WE’KOQMAQ: Michele Sylliboy, an Aboriginal woman who was raised on unceeded territory in We’koqma’q First Nation, launched her first book that blends her modern poetry, photography and Mi’kmaq (L’nuk) hieroglyphic poetry.

The release of her book, Kiskajeyi – which translates to “I Am Ready” – was timed to coincide with the 2019 year of Indigenous languages, and the launch of her Mi’kmaq hieroglyphic art exhibit at the Cape Breton Centre for Craft and Design.

Sylliboy gathered much of her inspiration from personal tales, the environment, and her L’nuk culture. Dating back over 13,000 years, the hieroglyphics (Komqwejwi’kasikl) dominated the landscape of the seven districts of the L’nuk Nation prior to colonization.

Kiskajeyi is only the second publication ever of the translation of the Komqwejwi’kasikl, which had a 329-year gap from when the Roman Catholic Church published translations of their prayers in the 1690s.

Sylliboy is determined that generations and future generations will bring the Komqwejwi’kasikl back into everyday life.

In addition to being an artist, author and photographer, Sylliboy is also a PhD candidate, working on her Philosophy of Education Doctorate Degree, where she will combine her artistic background and education by creating a L’nuk Komqwejwi’kasikl curriculum with L’nuk elders.

TORONTO, ONTARIO: A journalist who originally hails from Antigonish scored the role of a lifetime on an iconic cartoon as Canada’s top political leader.

Lucas Meyer, voiced Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on an episode of The Simpsons titled “D’Oh Canada” which saw Lisa Simpson visit Niagara Falls and through a series of wacky mishaps, ends up receiving political asylum and eventually has an interaction with Meyer’s character.

The episode also features Lisa asking Trudeau about the SNC-Lavalin affair, in which Trudeau crawls out of the window of his office and down the side of the building.

In November 2017, Meyer put together an impression video and posted it on YouTube for family and friends. He posted a second one in June of 2018. Fast-forward two months and Meyer was auditioning to play Canada’s Prime Minister.

Meyer said he remembers voicing the lines back in September but to see the episode come to life was really interesting. Being part of a show that is a pop culture icon was surreal for Meyer but seeing special guest voice Lucas Meyers in the credits was “just visually nuts.”

ST. PETER’S: “The Villa Vignettes” project brought seniors who live at the Richmond Villa in St. Peter’s together with students from Richmond Education Centre/Academy. The seniors were asked to share their stories with the students, who would then write and illustrate a book based upon one of the stories.

Dawn Ostrem, project coordinator for the Mind-Body-Spirit grant program administered by the Dr. Kingston Memorial Community Health Centre in L’Ardoise, said the aim of the inter-generational project is to help keep the seniors socially engaged.

The students arrived by bus from the Louisdale school once a week for three consecutive weeks and asked the seniors to tell stories from their youth. By the second visit, they reached a comfort level that allowed for more detail.

The project resulted in 12 completed books, copies of which will be distributed to the school library at Richmond Education Centre/Academy, the Eastern Counties Regional Library, the Richmond Villa, and of course, the residents and students who participated.

WINDSOR-ESSEX, ONTARIO: Jamieson MacNeil is a young man from Windsor-Essex with local roots who traveled to South Africa last summer to show off his fancy foot work on an international stage.

MacNeil joined Team Canada to represent the country at the Commonwealth Cup Dance Championships from July 16-20.

He was invited to attend the event following his visit to Poland last November and December. That was the site of the International Dance Organization World Championships, and Jamieson won bronze in Male Solo Jazz as a part of Team Canada’s Children Team.

His mother, originally from St. Peter’s, is a Highland Dance teacher, and she introduced Jamieson to dance when he was just two years old. Jamieson also has some Inverness County in his blood, as his father, Angus MacNeil, is from Blackstone.

PORT HAWKESBURY: The Granville Green free outdoor concert series featured some of Canada’s most talented musicians as part of the series.

One of Canada’s most celebrated songwriters, Joel Plaskett has dozens of awards to his credit and thousands of tour dates under his belt. He is known as one of the country’s most innovative, hard-working, and fiercely independent artists.

On July 28, Plaskett rocked it up with his band, The Emergency, at the Granville Green band shell.

Special guests Beech Hill were an acoustic, folk and rock band from Cape Breton. They are known for blending rich harmonies and catchy melodies with a grooving bass and drums.

CANSO: The artistic director of the Stan Rogers Folk Festival, Chris Greencorn, said last year’s headliners – Suzanne Vega, Donovan Woods and Jeremy Dutcher – are the sort of entertainers the entire audience can dig into.

In its 23rd year, the Canso festival hosted a solid core of East Coast talent including Dave Gunning, Bruce Guthro, Rose Cousins, JP Cormier, Còig, and Gordie MacKeeman & His Rhythm Boys. Also featured were newer Atlantic Canadian artists like Gabrielle Papillon, Kellie Loder, Rachel Beck, Reeny Smith, Garrett Mason, T. Thomason, Hello Delaware, and The Bombadils.

The roster also highlighted Manitoba artists The Small Glories, Joey Landreth, and Madeleine Roger along with Montrealer, Kaia Kater, and Boston-based Lula Wiles. In addition, PEI-based classical ensemble, Atlantic String Machine, was also featured in the weekend’s programming.

Toronto-based artists The Weather Station, Justin Nozuka, and Lydia Persaud each brought their unique spin on folk music. As well, two European imports – Talisk, and fiddle supergroup, Scandinavian String Alliance – presented, along with Garnet Rogers and Malcolm Holcombe.

MULGRAVE: Strait area duo Eastbound released their self-titled debut CD on August 2 at the Dundee Resort and Golf Club while their self-titled single receives heavy rotation on radio stations around Nova Scotia.

Husband and wife Jay and Krista Luddington of Mulgrave are Eastbound and said they were excited for the show.

Specifically speaking about the resort, Krista said there were many good reasons to bring the CD launch to Dundee, most significantly recent improvements to the facility.

Speaking to The Reporter upon receiving a shipment of their new album Eastbound, Krista explained that it was recorded in Belleville, Ontario at the end of May.

In addition to the regular play the new single “Eastbound” has received on 101.5 FM The Hawk, Eastbound was also invited to co-host an edition of “East Coast Rising.”

BRAMPTON, ONTARIO: Harold MacIntyre spent his early childhood in Sugarcamp before moving to Port Hawkesbury at the age of 15. During a formal ceremony in Truro, MacIntyre was inducted into the Nova Scotia Country Music Hall of Fame.

He accepted the honour alongside five other individuals at a Hall of Fame dinner and ceremony at the Best Western Glengarry on September 14.

A self-professed ‘quiet guy,’ MacIntyre garnered a tremendous following and accumulated many accolades over his 40-year career. Recording eight albums and performing on several national television programs – including three guest appearances on the Tommy Hunter Show. MacIntyre has also shared the billing for several Nashville stars, including George Jones, Gene Watson, Freddy Fender, Bill Anderson and others.

MacIntyre says he has fond memories of growing up around Sugarcamp and Port Hawkesbury and adds that while his family didn’t play instruments themselves, there was no shortage of encouragement when he expressed an interest.

ANTIGONISH: After discovering harmony on a cross-Canadian road trip in 2012 while singing Tom Cochrane’s “Life is a Highway” in the back of their family’s crowded hatchback, Moira and Claire MacMullin haven’t stopped signing.

Earlier this year, Moira & Claire, the folk-pop sister duo, who now call Antigonish home, released their second ever single “Again,” a three-minute ballad highlighting the beauty of the Maritime provinces.

For their second release, Moira & Claire drew inspiration from a fictional local legend from Prince Edward Island – Anne of Green Gables.

Embracing the sisters angelic vocals with only a guitar, and the peaceful sounds of nature echoing throughout “Again,” reminds listeners of the true beauty of the outdoors, which many of us take advantage of.

Moira & Claire has been gaining experience and learning about the music industry these last couple of years by attending multiple Nova Scotia Music week conferences and their first East Coast Music Association conference earlier this year in Charlottetown.

The sister’s first single “Your Voice” was released in 2017 and it has over 200,000 Spotify streams.

MABOU: Legendary Ed Asner, winner of seven Emmy Awards and known to generations of fans as Lou Grant in the Mary Tyler Moore Show, Santa in Elf and as the voice of Carl in Pixar and Disney’s Up, headed to Strathspey Performing Arts Centre in Mabou for two exclusive shows.

Asner appeared in God Help Us! on Friday, October 18 and A Man and His Prostate on Saturday, October 19.

The Donald Trump-Hillary Clinton debates of summer 2016 inspired playwrights Samuel Warren Joseph and Phil Proctor to write the political comedy God Help Us! It premiered in Chicago in August 2018.

Asner keeps the script lively and relevant with timely updates.

Billed as “a political comedy for our times,” the 90-minute stage show centers on two opposite-leaning pundits who are transported to purgatory by God himself for the purpose of debating today’s political and social issues. God – played by Asner – is a wise, cantankerous and wildly funny deity who confronts two political pundits with a romantic history.

In A Man and his Prostate, a man discovers his inner self in more ways than one based on a true-life experience. A near tragedy is masterfully transformed into a one-man comedy, perfectly portrayed by Asner in his hilarious visit to the hospital in preparation for surgery he doesn’t want.

PORT HAWKESBURY: The Ships of 1801 Society presented its seventh original production Save our Keppoch School: Stories and Songs from a Ceilidh House at the Strathspey Place Performing Arts Centre September 21.

Producer and writer Duncan MacDonald said the group has been operating for eight years. The first three productions were the Ships of 1801 trilogy which included stories about the people who left Scotland for the new world.

The next productions were set in the 1930s when isolated communities in northeastern Nova Scotia, like Keppoch Mountain, were facing challenges such as the loss of young people. This was a trilogy set in an Antigonish County farmhouse, with one production detailing a kitchen ceilidh, another production centering around a wedding, and the final installment set against a wake in the community.

He said the cast of 40 ranged in age from 89 to six, which was the nature of such rural communities, as well as the propensity for musical talent. As a result, half of the songs in this production are original compositions.

Using well known, traditional songs that fit the theme, like the inspirational “We Rise Again,” MacDonald said the production also explores themes of cultural change.

While grappling with serious themes, MacDonald said this production is also comedic with scenes about courting moonshine and the frailties of outdoor toilets.

KEMPT ROAD: The Friends United International Convention Centre threw a party that, in a manner of speaking, will last all year long.

An exhibition of Dozay Christmas’ art officially went on display late October at the gallery and convention centre. The paintings will remain on view for the public for a full year before the canvasses are packed up and moved out west, for displays in Western Canada.

Those who view the paintings out west will be in for a real treat, as the art will offer them a glimpse of First Nations’ culture on the east coast. Christmas’ paintings relate to communities and landmarks throughout the Maritime provinces.

In specific, the paintings tell stories of Kluskap (Glooscap) and creation stories around Atlantic Canada.

INVERNESS: Literary heavy weights gathered at the Inverness County Centre for the Arts to share their work and talk about the way living in Cape Breton influences their writing.

The event was called “Beyond the Page: A Cape Breton Reading,” and the Celtic Colours-related event, held on October 18, featured five writers who now call the island home. Organizing the event were the folks behind the Cabot Trail Writers Festival.

Moderating the show was Rebecca Silver Slayter, a literary heavy weight in her own right as anyone who read her debut novel, In the Land of Birdfishes, already knows.

Among the guests was Mona Knight, a former community columnist. Bill Conall was reading from his short story collection Some Days Run Long, which was shortlisted for the 2019 Alistair MacLeod Prize for Short Fiction.

Poet Susan Paddon, whose work won the J.M. Abraham Poetry Award and made her a finalist for the Raymond Souster Award and the ReLit Award for Poetry, offered a section from a prose work she’s working on.

SYDNEY: Cape Breton musician Keith Mullins returned to the Strait area after releasing a new single dedicated to first responders and health care workers.

As part of a cross-county tour, Mullins performed at the MacBouch Restaurant & Lounge in St. Peter’s on November 5 before departing for PEI, New Brunswick, Ontario, and finally Alberta.

After speaking with a friend in the health care field, who later visited colleagues and recorded some of their accounts, Mullins realized he had a song on his hands.

Mullins then took the song to Dave Gunning, with whom he previously worked with as a drummer. After writing the song in about an hour, the duo spent hours laying-down the track, before organizing the video shoot.

ANTIGONISH: On November 15, Antigonish sisters Moira & Claire released their third single “No Snow,” a quirky Christmas tune. To support the song they also released their first music video, and the video, like the song, is intentionally cheesy.

Written by Moira and Claire MacMullin, “No Snow” is a comedic Christmas song about wishing for snow before Christmas, having that wish come true on Christmas day, and regretting that wish a month later after being snowed in.

The single artwork for “No Snow” was done by Sophie Lawrence, a classmate of Claire’s at Dr. John Hugh Gillis High School last year. Moira & Claire are students at StFX with Moira in her third year studying Psychology and Music and Claire in her first year studying Engineering and Earth Sciences.

D’ESCOUSSE : One of the area’s literary heavy weights is re-releasing a book hailed as one of Atlantic Canadian best, and at the same time, he’s embarking on a new venture in a new form of media.

Silver Donald Cameron’s The Education of Everett Richardson: The Nova Scotia Fishermen’s Strike 1970-71, originally published in 1977, tells the story of Richardson and 234 other trawlermen from Petit de Grant, Mulgrave, and Canso who fought for the right to unionize. The fight saw the fishermen meet resistance from not only companies but also the government, the courts, the media, the business establishment, the mainstream labour movement, and local churches.

Although the events really happened, readers have often said the text reads like a novel rich in character development and intriguing plot. It was named one of Atlantic Canada’s 100 greatest books, and the text was officially re-launched on November 25 at Cape Breton University.

The new edition includes an introduction from Cameron in which he “reflects on the disappearance of the fishery and the rise of the environmental movement as corporate Canada’s favourite bogeyman.”

With the rise of automation and jobs moving offshore, many people who would have been part of a labour union are now unemployed or have moved on for other work, he said. As this happened, a large number of people have been growing upset about climate change and other environmental issues: pesticides, plastics in the oceans, etc.