Cape Breton Music Industry Cooperative @ Nova Scotia Music Week

CBMIC (Cape Breton Music Industry Cooperative)* is sending some musical ambassadors to the mainland for Nova Scotia Music Week 2012. The festival and conference runs ’til Sunday in Liverpool, NS. It features performances by Carmen Townsend, Carlton Stone, Breagh MacKinnon, Crowdis Bridge, Sprag Session, and Mary Jane Lamond & Wendy MacIsaac.**

With over a hundred artists performing throughout the weekend, CBMIC wanted to showcase its own. The mini website I made is designed to do just that. And it’s designed with conference delegates in mind. They’re likely travelling, and likely viewing the site on a mobile device. So the website is built to be “responsive”. Its layout changes based on the device it’s viewed on — smart phone, tablet, any mobile device, in addition to computer.

*CBMIC is a volunteer, not-for-profit organization developed to grow and support Cape Breton’s music industry. Want to learn more? Check out Albert Lionais’ IDEAS: Powered by Passion talk.

**To see a full list of Cape Breton talent attending NSMW, and the awards they’re nominated for, see the Cape Breton Post.

Tom Fun

The Tom Fun Orchestra is embarking on a “Canada World Tour” in support of their sophomore release, Earthworm Heart, the follow-up to 2008’s You Will Land With A Thud. But you already knew all that.

What you might not know is that when lead singer Ian MacDougall plays solo/acoustic at Wentworth Perk, my kids sing back up. Or that the lyrics to Animal Mask (“Running out of methadone/get me to the clinic”) become “Running out of cookie dough, get me to the Sobey’s.”

The website I made for them is based on the new album’s cover art — a 75-year old photograph of Ian’s great-uncle fishing in Margaree River (or something like that). Find tour dates, get free downloads, and pre-order the new album at tomfun.ca.

CBRM district 5 candidates panel

CBC Information Morning held a debate with the candidates for district 5. Listen here:

Municipal Candidates’ Panel – District 5

Here are some of the issues that we discussed:

Creating a vibrant downtown core

Marketing our world-class artistic talent

Debt and equalization

Port development

Community Engagement

Kids and their families

Cape Breton and the Creative Economy

Interest in the arts as an economic engine is growing (especially interest from the provincial government1). So continuing on the theme of economic diversity, CBRM should develop policies to address emerging opportunities in the creative economy.

Here’s how the creative industries contribute to our collective prosperity (directly, through economic growth; and indirectly by improving quality of life).

The Ripple Effect

Investing in “core creative fields” (such as music, visual arts, and literature) creates a ripple effect:

At the centre, artists create original works.

The cultural industries then turn these original works into mass-produced goods such as books, recordings, and video games.

This in turn creates opportunities in the creative industries — for example graphic designers, industrial designers, and software developers — to make new and innovative ways to distribute creative goods.

And, lastly, the broader manufacturing and service sector develops new and innovative ways to consume, interpret, and enjoy culture. Think for example of how the Apple iPod is the result of industrial design and manufacturing, software design, the publishing industry, and ultimately musicians who are at the core of the process.

The Cultural Ecosystem

Artists are inspired by, build upon, and even re-use, elements of the existing cultural landscape. This means organizations that preserve cultural artifacts (such as libraries, museums, and heritage collections) are key to the creative process.

In a report titled “Building the Creative Economy in Nova Scotia”, the Nova Scotia Cultural Action Network (NSCAN) says:

“Creativity can be envisioned as a cycle that begins with core creation and moves through production, distribution, consumption and conservation of the creative product.”

It concludes, “successful creative economies require significant investment at all points in the creative cycle.”

Art and quality of life

Cape Breton is a world-class arts centre, with a growing innovation/tech sector, all set amidst some of the most beautiful scenery imaginable. It’s a compelling “value proposition” for retaining and attracting the types of creative people who will make unique contributions to the culture — through their music, art, literature, theatre, and food, as well as in the built environment: dwellings, streets, heritage buildings, public spaces. These can’t be thought of solely in economic terms. They are part of what makes the quality of life in Cape Breton so attractive. Just look at some of the success stories in district 5 alone:

Plus the Greenlink trail system, Wentworth Park, and the new Louisa gardens in the North End; and the potential for a new downtown location for the Cape Breton Farmers’ Market, a new multi-purpose regional library, and downtown loft living for international students, artists, young families and recently retired entrepreneurs.

1 “Building the Creative Economy in Nova Scotia”.

Alex Sheppard – “How Cape Breton Attitudes Shape the Decisions of our Youth”

Alex Sheppard is my wife’s 18 year old cousin. He’s currently attending Dalhousie.

Here’s the introductory remarks I wrote for his “Ideas Powered By Passion” talk:

Alex’s volunteer work — with Junior Achievement, all-ages shows, and most recently Lumiere — is a testament to the saying: “Do what you love, and try to find ways to make it matter more.” When Alex started playing in bands — often as the only under-age bass player in a band full of 19+’s — he needed adult accompaniment when playing at Bunkers. Rather than accept this as an inconvenience, or even allow it to become an impediment, he saw it as an injustice that there weren’t more all-ages venues and all-ages shows. So he started organizing some, combining his passion for the arts with the guts to take a risk. Rather than complaining about the youth out-migration problem — or simply saying “This town sucks” and moving on — he looks for ways to make music matter more, treating music and the arts in general as a downtown revitalization effort, a community development initiative, and a youth retention and attraction strategy.

In his talk, Alex identifies a tension in the life of Cape Breton youth — one which has far-reaching implications for both youth “retention” & outmigration, as well as immigration in general. Young people are brought up believing their only hope is to leave… but when they do leave (even if only to attend university elsewhere) they’re characterized as traitors. What a conflict! (“Should I stay or should I go?“)

Young people should be encouraged to pursue their dreams, wherever in the world those dreams take them. And they should be encouraged to return, with their degrees, their experiences, their expectations, and their entitlements.

We have a responsibility and obligation to make it a viable place to live, work, raise a family, and retire. So that when faced with the decision of where to set down roots, that Cape Breton is on the list.

J. P. Cormier

“I didn’t write nothin’, I just held the pen,” says J. P. Cormier in response to fan adoration. You might say he can’t take a compliment. Then again, it’s probably his way of saying that his fans inspire him as much as he inspires them.

A multi-instrumentalist singer-songwriter with the ability to “make the brilliant appear effortless”, he’s been described as the quintessential Maritime musician, for his songs about love lost, towns disbanded, fishermen killed by their trade. But his music — played on every instrument imaginable, with a precision that seems impossible, let alone at such speeds — is also about joy, hope, and love that survives. He’s a “mountain of a man” who certainly contains multitudes.

J. P.’s new website was made by the collective known as 12 Eyes: Yours Truly, web; Josh Adams, design; and Darcy Campbell, content.

Governors Pub & Eatery

Governors’ new website includes updates to the design (with a little help from Josh at Mod Creative) and the functionality. The changes — it looks better and it’s easier to get around — basically mirror the recent renovations to the pub itself.

In addition to the restaurant, the traditional-style pub has live music throughout the week, including an Irish session every Wednesday and an “Afternoon Ceilidh” on Saturdays. A patio with a harbour-view, Guinness on tap, it’s no wonder Governors has become the destination of choice for IDEAS: Powered By Passion attendees to continue the conversation.

Disaster Songs!

Many web designers have started down the path toward “website that looks like an old newspaper”. But, finding it too cheesy, too tricky, or simply a poor match of form and function, have had to turn back. With disastersongs.ca, making a website that looked like an old newspaper made perfect sense. (And based on user feedback, others agree. Phew!)

Three academic researchers, including Dr. Heather Sparling from CBU, have mined the Canadian disaster song tradition and come up with almost 300 pieces. They’ve begun publishing their results, starting with songs about Mining Disasters, with Ocean Disasters, Airline Disasters, Lumbering Disasters, and Railway Disasters to follow.

The last underground mines in Eastern Canada closed in the 1990s, bringing an end to a way of life that had been a part of the region for over two centuries. Nova Scotia’s coal deposits in particular were among the deepest underground in the world, some extending far under the ocean, making them among the most dangerous to mine. Flooding, asphyxiation, spontaneous combustion, falling rocks, and “bumps” (underground earthquake-like events that resulted from the removal of coal and the lack of replacement support) killed 2500 miners over the years, maiming and seriously injuring so many more. This in addition to those who died from chronic illness including lung infection.

While major disasters were transformational and dramatic, the commonplace occurrence of injury or death in the normal conduct of mining was equally palpable for miners and their families…

The communities that grew around the mines were unlike most communities. The manner of exploiting coal required lots of community support in order to reproduce the daily labour of the thousands of men and boys underground. The dangers associated with the industry produced a close knit and interdependent community.

But dealing with death and injury on a regular basis also produced a wide variety of coping mechanisms; something necessary if men were to keep going into the pits in spite of accidents. Songs were a part of a coping-process, just as were various other forms of commemoration and memorialization of workers who lost their lives. Annual commemorative occasions, museums, commemorative plaques, statues to fallen miners, etc. abound throughout the region as a way of signifying the breadth and depth of the sacrifices made.

Company House Records

Company House Records is home to some of Cape Breton’s most well-known artists: Slowcoaster, Carmen Townsend, and The Tom Fun Orchestra. The new website is part of the indie label’s rebranding effort.

The label is named after the iconic houses built between 1850 and 1920 by mining and steel companies to house their workers. They now represent one of the most potent connections to industrial Cape Breton’s identity: labour movements, cooperatives, multiculturalism, community. Many miners and steelworkers were later able to purchase the homes.

Heritage Canada Foundation recently added the Cape Breton company house to its list of Top Ten Most Endangered Places. The list raises awareness about historically significant sites that are threatened with demolition, the goal being to prevent sites on the endangered list from making it onto the list of the worst heritage losses in Canada.

With coal mining and the steel plant gone, many company houses have fallen into disrepair from neglect or abandonment. But they may be saved, according to the Heritage Canada report, as advocates for the preservation of company houses work with advocates for affordable and assisted housing, for example through HomeMatch. Rebranding, indeed.

Buck and Kinch

I only got as far as the first sentence in James Joyce’s Ulysses, but that was far enough to meet “Buck” Mulligan, the namesake of Cape Breton grit-folk duo Buck and Kinch.

The website I made for Hinson and Merlin (not sure whom is Buck and whom Kinch) invites you to galk at the pair, inflict their music upon yourself, even do both at the same time. And maybe – just maybe – do both at the same time in real life.

“Kinch” is one of Buck’s nicknames for Stephen Dedalus, Joyce’s alterego whom we meet earlier in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (which I have read!).