Got back from Podcasters Across Borders 2009 (hereinafter PAB09) Sunday evening and wanted to go over some of the weekend while it was still fresh in my mind. This was going to be one long post, but given the speed with which I compose entries, I realized it was going to need to be a multi-post affair.
And the post’s title? It refers to the closing presentation by Tod Maffin, which was called “Twenty Sixteen Moments of Epic Awesomeness” (in a sequence of events involving mosquitoes, changing hotels, internet connection at said new hotel going down 5 minutes after arriving, Tod had to cut it down from 20 to 16…) and “Epic Awesomeness” seemed appropriate to apply to PAB09 since it was definitely filled with many moments of Epic Awesomeness (now, K tells me “awesome” is used far too often on the web these days and that I should avoid using it, but I don’t want to set a dangerous precedent by doing what she tells me ;) )
Epic Awesomeness #1
The concept is wonderfully simple: create a uniquely Canadian guitar, made from materials with some cultural or historical significance, from all across our nation. Then tour the guitar across Canada, telling the story of the making of the guitar itself, and the stories that go with the individual pieces that went into it. Let people hold it, play it, have their picture taken with it — all for free — so that they will all get to know their country a little better and take some pride in its history, our achievements and our multi-cultural roots.
I can’t do the story of Voyageur, as the guitar has been named, or the Six String Nation project, justice — Jowi has released a book on it and I encourage you to support the project by buying it if you can, or if you can’t afford it, go get it from your library (submit a request for them to purchase copies if they haven’t already done so).
I can tell you that there were a whole lot of moist eyes and lump filled throats by the end of his presentation. Here’s a few reasons why:
- While Jowi did receive initial funding for the project from Mike Lazaridis of Research In Motion (RIM, the maker of the Blackberry™), Westerkirk Capital and The National Capital Commission, and has some tour specific and on-going sponsors (see the list on the Six String Nation website), but he’s also run up a substantial personal debt to keep the project going and to continue touring Voyageur across the country. He’s been given the run-around by various government agencies who manage to pass the buck everywhere but where it would do some good — funding the project.
- He recently asked a Toronto promoter to back the summer tour with $23,000 in funding and was told, because there is no charge for people who come to see Voyageur and get their photo taken, that he “had no business model” and that he should go pitch the project in the US, then come back to Canada when he’d been successful there. The Canadians in the room were unsurprised but still dismayed at the promoter’s attitude; I’m not sure what the attendees from the US and elsewhere thought but it was probably a bit incomprehensible to them that we seem to place so little value on our heritage, our history and our culture.
- Jowi told the story of the legendary Golden Spruce, a unique “albino” spruce tree on Haida Gwaii (a.k.a. the Queen Charlotte Islands) that was sacred to the Haida native people. A paper products company with logging rights in the area had agreed to not cut down the Golden Spruce and to preserve a certain buffer zone of the forest surrounding it; they were still clear-cutting the forest outside that area on Haida Gwaii. He went on to tell us about how one of the company’s employees, who worked in isolation out in the field marking which trees would be cut, became unhinged and decided that the company was hypocritical in leaving the area around the Golden Spruce protected while clear-cutting everywhere else. He went told us how the man went out in the middle of the night with a chainsaw and cut the Golden Spruce down. You could have heard a spruce needle drop in the room — everyone was in shock, reeling at the incomprehensibility of such an act. The Haida decided that the Golden Spruce would be left where it had fallen, and never be cut up but left to return to the land. After many meetings with the chief, Jowi was able to convince them to allow a small piece of the Golden Spruce to be harvested and used in the construction of the guitar — the wood from it forms the soundboard, the front face of the body.
There were lots more anecdotes, more than I can recall in detail, but after the presentation there was a “Q & A” session — a lot of the questions were about why the Canadian government wasn’t prepared to provide funding to sustain the project and allow Voyageur to be seen by Canadians all over the country. And finally, Mark Blaseckie stood up and asked the question that was probably on the minds and in the hearts of most of the people in that room — he just asked “How can we help?”.
So all of us there agreed to use our social media connections to spread the word about the story of the Six String Nation project and the need for financial support to keep the project alive and Voyageur on the road — not in some museum, behind glass. This is a piece of our history, our culture that exists to be held by everyday Canadians across our land and played by those who can.
There’s a PayPal donation button on the Six String Nation website that you can use to contribute — we certainly will be.
So, that’s Part 1 of The Epic Awesomeness of PAB09. I will try to get some more of these out quickly while events are still fresh in my mind.