Almost fifteen years ago, I went on a two-week road trip around Atlantic Canada with my pals in the local band Sunfish. After the first gig in Saint John, New Brunswick, we were driving to Fredericton and, inspired by the “scene” in Saint John (no bands I had ever heard of, but an indie record store where people could buy Sunfish cds and some form of indie street publication that I honestly cannot remember anything about now except that it existed), I decided that when I got home after this tour I’d start a magazine about what was going on in and around Sydney, in particular, and Cape Breton in general. I mentioned the idea to Sunfish drummer Mike Morrison, asking if he’d help out. He said yes, and when I got home from the tour, I got to work on the first issue of What’s Goin On magazine.
I started by writing about the tour with Sunfish who were supporting Toronto band Change of Heart. I gathered up some cd reviews, some radio charts, a review of a local play production, and articles about a compilation of local bands, tattooing, and the potential for hemp to save our world. The first of a regular column about skateboarding, called Scenery, completed the issue. I managed to get a few advertisers, mostly people I knew or could talk into taking a chance on this crazy idea, and put the bits and pieces together with the help of a guy named Jamie Whitty who was to be my partner in this venture.
Three issues later Whitty was gone, but I was starting to get the hang of things and I was finding that there was plenty goin’ on to write about, and a good supply of folks with enough interest, talent, and dedication to keep it going. By November 1997, we had moved into office space in downtown Sydney and launched a weekly publication to go along with the monthly. We never made any money, but we did raise the profile of the arts and entertainment scene in post-industrial Cape Breton, and by the time we called it quits in 2002, we had published and distributed thirty-two issues of the monthly (1995-1999) and five years of weeklies.
Since the last issue in May 2002, people would inquire about What’s Goin On, reminisce about it, lament its passing, and generally remark that we could sure use something that around here these days. I did get a website set up after we stopped publishing the weekly and tried to maintain for a while, but eventually things just kind of ran out of steam. It was always in the back of my mind that we should get it up and running again, but I left it back there with the cobwebs as I pursued other things.
More recently though discussion of getting the magazine on the go again started to get more serious. I got together with a few people who used to work on the magazine and we decided to just do it. So here we are. It’s still a bit of a work in progress, but we’re going in the right direction. We kept some of the things that made the weekly so popular—like events listings, current stories about what’s going on around town, and our eerily accurate homespun horoscopes—and added in everything else that we’ve ever did, in the form of a searchable archive. The goal is to get all the old articles from all of the past issues of the monthly and the weekly online, while keeping current with local arts, entertainment, recreation and lifestyle options available in our community.
So check us out. Look around the site and let us know what you like or don’t like, what we’re missing and what we’re getting right. There are a couple of hundreds articles up now from past issues—including the whole first issue, the complete series of Scenery articles, some ECMA coverage from over the years and a variety of editorials—and we’re adding more every day. You can access the archives by using the Search Bar or the Tag Cloud. And we’re always looking for writers and photographers so if you’re interested in getting involved, drop us a line.