Maybe I’m not quite as crazy as I think. I just returned from ECMA in Saint John, New Brunswick and while there I met people who run the local campus/community radio station and the editor/co-publisher of a bi-weekly news and entertainment newspaper. Before I went there I was tipped off about a group who is trying to establish a space for artist and rehearsal studios which could also act as an all-ages venue. When I spoke to Peter Donahue about Radio FreECMA at the Dog and Pony Show he told me about how the campus/community radio station, the biweekly publication and the group behind the rehearsal studios had decided to work together to make it all happen. They recognize the value each of these elements brings to the other and how they all work together to strengthen the arts in Saint John. I felt like I was hearing my own voice echoing back to me off the empty buildings in downtown Sydney. Here were people enacting the vision I’ve had about how to develop downtown with a practical purpose.
I went to quite a few performances by Cape Bretoners during the weekend. With the exception of well-known acts like Gordie Sampson, Jimmy Rankin and Bruce Guthro, it seemed the people in the crowds digging the music the most were Cape Bretoners, either from other bands or who had traveled to take in the festivities. My first thought was, oh no, only Cape Bretoners like this music made by Cape Bretoners. But I couldn’t justify that. I’m not talking about fiddle music, here. I’m talking about Rudy Huxtable Project and Rock Ranger and Slowcoaster and After School Special. There’s nothing about any of those bands that would make them only interesting to Cape Bretoners. I came to the conclusion that it was a matter of familiarity, that the people in the audience digging it the most were the ones who had heard this music the most. They’d seen the bands before, were familiar with the sounds and songs, and seeing them live was bringing that out. And that’s why they came out to see them. I got to thinking that that’s another bonus of having radio airplay – more people get exposed to the music and they find something about it to like. That could work in a big way locally, by attracting new audiences for some of the bands who play locally, bringing more people out to their shows, making more money for the venues, creating a demand for recorded product and bringing money in to the recording industry in the process. At several points, this trickles down to have a positive impact on the economy. It’s the missing link.
I was also delighted to see “Sync: the official daily newsletter of the ECMA”, based on the concept introduced by What’s Goin On during ECMA 2000 in Sydney. So all these things led me to believe that though I am very committed to these seemingly farfetched ideas and possibly should be committed for not giving up on them against all odds, I might not actually be as crazy as I sometimes think. I discovered that there is evidence of intelligent life outside and we seem to think alike. Maybe once the powers that be see it working elsewhere, they’ll start taking our local initiatives more seriously. Hopefully, it won’t be too late.