I arrived in Edmonton and missed my hoodie. Temperatures were as low as 7 degrees Celsius this week and here it is August! When I left Ontario, it was over 30 degrees in the shade and so I hadn’t prepared myself. Mental note: be a good traveller and look at the weather reports before hopping a plane across a vast country next time, alright?
The cold front didn’t dull my mood, though, because the event heated up and was fantastic. It was called: “Ignite Change Now: Global Youth Conference.” And the name was fitting because it felt as though I was watching little sparks go off in every group I came upon across these two days; everyone seemed lit up.
This is a UN initiative and there were people at this event that had come from all over the world. It was amazing to be part of such an inspiring conference that unifies so much of what we’re about as musicians and activists.
We arrived on Tuesday night and were met by Rose Mary, the organizer’s mother who had agreed to put us up for the night before the conference’s official start the next day. Rose Mary greeted us with hugs and smiles for our weary travelling selves. We were being accommodated in a downtown hotel for two nights, officially, but there was no provision for our arrival night and Rose Mary graciously agreed to pick up two wayward strangers and take us to her home.
I love meeting new Moms. She’s wonderful.
She patiently waited with us for our luggage that never came (what’s our luck with airlines and baggage this month?), then waited for us to process the lost baggage claims (both instruments and Lyndell’s personal bag were all still in Toronto) and then we all drove back to her place, about a half an hour from the airport and on a beautiful tract of land with gardens and dogs and woodlands next door. It was like leaving home and coming home.
The next morning the three of us – Lyndell, Rose Mary and I — walked her property and picked wild raspberries and drank our morning tea while talking about gardening and solitude and country living.
When we drove into the conference at midday, we were refreshed and ready for a couple of days of learning and inspiration. Wednesday was the day of my workshop about the merging of art and activism and how this combination can yield great things like hope, sustainability, belief, change, awareness… etc. I have done this workshop many times and it’s always a learning experience for me, too. I am just a facilitator in a workshop that really runs itself. I always find that there’s not enough time to really talk about all the things one can talk about when it comes to the notion of combining creativity with a desire to make the world a better place. It’s happening everywhere and it’s a building movement.
The room we were in looked like a classroom and so I arranged the chairs in a semi-circle before people arrived. Anything to make it a bit more relaxed in vibe. Then, the place filled up and we had a fantastic discussion that was over far too quickly. An hour and a half and we had just started to feel its significance when the session ended. Still, it served as a solid launching pad for several ongoing discussions that took place over the next two days with the participants in more casual settings, like over meals and in the hallways of the Shaw Centre where the event took place.
Speaking of locations, the view from the Shaw Centre of Edmonton’s North Saskatchewan River valley is just stunning. Behind the main room, there is a balcony that overlooks this lush valley, which is also the site of the Edmonton Folk Festival. (psst: we would love to play that event one day, but they have never booked us. Fingers crossed for next year! if you ever want to request us: you can always send a friendly email here: firstname.lastname@example.org).
After shooting these pics, I went to the hotel to do another search for our luggage. After several hours on and off the telephone to the 1-800 number and finally a trip back to the airport, they were officially located and scheduled for delivery that evening, exactly twenty-four hours later. Funny how talking to someone on the phone gets you nowhere and as soon as we could look someone in the eye about it, they were found! Thankfully, we had an extra day to wait for our instruments. Not having our guitars for one day is usually not an option, but I’m happy they arrived in the end and everything worked itself out.
The next day, I took in several speakers and my highlight was definitely Sol Guy, producer and co-host of a new television series coming out this fall called “4Real.” His bio described him as a guy who sets out to use the entertainment business as a vehicle for social change.” I get that. I thought I’d get him and I was right.
Sol Guy’s delivery was simply cool, in the truest sense of the word. He’s articulate, relaxed, and he communicates so succinctly without being the least bit dry or rehearsed-sounding. I was taken in by his talk (that was also aided by photography and some clips from his upcoming series) and moved to move. In the spirit of hip hop, activism means acting or moving your body within this movement. Dancing takes place in a lot of places – not just the dance floor. It was the perfect pre-show push.
When Lyndell and I got up there for our set, we were both relaxed and felt alive. It was great to play together again and an honour to be among these delegates and speakers and performers. Sometimes it’s reassuring to gather with those who are doing similar work if for no other reason than to be reminded that we are not alone in these pursuits and that we’re all interconnected and making strides.
“Ignite Change Now!” may sound like an order to some, but to me it’s an obvious exclamation. Sort of like saying: “eat or die of hunger!” or “breathe or suffocate!”
The cold, hard truth.
Lighting a fire under our asses in August.