Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Icelandic group gets Canucks dancing in their skivvies


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FM Belfast Teaches Canadians How To Run Around In Underwear When It Is 20 Below.


 Singer Lóa Hjálmtýsdottir in a mound of ribbons
By Stephen Weir written for my Huffington Post blog
Two men in front tried the impossible, putting on their pants while stumbling to the exit. There was  an urgency – it was 2 am and we were being herded out the concert doors into a normal Icelandic night. Black. Windy. Sub-Zero temperature.
It didn’t take a detective to figure out that the laundry droppers were Canadians – the Roots labels gave ‘em away.  Not that anyone in the crowded Reykjavik art gallery cared about their lack of trous.
Blame the lack of clothes on the band that 600 of us had just seen. It was FM Belfast, one of Canada’s most favoured Icelandic bands. The veteran electro-pop group closed out the Airwaves music festival concert with a group participation song called Underwear.
 
 Lóa Hjálmtýsdottir - photo by sweir
FM Belfast has been performing for a dozen years.  They are always the premiere Icelandic act at the world famous annual Airwaves fete except on rare years when Bjork, Of Monsters and Men, or Sigor Ros take to the stage. 
What is unique about FM Belfast is that their fan base is larger in Canada, Northern US and Europe than it is in their homeland.  If you experience snow and seasonal affective disorder every winter then you will get FM Belfast.  They inspire you to dance and sing as they complain about the boredom of winter.
“We're running down the street in our underwear
We're running up the hill, it's over there
We're running down the street in our underwear
We're running up the hill, it's over there
Cause nothing ever happens here”

Underwear is an anthem for foreigners who travel to Iceland every November to be a part of the mash-up of Icelandic, American, British and Canadian groups performing non-stop for five days. When FM Belfast sings about breaking the boredom of long winters by dancing sans jeans, confetti and streamers are fired over the crowd. The six band members (and some in the audience) strip down and energetically lead everyone in a jump-up Viking dance.
“ ‘Let's have fun trying to make it through another winter’ is a good description of an Icelander (and what we sing about),” explains singer, composer and band co-founder Lóa Hjálmtýsdottir.  “The weather has some impact, we don't have grand winters, just long ones that are more dark than cold”.
FM Belfast getting down to their BVDs
The band has produced four albums all in English and that are designed to engage listeners in singing loudly and dancing with reckless abandon.  It works, their following on YouTube is larger than the population of Iceland!
“In 2006 or 2007 we were playing for a group of (Canadian) foreign exchange students in a small club in Reykjavik. They were very animated and took to the dance-floor and went insane. It was so much fun and when we realised that this was a possibility, we decided to aim for this and try to make people forget themselves for an hour or so.”
Canadians identify with their songs even though they are written to describe Iceland’s human condition.  Take for example their song “American” which describes how Icelanders are ready to learn to act like Americans but aren’t going to let themselves be assimilated  -- they sing that they aren’t afraid to taste the fist of an American!
Another big favourite is a long chant called I Don’t Want To Go to Sleep Either, which is performed at late night, early morning gigs.  My fav? Tropical.  It’s their dream of moving to the Caribbean and joining a band with your pet monkey Pedro on keyboards!
“Our lyrics don't have an underlying common theme, they are about everything and nothing. Sometimes it is just about being cold or watching television but sometimes it’s about something serious like losing a friend,” she explained.
FM Belfast Photo Pit
“ We've always performed and written lyrics in English. We don't switch back. To me it's because English is a very good language for pop lyrics and I like feeling like a visitor when I'm writing song lyrics, “ continued Lóa.
The number of Canadians who have seen FM Belfast live is limited to the thousand who attend the annual pop music festival in Reykjavik.  Yes they have played in Gimli, Manitoba (home to a small Icelandic community) but the band can’t afford a US tour.  They are considering a Canada  tour but so far that is all it is.
“We all have other projects as well but the poorhouse is constantly looming over us, we don't have rich families or money saved in the bank. It's a high price to pay but I consider spending your life and precious time doing something you don't like is an even higher price.”

BTW – FM Belfast is very much an Arctic version of the Grateful Dead.  People come and go into the band line-up depending on schedules and the demands of their other careers.  Lóa Hjálmtýsdottir is also a graphic artist and author.  Árni Rúnar, the other band founder, is a DJ and composes for the movies. Most interesting is singer/dancer Egill Eyjolfsson who has been a diplomat and is an economist who cuts trade agreements for Iceland. He is currently based in Europe and flies home for band gigs!

Thursday, 12 April 2018

Sutherland House Publishing Launches In Toronto. Porcupine's Quill too


Author and Former Editor Of Canada’s Most Respected

Author and Editor Kenneth Whyte launches a new publishing company today. The Sutherland House will specialize in literary non-fiction. Mr. Whyte is the former president of Rogers Publishing Inc., Canada’s largest magazine company, as well as former editor-in-chief of Saturday Night magazine, editor-in-chief and publisher of Maclean’s, and the founding editor of the National Post. His latest book, Hoover: An Extraordinary Life in Extraordinary Times, was a finalist for the 2017 American National Book Critics Circle Awards.
The new Toronto-based company will begin producing books early in 2019. Four projects are already signed up, including: We, The Meeple, an examination of culture, history, society and relationships through the medium of board games by former Walrus editor Jonathan Kay and board game expert Jonathan Moriarity; and Perfect City, a guided tour of the world’s great cities by the noted urban strategist, Joe Berridge.
In tandem with its creation, the new company has acquired the venerable firm, Porcupine’s Quill Inc. Founded in 1974 by the distinguished printer and publisher Tim Inkster, Porcupine’s Quill uses 20th-century offset printing technology to create quality literature with the look and feel of 19th-century letterpress products. It will continue to operate in Erin, Ontario with Mr. Inkster and his partner, Elke, at its helm. 
Porcupine’s Quill will be an imprint of Sutherland House and Mr. Whyte will be its contributing editor. Mr. Inkster will be a contributing editor to Sutherland House. Porcupine’s Quill has published Jane Urquhart, Russell Smith, Andrew Pyper, Elizabeth Hay, P.K. Page, Don Coles, and Margaret Avison among many other outstanding writers.
The new publishing firm has established a website sutherlandhousebooks.com. As of today The Sutherland House is accepting submissions of book proposals and manuscripts from writers
and agents. 
For photographs, company logo, interviews and additional information on
this release, please contact:
Stephen Weir Public Relations. Toronto. Phone 416-489-5868,  stephen@stephenweir.com 

Pictured above - Ken Whyte

Sunday, 1 April 2018

Media Alert - Sikh Heritage Month



FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Media Preview
Spring Art Exhibitions Preview at PAMA in Celebration of Sikh Heritage Month
 
BRAMPTON, ON (March 29, 2017) – The Peel Art Gallery, Museum and Archives (PAMA), the Sikh Heritage Foundation invite you to a preview of the upcoming art exhibitions on Friday, April 6 at 10:30 am in celebration of Sikh Heritage Month. Admission will be free all month long, sponsored by the Sikh Foundation of Canada.
 
Interview Opportunities at PAMA - Friday, April 6, 10:30 a.m.
 
  • PAMA Manager, Marty Brent
  • PAMA Interim Senior Curator, Sharona Adamowicz-Clements will be available to talk about the new Spring art gallery exhibitions
  • Sikh Foundation of Canada representative
  • Artists from the Sikh Heritage Month Community exhibit in PAMA’s tunnel gallery
  • Sikh Heritage Month Committee Spokespeople will be on-hand to talk about weekend programming details around downtown Brampton
 
Light refreshments will be provided
 
Exhibitions on at PAMA
 
Sikh Heritage Month in Downtown Brampton
April 1 – April 30, 2018
Sikh Heritage Month at PAMA provides everyone with an opportunity to learn about Sikh and Canadian culture and history through art, history, performances and workshops.
Opening Event at Brampton City Hall: March 31 from 6 – 10 p.m.
Closing Event at Brampton City Hall: April 28 from 6 – 10 p.m.
 
Visit ontariosikhheritagemonth.compama.peelregion.ca to see the full schedule of programming planned in downtown Brampton
 
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 PAMA is a place to explore and learn about Peel Region’s culture and heritage, as well as use conversation, questions and stories to help make new and fascinating connections to the surrounding community. Throughout the year, PAMA offers a variety of workshops and programs for all ages, families and adults. With so many different programs to choose from, PAMA has something for everyone. Operated by the Region of Peel, PAMA is located at 9 Wellington St. E.in Brampton. Visit pama.peelregion.ca to learn more.
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Contact:
 
Erin Fernandes
Marketing Co-ordinator
Peel Art Gallery, Museum and Archives
905-791-4055, ext. 7596
 
Stephen Weir
Stephen Weir and Associates
stephen@stephenweir.com
Tel: 416-489-5868 | cell: 416-801-3101
www.stephenweir.com twitter: sweirsweir
 

Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Black on Bay Ball and No Boundaries Conference – active, included and successful

Market Opens - Stephen Weir photo

OPENING THE MARKET. OPENING DOORS FOR BLACK COMMUNITY

Next Saturday night the Black on Bay Ball will be held at the Arcadian Court as the Canadian Association of Urban Financial Professionals (CAUFP) celebrates 20 years of championing Black excellence in Toronto.
The CAUFP is a member-based resource organization that provides a link between corporations and the black communities through education, information, and programs to facilitate economic empowerment. For the past 20 years, CAUFP has established itself as a catalyst for excellence and for the advancement of Black leaders in the Canadian financial services industry.
“We believe that there should be No Boundaries set for what we should strive to achieve professionally and for the community, or where we can go to achieve success,” said Abdul-Aziz Garuba, the president of CAUFP and Senior Manager, Finance at Royal Bank of Canada. “ The Saturday night ball is an evening of affirmation that our association continues to hold a vision of the Canadian financial services industry where Black people are active, included and successful.” 
The CAUFP is inviting the community to attend the Gala as they celebrate 20 years of championing Black excellence on Bay Street.  This is an unparalleled night of entertainment, socializing and fine dining. 
The evening is hosted by Justice Donald McLeod, Ontario Supreme Court Justice. The Keynote Speaker is Dr. Gervan Fearon, President & Vice-Chancellor, Brock University. The evening features a gastronomical dining experience, and stellar performances by: the Oakwood Collegiate Institute Black Symphony Orchestra; the Interpretive Dance Act by Nishauna Phillip and the African Drums Troupe.
The formal gala begins at 7pm the evening of March 24th inside the Arcadian Court. It is an Art Deco event space on the eighth floor of the flagship downtown Toronto The Bay store at 401 Bay Street.
The Gala will also cap off the No Boundaries Conference being held on Friday March 23rd, 2018. CAUFP, in partnership with TD Bank will bring together Black and visible minority business and finance professionals to examine the Future of Finance and learn about pertinent issues and trends affecting the finance industry and finance professions.
For information about the No Boundaries Conference and the Black on Bay Ball, visit https://caufp.ca/ For ticket information for the Ball, visit https://blackonbayball.eventbrite.ca.

For more information please contact:

Stephen Weir
Black on Bay Ball publicist
416-801-3101
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Friday, 16 February 2018

Bringing a Voice To The Forgotten-Seven Fallen Feathers


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2018 RBC Charles Taylor Prize Finalist

By KJ Mullins, Newz4U

Toronto Star investigative reporter Tanya Talaga's investigation into the 2011 death of teenager Jordan Wabasse opened the door for a horror show of questions. Why is there inequality in the standards of First Nations schools. Why was there negligence on the part of the Canadian Government into the disappearance and death of a First Nations' student?

A journalist job is to dig and Tanya is one of Canada’s best. She began delving into ta student death in Thunder Bay and found the broken trail of six more student deaths. The result of that research is her first book, the current #1 non-fiction book in Canada, Seven Fallen Feathers.  The explosive expose is shortlisted for the 2018 RBC Charles Taylor Prize.
Racism and discrimination from the government level to the street is an everyday occurrence for Native People in Thunder Bay. In her award-winning book Seven Fallen Feathers journalist Tanya Talaga examines the deaths of seven young people who moved from reservations in Northern Ontario to Thunder Bay to attend high school.
Talaga's journey to uncover their stories shows a nation that is guilty of neglecting their own children and until now getting away with it. The last death took place in 2011; unfortunately the story is as current today as it was seven years ago. One need look no further than this month’s trial concerning the death of Colten Boushie hammers home the injustices that still befall First Nations people.

Jordan Wabasse. Kyle Morrisseau. Reggie Bushie. Jethro Anderson. Paul Panacheese. Curran Strang. Robyn Harper.

Each of these young people is connected to each other by death. They are all victims of an educational system that is sub-par in a nation that prides itself on its higher learning. They were Canadian children, living in third world conditions on lands that have been destroyed, the reservations. The how and the why of how they died remains a mystery. The cases were plagued by police bias and racial profiling. City authorities closed their eyes and stood still instead of conducting investigations that would have taken place if the victims hadn’t died in Thunder Bay and were not from First Nations communities.
Tanya Talaga
Author Tanya Talaga's Seven Fallen Feathers brings to light the continuing injustices that First Nations people face every single day, from the broken treaties to governmental promises, she tells the stories of the seven young lives that were lost. Each one of the dead attended Dennis Franklin Cromarty High School(DFC), a private school in Thunder Bay that hosts students from several Sioux Lookout District First Nations reserves.
The stories in Talaga's book “echoes the tragedies that are mirrored across Canada.” The educational issues that children face in Northern Ontario reservations are the same throughout  most of Canada. Student funding is in some cases as much as $6,000(per student) less for Native schools than for other schools in the same area.  Often First Nations children attend school in classrooms filled with mould, dirty water and a lack of resources. Many youths who want a proper high school education must leave home and family in order to attend Grade 9 and beyond. In Northern Ontario, most students attend DFC. 
In each of the seven deaths, the Thunder Bay Police Department failed to notify parents in a timely matter that their children were missing. When the bodies were recovered sub-par forensic investigations took place giving no real detail in how the children died. Considering that several of the boys who died in water were strong swimmers and their bodies were recovered with signs of trauma, it shocking to read that only a basic autopsies were performed on a number of the dead. Currently, Thunder Bay Police are under review for 40 investigations dating back to the 1990s by Ontario's Office of the Independent Police Review. Almost all of these new cases deal with Indigenous deaths.
 
Tanya Talaga signs books at Ben McNally Books
According to Talaga DFC tries to do right by their students. There is an on-site Elder for spiritual guidance and dedicated teachers whose jobs don't end when the final bell rings. Teachers struggle mightly to fit the needs of students whose prior education at the primary level has left them years behind the educational curve.

During the hours between classes many of the young people (most who have never lived away from their families), are on their own. Drugs and alcohol become a part of their lives as they try to fit into a culture that is rife with prejudice.
While the current government administration is working to make improvements for First Nations people Talaga says that “I am hopeful for the future but this will take generations to correct. The education problem is nation-wide, only when First Nations children are treated fairly with equality will this be solved.”
Talaga said that she had no idea how her book would be perceived when she started writing it. She has found that educators are her biggest champions giving praise to her research that shows a shameful side of modern Canada. She asks w how it is that children have been cast aside and made to endure substandard living and educational conditions.
This is a story that every Canadian should be aware of but Talaga has found, “unless you are living the story you don't know the story.” With Seven Fallen Feathers the truth has been brought to life, and the voices of Jordan, Kyle, Reggie, Jethro, Paul, Curran and Robyn are heard long and clear.

The RBC Taylor Prize winner will be revealed at a gala luncheon on Monday, February 26, 2018.