Whether you were born and bred in this province or you've transplanted yourself here, you know there's no denying our culture is as steep as tea over a boil-up in the woods on a cold winter's day. The traditions, storytelling, folklore - and the mystery that surrounds it all - is part of what makes this place so fascinating. And it’s that fascination that compelled Newfoundlander Katherine Harvey to explore some of the more common stories and to dig a little deeper, fleshing out our folklore in a way she says no one has before.
“Lore” is the name of the brand new TV series set to air on NTV later this fall. Billed as a fresh take on folklore in Newfoundland, the program is directed by Katherine’s father - someone who’s no stranger to spinning a great yarn - writer/filmmaker Kenneth Harvey.
Katherine (left), who holds a degree in folklore from Memorial University, says she and her father came up with the concept for the series together.
“I finished my degree and I had a month or two without a job, so my dad said, ‘Ok, let’s come up with something with folklore. We had a brainstorming session and we came up with a list of about 10 possible ideas, and we narrowed it down to this one,” says Katherine. Kenneth pitched the idea to the TV station, which asked the father-daughter duo for a pilot episode.
The Harveys envision a youthful target audience for the show. To that end, Katherine enlisted two other eager young hosts - local journalist Paul Power and St. John’s comedian Gregory King - to deliver the stories, in addition to her own hosting duties.
Roughly 22 minutes in length, each episode is comprised of three segments, explains Katherine.
“So, what we have in the first episode is a cooking segment, we have a crime segment and we also have an alternative medicine segment. That’s going to be the basis for every episode more or less - but we’re also going to mix in some sex and romance and all that sort of stuff,” says Katherine.
The topic of one particular segment is one of the province’s most romanticized stories - that of Catherine Snow, the last woman publicly hanged in Newfoundland. According to Katherine, the doomed Snow was kept locked in a dungeon to await her grisly fate.
“They found out on death row that she was pregnant. So, she was kept in that dungeon for eight or nine months or whatever it was. She had the baby and then she was hanged. There are a lot of ghost stories around that and the courthouse. Some people say her spirit still haunts the area and people who work there have heard strange noises and seen strange things, so we looked into that a bit,” says Katherine - being careful not to give away too much. As part of her research for that segment, Katherine says she looked into the fate of Snow’s baby, and says it’s believed that relatives in the United States adopted the infant - though nobody knows for certain.
Katherine carries out most of the arduous legwork researching the different subjects. “I spent a lot of time at the Centre for Newfoundland Studies, at the Courthouse archives there, and provincial archives - just digging through archives basically, which I love!” says Katherine. In addition to researching and hosting, Katherine is also producing the series. “I’m behind the scenes a lot, too, organizing and planning. I do all the scheduling and stuff like that,” she says.
“It is a grand and beautiful pleasure to work with my daughter,” says Kenneth. “She is the epitome of good humour, creativeness and professionalism. I would not be doing this show without my daughter. In truth, it is her show and I am only giving her a hand to get it going.”
For Kenneth, there is only one real challenge. “Funding is always an i.ssue, of course, and we are seeking sponsors and producers to continue with the show,” says Kevin. “But the material for segments is limitless. There is an abundance of fabulous topics here in Newfoundland.”
If the show gets the green light, Katherine plans to work on the series full time and possibly hire a team of researchers. She also hopes to elaborate on topics explored in the show in a blog, “so all my research isn’t in vain,” she jokes.
Kenneth just hopes viewers take from the show what he and his daughter envisioned during that first brainstorming session: “A fresh take on folklore in Newfoundland. We want viewers to be informed, amused and entertained.” - Shannon Duff (Photos courtesy Kenneth J. Harvey)
Have a suggestion for a “Lore” segment? Share your ideas at www.facebook.com/NLLORE or tweet @katieaharvey.