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A day that marked terror in the U.S. and abroad also marked the start of a sweet friendship between a stranded Peruvian woman and a Gambo family.
Part two of a three-part exploratory feature on agriculture in Newfoundland and Labrador.
For the past three decades, the St. John's International Women's Film Festival has been shining the spotlight on female filmmakers, and the entire province, in a big way.
On a cold winter’s day in Wild Cove, Lewis Roberts is outside working on his latest boat...
Local comedy legend Andy Jones was named to the Order of Canada in June of this year, joining the ranks of national treasures like Sarah McLachlan, Margaret Atwood, Neil Young, Prince Charles, Gord Downie, Alex Trebek, Mike Myers, Catherine OâHara and more. Awarded the second-highest honour for merit in the Canadian system of orders, decorations and medals, Andy was recognized for his contributions to the Canadian arts and entertainment landscape. The actor, writer, comedian and director is well known for his early work with CODCO; for starring in, co-writing and co-directing the feature-length film The Adventure of Faustus Bidgood; and for his role in the movie Rare Birds alongside William Hurt. On a national and local scale, Andy has made innumerable appearances on television and in theatre, as well as a series of one-man shows. âI was happy to get a nod of any kind at this stage of the game,â the bashful Andy says of his recent appointment. This year so far has been one of reflection on Andyâs many accomplishments, especially with the CODCO reunion in Halifax in the spring. âIt was really fun, and you know, again, itâs nice to get a pat on the back,â Andy says of the reunion show, which took place in March at Andyâs alma mater, Saint Maryâs University. He was reunited on stage with his longtime colleagues Mary Walsh, Andy Jones, Greg Malone and Cathy Jones (also his sister). Neighbouring Nova Scotia and its capital city, Halifax, have always been supportive of Newfoundland arts, he explains. âTheyâre a great audience for Newfoundland material. They really appreciate it. To go back and to have all that kind of warmth from people â¦ It was good to just go back in a very pleasant way down memory lane.â Though Andy notes that the troupe sometimes clashed in terms of creative differences, the CODCO reunion recalled âthose times when things were cooking and we just had fun together,â he says. âWe each picked a sketch that we liked and no one else knew what the sketch was that weâd picked until they [the other members of CODCO] got thereâ¦ We each got to do some good, good stuff,â he says. Andy was quick to acknowledge the contributions of cast member Tommy Sexton, who died in 1993. âThe truth is that all of our best stuff came from when we were getting along and having fun, having lots of laughs.â In watching anything Andy is present in, from the early days of CODCO onwards through to the 2018 play âMen of Misfortuneâ with Greg Malone, it seems like Andy has fun with whatever heâs working on. Standing Up in Canada He draws heavily on his life experiences as a Newfoundlander when creating content. As part of the first generation of Newfoundlanders to be Canadians, his experience was formative. âIt was a different time in Newfoundland because, I guess, there were those questions about whether they had made a mistake by joining Canada or not,â he recalls. âSome people said there wasnât a great deal of difference from before Confederation, although that may or may not be accurate. Of course, we were the first generation of Newfoundlanders to be Canadians. So we wanted to take advantage of everything in Canada, being Canadians, but we found that we were the âjoke peopleâ - which we didnât like. We wanted to set that record straight,â he explains. âThe general narrative was, you know, you guys are sucking off the tit of Canadaâ¦ we were really, really very angry about that. We had a trenchant wit and we had great music and storytelling and visual arts, all that stuff. We wanted to make sure we got that out to them, so they realized that they got a lot out of the deal,â he says of Newfoundland and Labrador joining Canada. The sentiment still rings true today, almost 50 years after the beginnings of CODCO, and with 2019 marking 70 years since Confederation. âPeople are still very interesting and still quite different in Newfoundland. You can really tell if you go somewhere and then come back. Economically, we had a little burst of joy there when Danny was in power and we had oil money coming in, but it seems extremely worrisome now again. I feel somehow as if weâre back to square one in some ways, but it does seem that we have a sense of ourselves and a sense of pride in ourselves that we did not necessarily have when we joined Confederation, although there always was a feeling that Newfoundlanders had almost a superiority complex that went along with the inferiority complex. There was that sense that everybody kind of knew we had something special here.â Andy calls the artist uprising of yesteryear âone of the great success stories of Newfoundland.â He adds, âNow, you look at all the summer festivals, all the playwrights, the novelists - canât keep track of it all.â No topic too taboo Newfoundland and Labrador has put in a lot of work to prove that weâre not the butt of a joke - weâre the jokesters. Simply look to the cast and writers of the nationâs political parody powerhouse âThis Hour Has 22 Minutesâ to see a heavy Newfoundland and Labrador presence. While â22 Minutesâ focuses on Canada-wide issues, much of CODCOâs content was centralized on provincial issues, news, politics, traditions and more. CODCO delved into - or exposed, explored or eviscerated, depending on the skit - a list of hot-button topics: religious upbringings, post-Confederation feelings, local political blunders, the Christian education system, basic rights for LBGTQ people and much more. The show absolutely ruffled a few feathers - including the CBC, which refused to air a particular sketch titled âPleasant Irish Priests in Conversation.â âWe did have that problem and thatâs the reason I left CODCO,â Andy says. âBut the truth of the matter is, we were very free. The company that produced us in Halifax was Michael and Paul Donovan of Salter Street Films. We couldnât go far enough for them.â Present-day, Andyâs main artistic concerns arenât about what he can âget away with.â As a man who always seems to be wearing many hats within the local arts scene, itâs more about making time to fulfill all of his ongoing passion projects. âI'm trying to write a piece about my son Louis, who died in 2014. He took his own life after a long struggle with mental illness, and Iâm still trying to write something about him. And Iâve actually gotten all of his medical records. Iâm going through them very slowly, trying to get some help from whoever I can get help from to help me do research, get all that stuff together. And thatâs kind of my main goal right now.â Andy is also compiling an archive of material created by his late brother Michael Jones, and heâs working on a new childrenâs book set to come out in 2020. Much of his summer was spent helping out with the 25th anniversary celebrations of the Hantâs Harbour Heritage Museum and at the Bonavistaâs Church Street Festival. When asked if there was anything on his âcreative bucket list,â Andy remarks that he felt he was always free to create as much as he wanted to create, but âI guess I would like to have done more things,â he adds. âI always wanted to be on stage doing comedy and from the time I was a kid, I got to do that. So, I would have liked to do more. I would love to have done a third feature film,â he muses. âI had wanted to work with my brother on that and he wasnât able to do it for the last few years, but I did have a script but I donât know if itâll ever be done,â he shares. âBut really, generally speaking, I think that - because I live in this country and because Newfoundland has such a rich culture - I have never been stumped by anything in terms of creativity. Funding, yes. Dear God, I wish we had full funding for everything; but ultimately, there was no nefarious force that could stop us from doing anything - maybe just a slightly cheaper version,â he jokes. With the local arts community lobbying for a $3-million increase to ArtsNL over the next three years, thereâs a collective hope that a province seemingly ârichâ in arts and culture can better support artists - like Andy Jones and the legendary CODCO cast and crew, plus all the wonderfully talented people who put Newfoundland and Labrador on the map with their artistic ability and comedic clout.- by Wendy Rose
In the early hours of a July morning, a white 1980s-era VW Vanagon camper van with European licence plates rests in the parking lot of Bowring Park, off Waterford Bridge Road in St. Johnâs, NL. In a few hours this gravel parking lot will be full, but for now that van is alone. Inside, Benny and Tanja and their dog Jago are waking up. Soon, the side door will be open and they will step outside, coffee in hand, to greet the day. For the past two-and-a-half years, Benny and Tanja, origi-nally from Germany, have been travelling around the world in their home-on-wheels, first in a Unimog, and more recently in the VW Syncro Vanagon. Theyâve been to 16 or 17 countries so far, covering Eastern Europe, northern Africa and Canada in the Unimog. It was on that cross-Canada trip - done in the dead of winter - that they realized the Unimog was too big. Returning to Germany, they swapped vehicles, choosing the Vanagon for its size and its off-road capabilities. They named it Smudu, refitted it for adventure travel with a second fuel tank, rooftop solar panels, a rebuilt camper interior and dirt-capable tires. Then they returned to Canada, this time intent on exploring the eastern parts of the country - their previous trip was mostly spent out west - before heading down the eastern side of the United States, then over into Mexico and through Central America. And thatâs about as detailed as their plan gets. Most people embarking on a road trip in a camperized vehicle stick to one continent. But little things, like getting a van across the Atlantic Ocean, donât bother Benny and Tanja. They used a roll on, roll off (RoRo) shipping service to get their van into Canada from Germany via Belgium. The couple refer to themselves as overlanders, and to understand why this actually means something, we need to take a dive into the traveller subculture. Travellers, while sometimes being tourists, separate themselves from the cargo-shorts-and-fanny-pack crowd in a few ways, the most visible being their luggage (backpacks, not suitcases) and choice of lodging (hostels, not hotels and never resorts). Among these travellers, the land-based folks tend to use vans or converted vehicles, as opposed to travel trailers or motorhomes. And this van subculture (look up #vanlife on your preferred social media for a glimpse at the lifestyle) is further divided into people who prefer the overland style of vehicle, typically a vehicle outfitted for off-road travel. And Smudu is most definitely off-road capable. Itâs in the emptiest places, where they are completely alone, that Benny and Tanja are happiest. Theyâd prefer to be surrounded by nature, off the beaten path. Their Instagram is filled with photos of their van in remote places, sometimes doing things most people wouldnât attempt in a Jeep, let alone a 30-year-old camper van. Off the Couch and On the RoadThis entire story can be blamed on television. One night, back when they still lived in a conventional, rooted-to-the-ground home, the couple was watching a documentary about people travelling around the world. It looked like something they wanted to do. But, not wanting to make a rash decision, they slept on it. Next morning they still wanted to do it. The preparation was a bit stressful, Benny admits, since they had to make sure they had all the proper insurance and a plan, and that everything was prepared in advance of their travels. Plus they had to sell nearly everything they owned - the few remaining furniture pieces are stored in Bennyâs parentsâ attic - and they had to prepare their vehicle for being lived in. They figured it all out, though, and on March 17, 2017, they pulled out of the driveway in Freiburg, Germany to start their world tour. A few miles down the road they got a phone call saying Benny forgot his phone. They turned around, drove back for the phone, said goodbye again, left again. Alright. This time they were really on the road to everywhere. âYou realize on the first maybe three or four days that youâre really travelling now,â says Benny. âThat youâre not on vacation now and that you donât go back in two or three weeks,â continues Tanja.In the beginning they were intent on seeing the entire world. Then they visited some places they didnât really like and realized that having enjoyable experiences was more important than crossing countries off a list, so they modified their plan. Now, they only go where they want to go and see what they want to see. Thatâs what brought them to Newfoundland and Labrador - they wanted to see icebergs and whales. They had no preconceived notion of exactly what they would find, since they donât look at travel guides when visiting a place. Itâs all part of their plan to experience each new adventure with no expectations. It helps add to the wonder and âwow factorâ of each new experience, says Benny. Once on the island, they heard there were icebergs in Langdonâs Cove, Green Bay. So they headed there, and they were not disappointed.Had they seen a great big iceberg in a tourism guide, then in real life only seen a small berg, they would have been disappointed, explains Benny. And had they gone to somewhere like Twillingate - the default place tourists are told to go for iceberg sightings - they would have been surrounded by crowdsof people. They prefer to experience things in as natural and authentic a state as possible, which is exactly what happened in Langdonâs Cove, where they met a local who took them capelin fishing and gave them a feed of the little fish. Then, just down the road, they saw a whale. Newfoundland bucket list complete. But they still wanted to see the eastern part of the province, so on they ventured, finding their way to St. Vincentâs on the southern Avalon, where they stood on the beach and watched families of humpback whales just metres from the shore. After completing the Irish Loop, they found themselves in St. Johnâs. On the day that started in Bowring Park, their plan was to fill the vanâs water tanks, pick up some groceries and do some online surfing and blog updating. Maybe they would go see Cape Spearâs lighthouse, but then again, maybe not. After all, thatâs how they roll.Beyond St. Johnâs, they planned to head west to hike the trails and see the fjords in Gros Morne National Park before heading across the strait to Labrador. After driving across Labrador into Quebec, theyâll head south through the Eastern United States and spend the winter in Mexico, then next spring and summer make their way toward Alaska, because they havenât been there yet, says Tanja. But things could change. They never makedefinite plans to be across a border because then they may find themselves rushing to make a deadline for a visa or a permit, which would take all the enjoyment out of their journey. So while they have a big picture idea of where theyâd like to go, the actual plan always remains relatively short-term and open to change. âWeâre not sure yet,â says Benny of their future travel plans. âWe go the Labrador highway to Quebec,â he repeats, as if to drive home the point that anything beyond that doesnât matter yet. For these two, life really is an adventure free of expectation.To follow along on the adventures of Benny and Tanja, visit their blog, www.tour-de-world.com, where youâll also find links to their social media accounts. -by Tobias Romaniuk
Philip Knowling Jr. was born August 10, 1911, in St. Johnâs, NL. He grew up on Monkstown Road, played in Bannerman Park and boxed at the Majestic. He grew up a normal Newfoundland lad, before he became a genuine international spy. During the Second World War, our Philip Knowling was a secret agent in the employ of the British secret service.The year was 1942. With the world hanging in the balance, the British secret service was about to try to tip the scales with Operation Mincemeat. Philip and his colleagues had been hidden for weeks in a submarine off the coast of Spain. The air was tense and stale. The initial excitement of action had given way to the slow scrape of waiting. They needed the perfect moment in the perfect spot to deliver a certain something to a busy stretch of coastline without being seen.Just below the surface, the shipâs clock ground its track. A night of thick velvet black was filling the sky; clouds blotting out the stars and a failing breath of wind set the stage. âGear check!â Commander Foster snapped. It had been routine to make ready every night at sunset. Going through the list of equipment and procedures had become dry and robotic, but tonight Philip felt his heart quicken and his mouth go dry.âKnowling,â the commander said, turning to Philip, âis the package ready?âPhilip looked to the long black bag tightly sealed at his feet. âPackage is ready, Sir.â Let that be the last time I need to say that, please, thought Philip.The black bag at Philipâs feet contained a body. Heâd been told it was a tramp who died on the streets of London (Philip knew better than to question it). The secret service had transformed the tramp into one William Martin, a British Royal Marine courier. Every possible record, ID and detail going back as far as time and ability would allow had been created. If the Nazis had the ability to check the dental records of British citizens they would have found a match. William Martin lived a perfectly full, average British life - except that he never existed. The corpse and mission critical documents had been left in Philipâs care. Every night the body was removed from the salt water tank used to both preserve and condition it and placed into a sealed body bag. The smell wouldnât leave Philipâs nose and the shadow of this body in a fish tank had begun to disquiet his dreams.The MI6 commander continued to tick the boxes. âCoast check?â âClear.â âHorizon check?â âHold, two surface contacts.â âIdentify.â âCivilian fishing boats, Sir.âThe commander looked at the captain. âIf youâd bet your life on that identification, then we hold position.âThe captain looked through the periscope for a long minute. âHold position, lower periscope. All silent,â ordered the captain. The Royal Navy man had had quite enough of these spooks commandeering his boat. Tonight would be the night. Operation Mincemeat was a go!The submarine broke the surface with just enough clearance to open the hatch. Commander Foster scanned the coast, horizon and sky listening for the slightest sounds. They were about to sneak across enemy lines into fascist Spain, a silent ally of Nazi Germany. âMove.âThe seven-person crew had rehearsed every move so often that a small boat was assembled, loaded and launched without a single word. Landing on the beach, all players hit their marks: three to turn the boat, two scouts weapons drawn, and two to deploy âthe package.â Commander Foster and Philip removed the waterlogged corpse from the body bag and laid it out as though it had freshly washed ashore, IDs and personal effects in the proper pockets. An attachÃ© case was chained to the wrist, containing a myriad of documents. Most were benign, except one: a letter to a British officer in Tunisia detailing a secret Allied plan to invade Sardinia and Greece. The body was found the following morning. Authorities in Spain took the bait and turned the body and documents over to their Nazi allies. The Nazis, for their part, took their time to examine every thread exhaustively. In the end, they decided that it was real intelligence and, whatâs more, that the British had no way of knowing about the interception. The Nazis took decisive action, moving tank and infantry divisions from Italy to Greece in order to crush the Allied invasion.The Allies did invade in 1943, just not Greece. They invaded Italy and Sicily instead, catching the Nazis off guard. Italy soon surrendered, even if the Nazi forces did not. Operation Mincemeat may have been the most successful campaign of misinformation carried out by the British secret service. It is not known, for sure, if our Philip Knowling participated in this particular operation, as most records are still classified; however, we are told by author F.G. Adams that âhe had a most exciting and interesting career.â Perhaps one day we will find out just what our secret agent did - a tantalizing thought. This is a reimagining based on real events. Source: St. Johnâs: The Last 100 Years by F.G. Adams, and sources detailing Operation Mincemeat.-by Chad Bennett
For 20 years, Shawn Bath dove for sea urchins, earning a living off the sea the same way he did as a commercial fisherman before the cod moratorium. While searching out the spiny edibles on the sea bottom, he often saw old tires, trash and lost or tossed fishing gear. It bothered him, but he always figured that, sooner or later, the government would initiate a clean-up effort, the same way government employees clean up garbage on dry land. After two decades of waiting, he realized nobody was going to clean up the ocean trash and he couldnât ignore it anymore. In 2018, no longer commercially diving for sea urchins and with some time on his hands, Shawn began diving for something different.âI spent a lifetime making money off the ocean or in the ocean, and my favourite place to be is in the water,â he says. âAfter all these years of seeing the stuff, and seeing nobody doing nothing about it, I guess it just got to me. Somebodyâs got to do it, and thereâs nobody around that got any more motivation or reason to do it than I do. And if I donât do itâ¦ well then, nobodyâs going to do it.âThat initial act turned into a regular thing, and Shawn soon formed the Clean Harbours Initiative, with the goal of removing 100,000 tires and tons of garbage from harbour bottoms around the island. Though heâs originally from Twillingate, Shawn did his first clean-up in his current hometown of Bay Roberts.âWhen I started doing it, I felt ridiculous,â he says. âHere was me from Twillingate over in Bay Roberts cleaning up the mess that came off some local fish plant and some local longliners and stuff. Down here in water, chin in water, cutting all this stuff off, working like a dog, free labour, not gettingâ paid for nothinâ, just trying to clean it up.âThat first clean-up was to remove a mass of plastic and rope that had gathered around the wharf. Not needing his full scuba kit, he went into the water in just his dry suit and with a large steak knife. After hours of hacking away at ropes and plastic, he freed it from the wharf. It weighed, Shawn estimates, about 1,000 pounds, so he enlisted the help of a local fishplant forklift operator to get the pile onto the wharf. A half-ton of garbage on the wharf is a photo-worthy moment, and Shawn used those photos to get people to care about cleaning up the bays. Heâs been posting photos and videos from his various clean-ups on Facebook under his own profile and on the Clean Harbours Initiative page (which has more than 1,300 followers as of press time).People seem to think that because you canât see it, dumping things in the ocean is acceptable, says Shawn, who has found quite a few batteries around wharves that he figures people are throwing overboard when they replace their boat battery. The batteries can be brought to the surface relatively easily in the hands of a diver, but tires require a different approach. One method involves coiling a rope on the wharf, grabbing one end, diving and threading the rope through several tires. At the last tire of the string, he ties a knot. Then, back on land, he attaches the other end of the rope to his truck and slowly hauls the tires out of the water. Itâs a time consuming process with only one person. And thereâs a lot of garbage underwater. He could be doing this full time - thereâs definitely enough work for it to be a full-time job, he figures - but his clean-up efforts arenât generating an income. So Shawn has set up a Go Fund Me page to raise money to pay for Clean Harbours Initiative. As of press time, heâs raised $3,394 of his $25,000 goal.Like other social-good projects, the work is worthy and has a benefit to everyone - cleaner oceans mean healthier oceans - but there isnât an obvious way to monetize it. Towns donât want to pay for harbour clean-ups. Theyâre even reluctant to waive dump fees for his trash drop-offs. Some towns, including Twillingate, have contributed with hauling trash or providing money for supplies. This clean-up effort is the sort of thing Shawn figures would make a great government program, and heâs been working with various government branches to raise awareness and funding. Heâs had some success with government help in starting educational programs, but is still working on getting funding for equipment and expenses. With more funds, heâd be able to remove more trash, as well as ghost nets and other abandoned fishing gear, from the water.The problem of ghost nets goes beyond trash. Sitting at the bottom of the ocean, unattached to anything, these nets are still catching groundfish, flatfish, lobsters and even seals. Removing these ghost nets would go a long way to improving the marine ecosystem, and it could be done by dragging the ocean with modified fishing boats, says Shawn.âMy goal is to bring enough attention to this problem so we can get government contracts on the go for the dive teams that are in the province, and for anybody else that wants to get involved,â says Shawn.Check out Shawnâs work on the Clean Harbours Initiative Facebook page. If you want to support his efforts, head to âStop the Forever Fishingâ on GoFundMe.com.
On a cold winterâs day in Wild Cove, Lewis Roberts is outside working on his latest boat. Heâs a fisherman and a boat builder, the third generation of his family to build the boats essential to the local fishery. Heâs built all manner of boats, from punts all the way up to schooners. This boat, although he may not have realized it at the time, would be one of the last heâd build. Itâs a passenger boat, made entirely of wood, 60 feet long. Heâs building it in his yard, taking occasional breaks from building to shovel off the accumulating snowfall of an early 1940s Newfoundland winter. Each year, says his great-grandson Tony Roberts, Lewis would begin a boat on the first of January. To get the larger boats from the build site to the water when they were ready to launch, he would make a slip. It was a fair distance to the water, so there would end up being more wood in the slip than in the boat.Local boys, including Tonyâs father, would climb aboard the boat on launch day. They would hold on as the boat slowly started on its dry land voyage to the sea, picking up speed as it went through the neighbourâs potato patch and over vegetable gardens, across the road that is now a main street, faster still across the beach until, with a large splash, it came to a bobbing halt in the sea. It was, says Tony, Twillingateâs first rollercoaster. Tonyâs grandfather was also a boat builder, but his dad wasnât and neither was Tony. Though he wanted to build a boat for as long as he can remember, Tony trained as a carpenter instead, building houses, furniture and, most recently, working at Muskrat Falls. But the desire to build a boat never left him.âEver since I was a boy watching my grandfather, I always wanted to build a boat. Always. And I actually learned, when I was a teen, how to build models of schooners,â he says.Then one day he got a call asking if heâd be interested in being the resident boat builder for a Twillingate boat museum. Three years later, Tony is telling stories of boats and builders to Downhome, having just finished a day in the workshop, splitting his time between building a row punt and talking with tourists about building boats at The Isles Wooden Boat Builders Museum and Workshop. This season, Tony is building a punt based on one that, by the time his great-grandfather was building that passenger boat, would have already been at least 30 years old. The punt was built from a half model that Titus Manuel, who died in 1915, made some 130 years ago. There hasnât been a boat made from that model in about 100 years, says Tony. âIâm actually building it again to see what that boat would be like in full size,â he says. Like Titus, Tony is building from the half model, as opposed to starting from a paper plan or blueprint. And, like Titus would have, Tony is using wood from trees selected for their natural bend. Today, there are several ways to create a bent piece of wood, including laminating several pieces in a mold or steam bending a piece to shape. But for hundreds of years in Twillingate, building a boat began with a walk in the woods, looking for trees with just the right natural bend to make a stem or ribs or knees. Tony is spared the foray into the forest, though, as heâs using lumber collected by old-timer boat builders who gave it to Tony and the museum for use in boat building. This is, undoubtedly, the most difficult way to build a boat - shopping at the local lumber store is a far easier way to gather materials - but for Tony, and the museumâs board, this is about more than just building a boat. Itâs about preserving a craft. âWe realized, as a museum, that the traditional way, like a lot of things, is dying out,â he says. âEver since â92, when the cod moratorium happened, most commercial fishermen have transitioned from a wooden boat into a fiberglass boat. So the knowledge and understanding of building a boat, thereâs very little of it left in the community.âThose who do still have that knowledge are getting on in years - the youngest master boat builder in the Twillingate area is 80 years old - and thereâs a risk that once these folks are gone, no one will be left who knows how to build a boat the old way. âI can set up a steam box; I can steam all my timbers and ribs in my boat,â says Tony, âbut the uniqueness of doing it the traditionalway thatâs been done for hundreds of years is what weâre trying to capture and keep going, and not let it pass away when these gentlemen are gone.âBoat building these days is largely an old-timerâs pursuit - Tony, at 53, is considered a younger boat builder - but those who appreciate wooden boats are all ages and come from everywhere. There is a global appeal to the small craft of Newfoundland outports, as seen by the popularity of the museum in Twillingate. Now in its third year of operation, midway through the season they had already surpassed last yearâs visitor numbers, and if this pace keeps up, the museum will have seen some 9,000 people pass through its doors this season, with visitors from around the world. Granted, many are visiting the museum because theyâre in the area for other reasons, like icebergs and whales, but regardless of the reason for their visit, each person that becomes interested in wooden boats is one more person who, potentially, may buy or use a wooden boat. That part - the using of the boats - is vitally important âbecause thatâs the only way youâre going to keep this tradition alive,â says Tony.What that boat looks like will depend largely on where it was built. Take, for instance, the punt, or rodney. This small boat was used, back in the day, to get around the harbour or to go do a bit of fishing, or it was sometimes brought along as a tender for a larger boat. Each outport had folks who knew how to build a boat, and each harbour built their boats slightly different. The Winterton punt is different from the Fogo Island punt, which in turn is different from the Twillingate punt. Likely, the punt design came from England, and more specifically the West Country, and was brought over here by fishermen back in the 1700s. Like the boat builders of today, the craftsmen of yesteryear would have, after using their boat in local waters, noted ways it could be improvedand then incorporate those changes into the next boat. This incremental, iterative approach to boatbuilding led similar boats to have regional distinctions. Last year, Tony built a punt designed by Frank Lane of Fogo Island. Frank recently passed away, and his punts are regarded as fine examples of the Fogo Island style. Compared with the boat Tony is building this year - the one based on the century-old half model of Twillingateâs Titus Manuel - there are several discernible differences. âThe one Iâm building now, they say sheâs a Twillingate punt,â explains Tony. âSheâs a little higher on the gunnel rails compared to the one I built last year. The one last year would be more stable because sheâs wider, but she would be a slower boat. This boat, where sheâs narrow, would be a nice fast boat.âEach builder makes a slightly different boat, and while some aspects can be attributed to the personal tastes of the builder, other differences - ones that affect handling and stability - can be attributed to the local conditions.âI think itâs just an understanding of the water around you,â says Tony. And that understanding of local seas explains why you wonât see a dory in the waters off Twillingate. Those flat bottom boats once used in the Grand Banks schooner fishery sit high in the water. In choppy waters like that of Twillingate, they tend to be a bit cranky, or unstable, says Tony. Look carefully and youâll still see small wooden boats around Twillingate. Some of them have been glassed over (i.e. coated in a layer of epoxy and fiberglass), while only a layer of paint protects others. Tony estimates there are about 15 boats of various shapes and sizes around Twillingate. And there are still people, like Roy Jenkins, building boats in the area. Itâs not many, but itâs more than none, says Tony, and there are definitely more than there were several years ago when it looked like wooden boats might follow the cod into oblivion. âThereâs not many wooden boats around Twillingate, but itâs starting, youâll see more and more of them now,â he says. In his work, Tony preserves the traditional skills of building boats the way they did it in Victorian times through his builds, while also looking toward the future and encouraging the next generation to get interested in building these fine craft. His shop apprentice at the museum is a young feller, about 20 years old, and Tony is working on going into area schools to share his boat building knowledge. Maybe some of those students will pick up the craft even if, like Tony, it is years down the road after a lifetime of interest in wooden boats.The Isles Wooden Boat Builders Museum is open through September. Learn more about it online at Isleswoodenboatbuilders.com. To follow along with Tonyâs boat building, and for news on wooden boats in Twillingate, head to the Facebook group Twillingate Wooden Boat Discussion Group.
For the past three decades, the St. John's International Women's Film Festival has been shining the spotlight on female filmmakers, and the entire province, in a big way. Deanne Foley was 18 years old when she took a seat inside the theatre at the historic LSPU Hall in downtown St. Johnâs. The year was 1993, and it was the first time the university student had attended the St. Johnâs International Womenâs Film Festival (SJIWFF). It was also the first time the aspiring filmmaker could see her dream becoming a possibility. It was a short piece by local filmmaker Anita McGee, based on the poem âOut on a Limbâ by St. Johnâs writer Geraldine Chafe Rubia, that caught Foleyâs attention. You might call it her lightbulb moment.âIt was really striking to me that someone in my own community had actually made a short filmâ¦ I think that was very inspirational to me,â she says. Still, Foley says, a career in film seemed out of reach. âThere was a film industry here, but I donât think it was as well known... it wasnât a common thing, when I graduated from university, to go to film school. So that wasnât really presented as a choice.â Flash-forward to present day and the St. Johnâs director, writer and producer has won numerous awards and accolades for her work, including her first two feature films: Beat Down, about a teenaged girl, played by Marthe Bernard, with dreams of becoming a professional wrestler; and Relative Happiness, about a B&B owner (Melissa Bergland) looking for love. Sheâs also had all her films screened at the same festival that inspired her all those years ago. âTheyâve been incredibly supportive of my work over the years, from my first short, which was Trombone Trouble, and that was back in the early 2000s,â Foley says. Last year, Foley both opened and closed the SJIWFF respectively with An Audience of Chairs (her critically acclaimed film based on Joan Clarkâs novel of the same name) and Hopeless Romantic (a collaborative effort with five other Atlantic Canadian filmmakers). Sheâs also returned to the festival as a guest panelist over the years to share her experiences and expertise with other aspiring and emerging filmmakers. Not bad for a âyoung girl from the suburbsâ who sat in that darkened theatre and dreamed about one day seeing her own films on the big screen. A Bold VisionSuccess stories like Foleyâs is what the SJIWFF is all about. Back when it was formed in 1989, the festival was a small affair with a big vision: to support and promote the work of women employed in the film and television industries around the world. It was founded by Dr. Noreen Golfman and a partner, who helped lead the festivalâs activities for the first few years before retiring from her role, and organized out of Golfmanâs home. âEverything was done out of my living room, and Iâve got the boxes and the archives still in my basement to prove it,â Golfman laughs. In the beginning, the festival was purely a volunteer effort and consisted of a single evening of screenings. This was before a time when film buffs could easily go online to track down indie releases that tend to fly under the radar of mainstream cinemas. âI just was really focused on giving our local audience an opportunity to see material that they would not ever have a chance to. And, of course, weâre talking about a kind of pre-digital age, too. So the exhibition of films in a theatre was really the only way you could see this material,â Golfman says. âI also was really interested in fostering a climate or a culture where women would feel comfortable making this stuff in the first place. And so having an exhibition space for them really helped give them something to shoot for.âWhile the film festival has helped foster the acceptance of women in the industry locally, Golfman says,it appears to have had an even larger impact. âA lot of people said that to me over the years, that [the festival] has had a big role in the success of the industry itself. And at first I said, âOh, thatâs not true, weâre just a little festival.â But Iâve come to see it and believe it, frankly, myself.âThat âlittle festivalâ has since become one of the longest running womenâs film festivals in the world and has helped put St. Johnâs and the entire province on the map. Today, the SJIWFF operates year-round, bringing workshops, educational boot camps for youth, and film screenings across the island and into Labrador. Each fall, the festival culminates in five days of events and screenings including documentaries, short films and features from local, national and international filmmakers. Itâs hectic, Golfman says, but also a lot of fun. âItâs a kind of five-day marathon of networking and socializing and partying. Our tagline is âfilms by women, made for everyone.â So this is not a woman exclusive or gender exclusive event, for sure.âAdjusting the Lens This fall, the festival will ring in its 30th anniversary October 16 - 20 in St. Johnâs, and thereâs certainly a lot to celebrate. This year alone, the festival made USA Todayâs list of 10 best film festivals worth travelling for; it was inducted into the ArtsNL Hall of Honour for its contribution to the cultural life of Newfoundland and Labrador; and Dr. Golfman, founder and chair, was also named Woman of the Year by ACTRA (the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists). In 2016, Telefilm Canada also recognized the SJIWFF team for their work toward gender parity; and in 2014, Women in Film and Television Vancouver honoured them for their leadership in the Canadian movement for gender diversity in the film industry. Golfman says she never anticipated this kind of success, and credits it to the festivalâs staff, board and volunteers (about 75 each year, some of whom have been with the festival since the start), past and present, whoâve worked tirelessly to make it all come together.âWe have a very strong volunteer culture on this island,â she says. âThereâs never, ever been a problem with finding people to volunteer their time. Weâre talking about a lot of time. Just this summer alone, weâve had almost 600 submissions, and itâs a small group of us who are really watching all those films... Itâs a pretty big testament, I think, to get a very fundamental commitment to seeing this great project realized every year.âBut the festivalâs not just about a bunch of people getting together to enjoy great films. Through its Film Industry Forum, the SJIWFF brings in industry leaders for panels, workshops and face-to-face meetings, allowing filmmakers and other creators to pitch their ideas, get advice and make connections. Itâs these kinds of opportunities, Foley says, that make all the difference. âAnd having international filmmakers come and other filmmakers from across Canada - I think itâs really built a family,â she adds. âIâve attended a lot of festivals from around the world and you can kind of get really lost in the wave... it can be quite huge and impersonal. But I feel like in St. Johnâs, Jenn Brown (SJIWFFâs executive director) and her staff do such an incredible job of making filmmakers not only feel welcome, but connecting them to the different events, and being able to create a festival where people get to know each other.âWhile women working in the film industry have made great strides, thereâs still much work to be done. In fact, according to the 2019 report from Women in View (a national non-profit that aims to strengthen gender representation and diversity in Canadian media), âWomenâs share of writing, directing and cinematography work in both film and TV remains below 25 per cent,â with women of colour and Indigenous women not sharing the same gains as others. Events like the SJIWFF, Foley says, are needed now more than ever. âWeâve slightly adjusted the lens to include more female filmmakers in the industry, but the numbers are still quite dismal [and] we do not have gender parity,â she says. âItâs so important for a festival like the Womenâs Film Festival, that 100 per cent supports female filmmakers in this province and around the world. And itâs important that people come and support it.âTo discover more about the St. Johnâs International Womenâs Film Festival and for a schedule of this yearâs events, visit their website: Womensfilmfestival.com-by Linda Browne
Part two of a three-part exploratory feature on agriculture in Newfoundland and Labrador. In part one we delved into the lives of local farmers, from a retired man whoâs seen the highs and lows, to a first generation farmer just getting her business up and running.This time, we discuss what the provincial government is doing to improve food security and increase agricultural activity in Newfoundland and Labrador. To get the bigger picture, weâve talked to the Hon. Gerry Byrne, Minister of Fisheries and Land Resources; Dr. Ashlee Cunsolo, director of the Labrador Institute at Memorial University; and representatives of the College of the North Atlantic on their new Agriculture Technician Co-op program set to start this month.Moving It ForwardIn 2018, the Ball government made the lofty goal to double food production in Newfoundland and Labrador by 2022. Itâs all a part of their Way Forward, a strategic plan of improving the province on an economic and social level. At the moment, we import 90 per cent of the food we consume. We put the question of how to change that to Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture Minister Gerry Byrne.The first thing to address, the minister says, is land. âFarming is a land-based activity; itâs dependent on land and itâs dependent on access to good land, good arable land.âSo the government identified 62,000 hectares (thatâs almost 150,000 acres) of good land suitable for farming and streamlined the land leasing process, he explains. Good farming land is now protected from being scooped up for something like suburban sprawl. When future farmers come forward, either to start a new farm or expand an existing one, theyâll already know what land is available.Government is also bringing back cold storage facilities throughout the province, so farmers can store their produce and sell locally grown food year-round.With the vast majority of food eaten here being grown elsewhere and shipped in, the province is a long way from food security. âThereâs no doubt that weâve got a job ahead of us, but itâs an important job and itâs one that we can succeed in accomplishing,â Minister Byrne says. He notes that in 1949, the year Newfoundland and Labrador joined Canada, we were almost completely self-sufficient when it came to food production and we had close to 4,000 active farms. Weâre a far cry from that today. In fact, a Statistics Canada report reveals that between 2011-2016, NL dropped from having 510 farms to just 407.âItâs very startling, itâs very tellingâ¦ And if thatâs not a call to action, I canât think of what would be any greater motivation than to try to reverse the tide of that. And thatâs why our government established our agriculture sector plan, where we took agriculture seriously.âClass is in SessionOne of the reasons there was such a rapid decline in farmers in the recent past was the absence of post-secondary training programs for agriculture right here in the province, Byrne explains. As of 2018, this was the only province or territory in Canada without any formal post-secondary agriculture training program.âFarming is not what it used to be; itâs a highly technical, scientific profession. With advances in soil science, advances in agricultural engineering, advances in better understandingof farming economics, farming is becoming a very, very technical profession, and I could say almost a lab coat profession, in some respects,â Byrne notes. âWhite lab coats are as much a part of farming today as would be a green thumb.â So this September, when students return to school at the College of the North Atlantic Corner Brook campus, 16 of them will make up the inaugural class for the Agriculture Technician Co-Op Program. The program was some time in development, including consultation with industry stakeholders in the agriculture sector who all helped design a curriculum. âThe aim, of course, is to produce a program that reflects what we are being told people need in order to have skill sets to serve them as people who are engaged in farming enterprises in the province,â says Brent Howell, dean of engineering technology and indus-trial trades at the College of the North Atlantic (CNA).âItâs a pretty broad scope of courses in the program,â says instructor Sharon Wright. Over two years, students will cover topics such as soil as well as computers, field safety and how to manage a farm, including bookkeeping. Itâs not just teaching students how to run a farm, but also how to operate their businesses successfully.Newfoundland and Labrador was in need of its own agricultural program. There were people who were interested in farming but didnât want to leave the province for further education or just couldnât afford the move (the closest program was in Truro, Nova Scotia, run by Dalhousie University).âSo this is an opportunity for them to be able to get the education here in their own province. The other thing is the courses that weâre developing; weâre developing them with an eye to Newfoundland and Labrador in particular,â she says. Our vegetable and fruit production, as well as certain aspects of the NL growing season and climate, are unique to the province, so the CNA courses are geared towards farming right here.âFrom our perspective, you know, we see this as a positive step towards at least providing an opportunity for people who might want to be in the business of farming or working for an existing enterprise,â Howell says.This co-op program is also a valuable contributor to the Way Forwardâs goal to double food production in the next few years, as it will definitely help to have more farmers trained to work in this province. Farming Up NorthIn June, Memorial University announced a brand new initiative for the Labrador Institute: the purchase of the Grand River Farm (aka the Pye Farm) in Happy Valley-Goose Bay and the creation of the Pye Centre for Northern Boreal Food Systems. It was a move two years in the making, says Dr. Ashlee Cunsolo, director of the Labrador Institute.While the university is the owner of the farm, âweâre looking at ourselves in partnership with community. And so this whole property is looking to continue the community legacy that Frank and Joyce Pye really started, where we can work together to create great science thatâs useable and timely,â Dr. Cunsolo says, âbut also where we continue to bring people together around food and around growing their own food and being on the land.âIn that two-year period, they heard that farming in Labrador is just one part of the food system. People are still actively engaged in hunting, harvesting, fishing, and foraging for wild foods and berries. âThose pieces connect to agriculture, so people might use fish bones in their garden or harvest kelp from the land and put that in soil. So for the way people are connected to the land in Labrador, itâs all part of a food system,â she explains. Thatâs all interconnected with peopleâs culture and families, as well as their physical and mental health.Labradorâs circumstances also pose some unique challenges, Dr. Cunsolo notes. Itâs a colder climate and requires different farming strategies. They also have really long growing days but a short season. There are certain crops that thrive here, and there are plenty of local farmers whoâve already skillfully developed strong farms.The Pye Centre for Northern Bor-eal Food Systems will be used for scientific research and education, Dr. Cunsolo explains, which sheâs excited about. It will also be a âfarmer-led, citizen science approach.â Research outreach will be a major component, so when they learn something new, theyâll do their best to share it and incorporate it into local farming to improve production.âAnd then the other part is around a social enterprise, so we really want to make sure that this farm stays as a central core to the community,â Dr. Cunsolo says. âAnd so we want to make sure thereâs opportunities for people to come and grow in a community garden setting.â While the Pye Farm was recently acquired, the Labrador Institute is wasting no time: âThis summer weâre really hitting the ground running.â Theyâre getting the farmland back into shape and doing intensive mapping of the land, including using GPS and 3D imagery of the soil. Once thatâs done, they can section off plots and determine where the community plots and experimental plots will be. The fall and winter will be spent mapping those places out and, hopefully, by next summer, theyâll start a full growing season.Food security is a major issue in Labrador, Dr. Cunsolo points out. While Labrador is attached to the mainland, the communities are quite remote and itâs expensive to import food even over the highway. Itâs worse again for residents on the north coast where there are no roads and people rely on ferry services in the summer. In winter, people drive snowmobiles into communities or fly food in, which is very expensive.So the high cost of food means people are very food insecure, especially along the coastal and northerncommunities, she says. Part of the Pye Farmâs goal will be to look at ways a social enterprise can grow food in Labrador thatâs then shipped to the north coast.They also have community freezers that they can help fill with different produce. âWeâre always looking for ways to support community and support food security,â she says.Farming for Food SecurityThe plan to double food production by 2022 might be very ambitious, but Newfoundland and Labrador is on its way there. Through identifying and protecting good agricultural land and creating new educational opportunities, it all adds up.The new agriculture co-op program at CNA will hopefully pave an easier path for more people to become farmers. âAnd obviously, the overall objective [of The] Way Forward is certainly toâ¦ increase food production and reduce the reliance on our external procurement of food,â Brent Howell concludes.Thereâs also been a real shift in our attitude when it comes to food, with more people wanting local options, instructor Sharon Wright observes. She runs a farm in western Newfoundland with her husband, and theyâve seen more and more people coming by looking for locally grown produce. âThatâs been a trend that weâve seen over the last number of years,â she says.People are looking at the freshness aspect when they look for food. For instance, next time youâre at a supermarket, look for the harvest date on fresh produce. Wright did this at a grocery store and found a head of lettuce had been plucked in California 26 days before she held it in her hands.âPeople are realizing now that if you can buy fresh food, it lasts longer, it tastes better, itâs crispy,â she says.Minister Byrne agrees that by growing our own food, we ensure we get the best food for our tables. As food ages, its nutritional value also goes down, he explains. The health-iest food is fresh food, somethingwe canât get if itâs trucked across the country and then loaded onto a boat.Food security encompasses so many issues, and they include employment and economics. More people growing food means there are more jobs, which in turn also supports rural development and rural communities.Itâs essential to the wellbeing of each and every one of us. If there ever was a situation where the mainland was having trouble feeding their own, âthen we would be the very last to be served, and thatâs what food self-sufficiency is all about. If commodities become scarce, choices are made by those who own the commodities,â Byrne cautions.âAnd we may not be in their first line of priorities. And thatâs not a situation, I donât think, any of uscontemplate ever happening on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. But believe you me, it can happen. And we in Newfoundland and Labrador know that it can happen because weâve already seen that it happens.â
A day that marked terror in the U.S. and abroad also marked the start of a sweet friendship between a stranded Peruvian woman and a Gambo family. Time quickly slips away, so that itâs sometimes hard to believe that 18 years have passed since the tendrils of global terrorism reached our front bridge in Gambo, NL, a short distance from the now internationally famous Gander airport. Everyoneâs life would be forever changed; ours was no exception.I was a science teacher at Smallwood Academy, where my two daughters were students. On the morning of September 12, 2001, we arrived at the school parking lot at our usual time, but the lot was eerily empty. Immediately I thought, who on our staff had passed away? Did something happen to one of our school children? I went inside and asked the school secretary, Linda Dwyer, what was going on. She said because of the hijacking and crashing of the planes in the United States the previous day, all of North American airspace was closed and all planes had been ordered to land immediately at the nearest airport. Flights had already landed at Gander International Airport, about 45 km away. Our school was among those asked to help house stranded passengers, as there were so many more than area hotels could accommodate. We were asked to prepare to welcome 258 passengers from two planes, a United Airlines and a Delta flight.The operation was coordinated by the Canadian Red Cross and our school administrators, Dennis Lush and Murray Fudge. Camp cots and other materials soon arrived and the conversion of the school into accom-modations began. We removed student desks from a number of classrooms and replaced them with camp cots, sleeping bags and pillows. Gift bags containing toothpaste, shampoo and other toiletries were handed to the arriving passengers. Information booths were put in place to answer questions.Local fireman Craig Russell noticed one lady who seemed extremely nervous. Her name was Isabel Vivanco, and her arrival at Gander via United Airlines flight 067 was hardly ideal. She had been travelling alone from France after a brief visit with her husbandâs family. She was three months pregnant and bound for her home in Lima, Peru. Instead she was caught in a whirlwind of events where many decisions were beyond her control. She was in a strange country, in a very small town compared to her home city of almost 10 million people. She had very little knowledge of the events that were unfolding and no means of communicating with her family (cellphones werenât as prevalent then as they are now). I was asked if my wife, Helen, and I could bring Isabel to visit our home for part of the day, to give her a break from the noise and commotion at the school. She could watch the events unfolding on TV in the comfort of our home.Of course we agreed, and we approached Isabel to introduce ourselves and invite her to our home. She accepted, and while we nibbled at lunch and took in the constant stream of devastating news, Isabel gradually opened up to us about her home, her family and her life in Lima. She used our phone to call her family, to reassure them she was safe and to receive comfort from them in return. Her dad, naturally, was very concerned about his daughter. He kept insisting that we purchase warm clothing for her to wear, thinking sheâd landed somewhere in the far north. We assured him that it was 23Â°C outside, quite warm for September, and would remain that way for the next few days.Throughout the afternoon we could see the anxiety fade from her features as she became more comfortable with us. When the time came to return to the school, she asked to stay with us, and so she became our guest.That evening, I spread out a map of Newfoundland and a larger world map on the table to help her visualize our location in reference to Peru. I was explaining about the French islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon when her face brightened with a big smile at the words âTerre Neuve.â She kept repeating excitedly, âI know this place, I studied it in school.â She insisted that I return to Smallwood Academy the next morning and ask the administration to make a special announcement to the passengers, especially those who spoke French, that they were in Terre Neuve. It was amazing the reaction of passengers when they realized that Newfoundland and Terre Neuve were one and the same. Isabel stayed with us the entire time that passengers were grounded in Newfoundland. We shared information about our different cultures, and our education and political systems. We took her to see several local communities and spoke about the importance of the fishery and the role it played in determining our culture and traditions.When the call came for the return of all passengers to the school by midnight on September 15, we drove Isabel to the waiting bus. We hugged each other and said our goodbyes, then watched as our new found friend stepped onto the bus to begin her journey home. Her last words to us were, âIf you ever visit Lima, Peru, please visit me. I want to introduce my family to the family who gaveme comfort and safety when I desperately needed it.âAs the bus drove away from the school, I thought that this would be the last time we would ever see Isabel Vivanco. Fate, however, has a way of bringing people together. From NL to PeruIn August 2009, Helen and I travelled to Lima, Peru, to visit my brother, Rodney. He had married a Peruvian girl named Roxana Cochola and moved to her hometown of Lima in 2007. We were there to celebrate the imminent birth of their child.When we arrived at Jorge Chavez Airport, there was one thing on our bucket list: visit Isabel and her fam-ily. We placed a call to her home that was answered by her brother, who said Isabel was in France but would be returning within a few days. He assured us that she would be contacting us to make arrangements to visit her family. They were excited about the opportunity to meet the family who had welcomed their daughter into their home in Newfoundland when she desperately needed comforting. We were looking forward to meeting Pierre, the child she had been carrying when 9/11 occurred. He was now seven years old and also had a younger sister.After visiting Isabel, we finally understood why she was so nervous at the time of her arrival in Newfoundland. Her family lives in an upper class, gated community, tended by armed guards. All traffic entering was stopped at the gate, and licences were required and surrendered upon entry. To visit her, we had to hire a taxi with a special licence, not the regular street taxi. So just imagine, when Isabel and the other passengers were suddenly offloaded from the plane and bussed to our town with no evidence of security, she became overwhelmed by what she perceived was an extremely dangerous situation. Our visit to her home was very special and one that we will always remember. A few days later we were invited to visit her parents, an elderly couple who were still working at the family business. Her dad, who was in his 90s, still showed up for work. His son, who was educated in Boston, explained that his father was once asked about retirement and replied, âOnly people who are ready to die, retire.âOur visit to Lima was completed with the birth of my niece, a healthy baby named Valentina. Isabel and my family were first brought together in Gambo, NL, by a tragic set of circumstances in 2001. Much happier circumstances brought us together again in 2009, this time in her hometown of Lima, Peru.-by Lester Green