Tag Archives: cbc

Vanastra is ‘Still Standing’

10 Feb

vanastra2By Diva Amanda Swartz

Who knew Vanastra could be so fun? As someone who grew up in this tiny town, I can assure you that I did not think so. However, over the past couple years I have seen a new devotion to trying to make Vanastra a better place to live. A new park, more regular events, community gardens, dedication to keeping the Recreation Centre, bringing in more business, and a desire to use its heritage to inspire interest have all been efforts put forth by Vanastra residents to encourage further development.

vanastra7A big win for Vanastra happened this past Friday, when Canadian comedian and television star Jonny Harris came to town to put a spotlight on this forgotten historical town. Nominated for best television host on CBC’s ‘Still Standing’, Jonny is also well known for his role on the Canadian crime drama ‘Murdoch Mysteries’ as Constable Crabtree. His fun-loving and humorous nature has won the hearts of many Canadians across the country. It is no surprise that he drew over 300 locals out to enjoy some great laughs at the filming of ‘Still Standing’ featuring Vanastra as the once important town, now lost in history. This stand-up comedy routine not only featured Jonny Harris, but also performances by Fraser Young and Steve Dylan. Together these three comedians made the audience laugh until their cheeks hurt.

vanastra8For this great Canadian comedy act, Harris immerses himself in small towns all across Canada and loves to bring comic relief to the folks who call these places home. He finds that he comes to appreciate each town for its uniqueness and that everywhere he goes the people love to laugh at themselves. The local Christian Reformed Church hosted this incredible event with a room packed – standing room only – with hundreds of locals who wanted to meet Jonny and enjoy the comradery of making light of Vanastra’s long-standing perception as the abandoned and fallen town.

vanastra5Not many, including those who grew up in Vanastra, know the details of its history in helping in World War II with its radar technology. At the time it was established, Vanastra was a top secret base for the Allied Forces, built to train and supply over 7,000 technicians and support staff for Canada, Britain, and America. In fact, Vanastra was so top secret that not even those who built the entire town in 14 weeks knew what it was built for.

History screams from the walls of the nearly crumbling buildings. These stories are overlooked by the ruins left behind after the RCAF was done with the town. However, there are people like Diane Ryan and Maureen Dunsmore who are working hard to bring some of those stories back to life. Where Vanastra was once a place kept secret, it is now a town that the residents are shouting from the rooftops to take notice of – rooftops that Harris pointed out are not quite fit to to be standing on.

vanastra6Although Vanastra may not be the happenin’ place that Diane and Maureen are striving for, it doesn’t mean that we can’t expect some great things from them in the future. As tourists coming to Huron County, this town may not seem like the No. 1 stop along the way, but keep your eyes open and perhaps one day the stories that are trapped in the abandoned buildings will be torn out and shared for the world to appreciate.



Alice Munro Festival of the Short Story: Celebrating writers & the short story

12 Jun

Alice Munro readings 2015

By Guest Diva Sharlene Young-Bolen

HURON COUNTY — This past weekend saw the celebration of the 2015 ‪‎Alice Munro Festival of the Short Story with events and workshops taking place around Huron County. This literary festival is held once a year to encourage emerging writers and celebrate the short story in the landscape that inspired Alice Munro.

The Alice Munro Festival ran from June 4-7 and showcased readings, book signings, presentations, and masterclasses with some of Canada’s most respected authors, culminating in the Jubilee Gala at which the Adult and Youth Short Story Competition Awards were presented. Writers and readers had the opportunity to sign up for writing masterclasses and facilitated discussions with celebrated Canadian authors.

Heather O’Neill (2007 Canada Reads winner) presented a reading of her new collection of short stories, Daydreams of Angels. Author and Wingham native Andrew Kaufman hosted a “Story Structure of the Screenplay” masterclass among other appearances. Man Booker Prize-nominated Lisa Moore was the Jubilee Gala keynote speaker, led a masterclass and read some of a recent work at the Readings in the County in Bayfield. Governor General’s Literary Award-nominated Merilyn Simonds facilitated a book club discussion on reading Alice Munro stories. Giller Prize-nominated Caroline Adderson presented two masterclasses – “Writing Linked Short Stories” and “Writing Narrative Scenes” as well as other appearances.

At the Jubilee Gala on Sat., June 6, guests enjoyed pre-dinner social time with entertainment provided by Goderich musicians Mike Reynolds, Warren Robinson and John Lodge. After dinner, Eli Ham kicked off the evening’s program.

Author Lisa Moore was the keynote presenter for the evening. A Canadian Short Story writer and novelist from Newfoundland, Moore is a three-time nominee of the Scotiabank Giller Prize, winner of the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and the 2014 winner of CBC’s Canada Reads. Moore’s keynote presentation focused on the fiction of Alice Munro and the art of Mary Pratt, a Canadian artist whose paintings illustrate many of Munro’s book covers.

In her keynote address, Moore compared the work of the two women saying, “Both artists work in the tradition of realism, their work easily consumed on the surface but revealing another secret meaning underneath. Munro’s stories are full of permeable borders and often an unravelling of security. Munro is constantly stripping away false truths and Pratt’s artwork is always uncompromising. Munro’s women are always breaking expectations; Pratt’s paintings are full of paradox, contradiction – an interrogation of reality.”

After the completion of Moore’s presentation, Eli Ham took the stage to introduce the short story contest judges, Andrew Kaufman and Moore. The finalists for the youth award in the Alice Munro Short Story Contest were Bronte Cronsberry of St. Marys for Pointed Girl; Michelle Krasovitski of Goderich for Caretaker of Time; Katherine Talbot of Goderich for Windows of Reflection. The finalists for the adult award in the Alice Munro Short Story Contest were Leanne Dunic of Vancouver for Without Her; Lynn Horton of Toronto for Gamer; Catherine Jackson of Vancouver for Nest. The winners were announced: Michelle Krasovitski and Leanne Dunic. This year’s winning stories have been posted to http://www.alicemunrofestival.ca so that everyone can enjoy them.

At the final event of the Alice Munro Festival, Readings in the County held in Bayfield, Moore, Merilyn Simonds and Caroline Adderson each read excerpts from their recent works. A question and answer session followed and was particularly enjoyed by the audience in attendance. The attendees and authors seemed to enjoy the intimate setting of the historic Bayfield Town Hall and there were many questions, many answers and anecdotes and much laughter.

This year’s Alice Munro Festival was an exciting, fun event for both readers and writers; well-organized, the workshops informative, the events entertaining. The festival planning committee has ideas in mind for next year’s literary festival and many of this year’s attendees will no doubt already be thinking about what’s in store for 2016.

Songs of Celebration in Bayfield , June 2-10

18 May

Please note:  Bayfield Festival of Song is not presenting a season in 2013 — this post is archival information only.

by Divas Cindy Fisher and Laurel Armstrong – a pair of coasters

The Bayfield Festival of Song is a wonderful experience, even if you’re just dipping your toe in the water of live classical music – piano and song.

Laurel grew up listening to opera, a passion of her mothers.  With CBC radio at full blast, she would sit under the legs of her mother’s ironing board, while her mother explained the story of that day’s featured opera.  Opera became the backdrop for a lifetime appreciation of classical music and songs – she can almost smell the scent of freshly ironed laundry while enjoying the ‘Tunes in June’ in Bayfield

As a newcomer to classical song, Cindy’s attendance at her first opera was in New York City (in the 70’s!) with a family friend who adored opera – she discovered that sharing someone’s passion for opera is the best way to experience the drama and amazing music.  Her first Bayfield Festival of Song experience a few years ago felt the same way – seeing Bruce and Stephen share their passion with the audience and the performers is so accessible and welcoming to everyone.

The June setting, the songs and the sense of pleasure all make for a special personal treat.  The intimate Bayfield Hall is a friendly spot filled with people expecting to be well entertained by eager professionals who are passionate.  Our expectations are met and exceeded each year we’ve attended the performances.

Enjoy the coffee concerts – relaxed and fun, with commentary from Bruce and Stephen who create this wonderful brief season of celebration.  The song’s the thing and the singers are young, skilled and filled with such great energy you’ll be as captivated as the rest of the audience…

So go ahead and join the audience.  You’ll be joining the standing ovations too!

The Festival runs from June 2 to 10, 2012.  Canada’s leading operatic soprano, Adrianne Pieczonka, will sing on Friday evening, June 8; she will be singing a dazzling, varied programme with her partner, the fine mezzo-soprano Laura Tucker.  On Thursday afternoon, June 7, a group of young singing students will have the tremendous experience of being coached by Adrianne in a master class, which is also open to the public.

On Saturday, June 2.  Upstairs/Downstairs will take a journey from 1900 through the Great War and into the Roaring Twenties, contrasting the art-songs and ballads performed in an English drawing-room with the rollicking entertainment of music-hall and ragtime which found favour below stairs.

On Saturday, June 9, baritone Alexander Dobson performs in Recital. This versatile young baritone has appeared in operatic roles ranging from Wozzeck and Marcello in La bohème to Don Giovanni and Papageno.

Experience the Saturday morning Coffee Concerts, and also a special programme in honour of the Royal Jubilee.  On each Sunday afternoon, June 3 and June 10, four exceptionally talented young singers will perform Diamonds for a Queen, celebrating sixty years of the present reign, soon to rival Queen Victoria’s in length.


Artistic Directors:


presents the sixth annual

Honorary Patron: ALICE MUNRO

Town Hall, Bayfield, Ontario June 2 – 10, 2012