Weaving Baskets of Knowledge

Annual Conference and AGM of the Storytellers of Canada – Conteurs du Canada – 2019

By Mary Gavin, VSG Conference Delegate

Le conte ou l’art de tisser les fils de la connaissance

Akonutomahtimok: Askomiw Latokonasuwol Kcicihtuwakonol

Conference site:  The University of New Brunswick (UNB) is on Wolastoqiyik traditional land.  UNB is the alma mater of Al Fowler.  He described past buildings; present buildings retain the spartan features of earlier days. 

In 1785, seven Empire Loyalists fleeing the American Revolution established UNB, making it the oldest English Language University in Canada.  Perched on a high hill overlooking the St John River, UNB provides a scenic view that entrances the 12,000+ students, somewhat less so for winded storytellers.

Master classes:  on the 5th  on particular aspects of storytelling.

Field trips: on the 6th to either NB lumber history or the artistic endeavours, including the  renowned Beaverbrook Gallery.  Here the pictures came alive under the docent Wendy MacKnight who imbued characters in diverse paintings with nefarious motives which she wove into a popular story, published as “Frame Up.”

Haunted Hike:  an improv event by theatre trained millennials who interspersed their chat with story.  Most haunting was the story of infanticide, told in the darkening cemetery as long poem, three steps by three steps…

Conference: formally began on the 7th.   Held in conjunction with Education Department of UNB, the Conference co-chairs Joanne LeBlanc-Haley, a founding member of SC-CC, and Rod Campbell  thanked SC-CC and the Literacy Coalition for their support. 

Ramona Nicolas, an archeologist and celebrated basket maker from the local First Nations,   smudged the 78 participants whom she invited to write on thin strips of ash what story meant personally.  On the last day, she returned the strips, now woven into 3 remarkable baskets.

Dance Story: local Scottish dancers performed the Saint John River Dance which describes the twists and turns of the River, its bridges and the reversing falls.

2019 Story Save  Teller:  Comfort Ero of Surrey, BC with her 2 set CD Tohio!  The Art of African Storytelling.   Her traditional Nigerian greeting of Tohio! Hia, hia kpoi means come quickly, I have a story to tell.   She tells with humour, vivacity and encourages interactions.

The 2020 StorySave Teller:  is Judith Poirier who will focus on family stories from her work.

2019 Story Keeper:  Sylvi Belleau of Montreal.  Story Keeper alternates East and West in keeping with the Conference location.

Radio SC-CC:  with listeners in 20+ countries, including US and Canada, the Radio trains SC-CC members in interviewing and recording stories.  Its current focus is children and their stories.

Keynote speaker: Bob Barton of the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education adroitly referenced stories to show how listeners co-create the story through the inherent edges, reactions and tensions.  He quoted from his studies of children to demonstrate his points.

Workshops: various aspects of storytelling.


Government House on Friday:   we sat on green, velvet chairs!

An evocative tribute paid to the late Charles Solomon, a Wolastoqiyik Medicine Man and expert basket weaver whose life gave rise to the Conference theme of weaving baskets of knowledge.

 Lorraine Hartin-Gelardi of New York State told a riveting account of Vasilisa.  A local farmer and Green Party MLA, Kevin Arseneau energetically told in French a story about a tree.  Judith Poirier of Quebec told bilingually about her Aunt Albert’s House,

Afterwards, we partook at a table-groaning reception.  Upstairs, was a modern art and sculpture while downstairs Care Bears in a multitude of forms festooned the room.

Auditorium on Saturday: we sat on student chairs, padded and practical.

In her inimitable style, Shoshana Litman of Victoria told The Princess & Her Beloved.  Kathie Kompass, the Ottawa teller who twice performed in Victoria, told 4 short children’s stories under the title of Tales, Tails, Tales.

Using her theatre training, Catherine Wright of Newfoundland engaged us with her Tale of Laughing Jack.  With verve and gusto, Rob Malo, a Francophone Metis from Manitoba, regaled us with an interactive voyageur story.   Finally, the beguiling lip slippery poems of Sheree Fitch of Nova Scotia amazed us with her skill and poignancy. 

Afterwards, we adjourned to an impromptu Story Circle until midnight came all too soon.

SC-CC AGM:  always a scramble for time and staying on topic.  Briefly, we are solvent and looking for diverse ways to gain income as we excel at spending monies in projects and programs.  By laws change deferred to the next AGM.    

Focus Groups:   summaries to be posted on SC-CC website.

Canadian Storytelling Night:   building in strength.  8th on November 2, 2019 with the theme:

A Breath of Fresh Air.   Date is extended one week before or after as required by local groups.

Telling Tuesday:  Every Tuesday in October, tell tales anywhere to promote storytelling.

New Board:  Elinor & Ron Richards as co-presidents; vacant VP; Dinny Biggs as Past President; Mary Gavan as Treasurer; Susan Wheat continues as Secretary.  Five members at large

BC Representative:  Pat Forrest, Nanaimo.

Quilt: raised more than $1500 and won by Pat Dickson of NS.

Future Conferences:  offers required for 2021 onwards; infrastructure run by SC-CC. 

Four Corners:   Kathy Jessop, AB for the North;  Michael Williams, AB for the South;

Marva Blackmore, BC for the West; & Margo Carruthers NS sang a haunting lullaby for the East.

Next Conference: 

Parksville, BC from May 26 – 30, 2020.  Theme:  Rivers of Voices, Oceans of Stories

Hosts: Round Town Tellers; Mid-Island Storytellers; the McMillan Arts Centre; Coast Salish.

Accommodation: Tigh-na-Mara with special rates   www.tighnamara.com

Master classes: Hugh Lupton; Elizabeth Ellis and Lorne Niemi ( Difficult Stories); others tba.

Workshops: 8 lasting 90 minutes; 5 lasting 3 hours.  Details tba.

Storytelling:  two formal concerts; many informal around campfires as permitted.