Nanaimo This Week: Performing through the pandemic

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This week I’m sharing a story I hope will kick start your long weekend. With so many talented artists in this city, I’ve been wondering how our local promoters, performers and venue owners have been doing. I spoke to a few of them to find out exactly how they’ve been performing through the pandemic. I knew they would find creative ways to get by, but I was surprised to learn just how much they’ve managed to contribute to this community in face of such adversity. Here’s an excerpt:

When local promoter Andrew Roberts and musician Elise Boulanger recently found out they had been picked to get a SoundON grant, it was a welcome boost in what for many in the entertainment industry has been a challenging year.

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“[Last year] a few musicians told me about these grants and that I should apply for them, but I just didn’t care, I didn’t have the motivation,” says Roberts. “It sucks because you’re bringing people together. That’s the business.”

In 2019, Roberts estimates that his company Got Pop? Concerts had booked at least 100 shows throughout Vancouver Island, including those for comedians, musicians, and former WWE wrestlers like Mick Foley. 

All of that dropped off completely when the pandemic hit, though Roberts has kept busy with a side business in collectibles, which he says exploded in popularity during the pandemic. 

“People are stuck at home and they can’t spend their money on anything else, so stuff that’s normally selling for $10 is now selling for $50. It’s crazy,” says Roberts with a laugh. “I’m a closet nerd. But I guess people know it now, because I’ve been promoting wrestling shows.”

Though he initially wasn’t interested in doing digital shows because he felt like they lacked the energy of a live performance, in August he successfully hosted a 30th anniversary wrestling reunion discussion via Zoom featuring Bret “the Hitman” Hart and other wrestlers from the legendary The Hart Foundation vs Demolition Tag Team Championship pay-per-view match in 1990.

“It was actually the first time those three guys ever got back together for an event, which is really cool,” he says. “They talked about the show and talked about their careers. People all around the world bought tickets, we had people from New Zealand and Australia staying up until like 3 a.m. to watch it.”

Read the full story here.

Community shout-out

A dad holds his baby boy outside of their house.
Check out this great little video from Nanaimo resident and dad Bill Gilfoy, who outfitted his house with an array of solar panels that has allowed him to get away with paying only $6 a year for his heat and electricity. Great job Bill! Photo submitted by Louise Gilfoy


Community-powered journalism is all about making sure local news is genuinely responsive to people’s needs. When it’s built on local expertise and with an eye to solutions, it has the power to bring us together and make issues that seem overwhelming more understandable and workable.

The past few weeks were big for community-driven journalism in Nanaimo. First, I sat down with Paul Manly to share what I’ve learned about the local rental affordability crisis and what experts say is needed to make sure single moms, seniors and other vulnerable groups aren’t excluded from the basic human right to have a home. You can read the highlights here and help us spread the word.

Then on Wednesday, I joined my colleagues Hilary Eastmure, Rae-Anne Guenther, David Owen Rama and Lauren Kaljur for a lively townhall about our series Making Rent, where we shared insights from our own experiences as renters and from the people we met through our reporting. You can listen to the conversation here.None of this would be possible without you. Whether you pitch in what you can afford each month to keep our investigations paywall-free, fill out our reporting surveys or share our stories with your friends online—thank you for making this impactful work possible. It’s making a difference in this community and I can’t wait to see what we do together next. Sign me up.

In other news

👉  Local retired doctor Stephen Beerman was recently honoured by Queen Elizabeth II in a virtual ceremony on May 6, where he was awarded the King Edward VII Cup for his 40 years of work in drowning prevention. He’s currently the co-chairman of the Canadian Drowning Prevention Coalition and advised a United Nations resolution about drowning, which is the leading cause of death among children in many lower and middle-income countries around the world.

👉 IndigiNews editor Emilee Gilpin was featured in a Canadaland analysis this week on the ways that digital startups are transforming the media landscape and how Indigenous-led independent media is leading the charge. IndigiNews was started last year as a partnership between The Discourse and APTN and is aimed at turning around the ways in which Indigenous folk have been inaccurately portrayed in Canadian media.

👉 This week RCMP began arresting protesters blocking logging access to old-growth trees in defiance of a court injunction, IndigiNews reports. Police worked to clear a blockade and camp in the Caycuse River area. The protesters, under the banner of the Rainforest Flying Squad, continue to maintain blockades and camps in multiple locations, including the Fairy Creek watershed. Some journalists have been turned away from an RCMP checkpoint, and the Canadian Association of Journalists has called on Canadian courts to limit the powers of RCMP to restrict media access when enforcing injunctions. 

👉Nanaimo city council adopted an age-friendly plan in 2019 and now the Nanaimo Age Friendly Community Society wants to hear from older adults in the region so they can get the services and information they need. Access the directory here or get involved by reaching out here.

👉On May 20, the City of Nanaimo held a public hearing on proposed changes to its zoning bylaws that aim to incentivize below-market-rate rental housing developments through density bonusing.

On the Island

🌊 In the heart of Duncan, local green thumbs turned an old outdoor swimming pool into a thriving, educational community farm. Sophie Andre of The Discourse Cowichan reports.

🌊Responding to anti-LGBTQ2S+ hate with love, students in Victoria spent the day repainting a rainbow crosswalk that was vandalized with hate speech over the weekend. In an interview with The Discourse, one of the students explains why he’s choosing to respond to the violence with love and empathy. Shalu Mehta of The Discourse West Shore reports.

🌊A new children’s book created by two women on Vancouver Island pulls from personal experience to tell the story of an Indigenous girl navigating life away from home, Cara McKenna writes for IndigiNews.

Community spotlight

Randy Fred is an Elder from the c̓išaaʔatḥ (Tseshaht) First Nation in Port Alberni, B.C. and a distinguished publisher and storyteller who, among a long list of accolades, co-founded One in Spirit Society. The nonprofit works to support people in healing through nature, community and storytelling. He says he appreciates the fact that we have so much access to nature. “So many things could benefit from being outdoors, like language, especially learning language.”

Photo submitted by Randy Fred

In 2005 Randy was presented with the Gray Campbell Distinguished Service Award for his contributions to the B.C. publishing industry. He founded Theytus Books Ltd., one of the oldest Indigenous publishing houses in Canada, in Nanaimo in the 1980s after studying newsletter production and photojournalism at Vancouver Island University. Since this time he’s supported countless writers in telling their stories through magazines and newspapers he created. He’s currently working on other story gathering projects, building from a collection of personal stories about Indigenous and settler contact called Contact No Contact he helped create in Geist Magazine. 
Lauren Kaljur
Who should we profile next? Nominate someone here.

What’s going on?

Thursday, May 20: Nanaimo Arts Council launched their inaugural curated exhibition “Rooted: Connections to Land in the Work of Mary Anne Molcan, Carly Nabess, and Eliot White-Hill, Kwulasultun” on YouTube.

Friday, May 21 and Thursday, May 27: May 21 is your last chance to sign up for the Nanaimo Family Life Association’s seniors’ talent show. Anyone aged 55 or older can sign up, and people are invited to join the audience and cheer the participants on. To sign up, email Nanaimo Family Life Association. The show itself is on May 27 from 5 to 6 p.m.

Sunday, May 23: BC Marine Trails Network is hosting Coastal Cuisine, an online presentation by Cowichan chef Jared Qwustenuxun Williams. 

Wednesday, May 26: Get your gloves on and help remove invasives like broom and ivy from Pipers Lagoon Park, 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. Free to participate but registration is required.

Starting June 15: Need help to get moving? Choose to Move at Home is a free 12-week virtual program that supports older adults 60 and up in staying active. Join online via Zoom or via telephone. For more information call the Seniors Services Society at 604-520-6621 or send them an email.

Monday, June 21: Join traditional cedar weaver Violet Elliot/SNU’MEETHIA on  Indigenous People’s Day for a virtual weaving workshop. Violet has been weaving for over 25 years and her baskets, hats and purses are one-of-a-kind works of intricate traditional art. Registration is required and allows for access to the workshop until July 21.


Hi Julie:I know that you write about many important topics in The Discourse. This topic will seem frivolous perhaps but I am wondering how it could be addressed. The subject is the disgusting state of the washrooms at the Port Place Mall. This small shopping centre is the lifeline for the residents of two islands, Gabriola and Protection, as well as for people living in the downtown core. From my personal observation, it is probably one of the busiest malls in our city—a constant flow of traffic—compared to some of the larger centres where you could throw a bowling ball and not hit anyone. Those centres all have spotlessly clean facilities and ample wheelchair access stalls. On the other hand, the space provided in Port Place is small, cramped and usually very dirty. The paper towels are allowed to run out and the stalls themselves are in poor repair. Sometimes the doors to the cubicles won’t lock or an ‘out of order’ sign is posted. The paper towel receptacles are usually overflowing.More than a year ago, long before Covid, I asked the staff at the nearby Thrifty’s about having the washrooms improved; they had no power to help!  I then spoke to a person from the management company in Victoria. None of this helped—they are still pretty appalling, particularly during this pandemic when cleanliness has become a priority. I am not sure how to proceed, hence this email. As an aside, I personally spend somewhere upwards of $5,000 plus in Port Place each year and I imagine that my fellow islanders spend that or much more.Julie, is there a role for The Discourse in this or should the issue be directed somewhere else?Thanks for your patience in reading this.

—Sandra Nisbet
Thanks again for your support and have a great long weekend.

Julie Chadwick

P.S. If you like what you’re reading, please help us spread the word by sharing this newsletter. [end]

This story is from Nanaimo This Week, your weekly local newsletter. Sign up  to get our latest investigations and community highlights straight to your inbox. 

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