Here is the Westerly’s ‘Year in Review’ for best sports and arts stories of 2021.
Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation brothers produce COVID-19 healing song and performance
A pair of Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation brothers collaborated on a healing song and dance to document the COVID-19 pandemic and produced a video to share it worldwide.
Nuu-chah-nulth language advocate Timmy Masso and artist Hjalmer Wenstob came up with the idea to produce a healing song last summer and, thanks to funding from the Canada Council to the Arts’ Digital Originals Program, the project evolved into a dance the brothers have published online.
“Whenever there was a major event traditionally there would be a totem pole carved or a song written and a dance made for that amazing event or even a very tragic event that happened,” Masso told the Westerly News. “Hjalmer and I both noticed that a lot more recent times or modern times there has been so much of a lack of traditional ways continuing on. We wanted to talk about what’s happening right now, talk about COVID and how this is a story of now. I think that was really important as a way of resurgence of culture and our traditional ways.”
Tofino author Christine Lowther collects poetry about trees
The Poet Laureate of Tofino shone a spotlight on trees this year.
Back in June, Christine Lowther launched a call for submissions for a Tree Poetry Anthology.
“We seek poems with a passion for trees and forests, particularly West Coast ancient temperate rainforest species. Poems that express keen observation, fierce protectiveness, commitment, respect, care, activism. Poems that strive to keep trees rooted and dispel the myth of hazardous and inconvenient trees. Surprising poems that address issues like climate and clear-cutting by poets who blaze new ways of seeing and being with our branched brethren,” read Lowther’s call out.
BC Arts grant funding breathes new life into Tofino’s community theatre
It was a challenging year for Sophie L’Homme, the Tofino and Ucluelet choir director and prolific musician, but looking forward she has much to smile about. On March 24, the BC Arts Council revealed its list of 47 arts infrastructure grant recipients and the Clayoquot Sound Community Theatre Association (CSCTA) was awarded funding to the tune of $75,000.
The grant enables the CSCTA to dive into phase one of a major renovation project that will transform the aging, almost 40-year-old community theatre into a healthier and more accessible space for everyone.
“We jumped up and down when we were told we received the grant. It’s an honour to be on that list of recipients. It’s very amazing,” said L’Homme. She thanked senior theatre consultant Scott Windsor and Cindy Hutchison at the District of Tofino for helping make dreams of the new theatre take flight.
When the pandemic closed the theatre, L’Homme lost her job as theatre manager. Choir practices were also cancelled and the Tofino Jazz Festival was axed.
“COVID is really, really hard on the arts. We haven’t been able to perform and the artists haven’t been able to come, but somehow it brought us time to have perspective and that was the perfect time for me. I didn’t have choir, but I finally had time to work on the grant project. It gave us time to think about the future,” she said.
Tofino Gallery of Contemporary Art opens
The Tofino Gallery of Contemporary Art unveiled its inaugural exhibit on June 13.
“I am excited, I’m nervous and I’m looking forward to sleeping again,” laughed gallerist Leah McDiarmid in an interview with the Westerly News prior to opening.
McDiarmid has been tenaciously preparing her new space since January with the hope of creating a cultural hub for both locals and tourists.
“It’s coming along beautifully. It’s an intimate space with wonderful acoustics,” she said. “It’s been a lot of work, but it’s been a labour of love and I have been supported and mentored by just outstanding people within the arts community at large and I really appreciate that support.”
Netflix thriller ‘Lou’ films in Ucluelet
Back in August, some 200 cast and crew spent a week in Ucluelet to film a scene for the movie ‘Lou’ starring Oscar winner Allison Janney and Lovecraft Country star Jurnee Smollett. Directed by Anna Foerster from an original screenplay by Maggie Cohn, ‘Lou’ takes place in 1986 and tells the story of two women tracking a kidnapper across an island in order to rescue one of the women’s daughters.
“The filmmakers selected Ucluelet as a location because of the location’s unique beauty and magnificent coastline,” notes the film’s publicist Lorraine Jamison.
About 40 Tofino and Ucluelet locals were hired as background performers.
Surf champions crowned at Cox Bay
Cox Bay came out in full force on Sunday, Sept. 26 delivering stellar waves for the 2021 Rip Curl Pro Surf Canada Nationals finals.
Canada’s surfing queen Mathea Olin, 18, tore through the competition, earning National titles in the Women’s Longboard, U18 Girls, and Pro Women’s division.
“I couldn’t be happier. It was a bit of a rollercoaster for me after El Salvador so I was really happy to come away with the win. Conditions couldn’t have been better,” Olin said after her final heat of the contest. “Thank you to Rip Curl and Red Bull and Dom (Domic) for putting on this event,” she said, noting that she will put the $2000 cash prize for winning the Pro into her savings.
Rising star Reed Platenius, 17, took down Tofino surf legends Peter Devries and Sepp Bruhwiler in the Pro Men’s final.
“That was my goal for sure going into this competition. I feel like I got a good start and then just happened to luck into good waves that gave me good sections. It was tough out there. It looks fun from the beach, but then you get out there and you kind of get lost chasing different peaks.” said Platenius, who also won the U18 Boys division with an excellent 9.0 single wave score for performing a backside 360 air manoeuver.
Gust of Wind concert series
Set against the scenic backdrop of Clayoquot Sound, the Gust of Wind Concert Series features West Coast musicians singing their hearts out at seven unique locations.
“Essentially, we wanted to shine a light on our music community and the beautiful spots that have influenced the musicians playing in these locations,” said MacDonald, who kicks off the series playing three songs in an Old Growth forest near Tofino’s Tonquin Beach.
The second video features Geoff Johnson from Virgin Falls, who is followed by Kieran Campbell from the Rosie Bay Tidal Cave. Then we have Willie Thrasher from C’isaqis, the place where Tla-o-qui-aht Chief Moses Martin famously said to loggers during the ’80s protests, “I would like to ask you to join us for a meal, but you have to leave your chainsaws in your boats.”
Ben and Sarah, the winners of the West Coast Screech play from Island Shores, Steve Bick performs from Freedom Cove, and the final video is Haida artist Ms. PAN!K from Wickaninnish Island.
West Coast grad JESSIA now a rising Canadian pop star
With her inspiring single ‘I’m Not Pretty’ going viral and catapulting her onto the Rolling Stone Breakthrough 25, West Coast born and raised pop singer-songwriter JESSIA proclaims to be part of a new wave of “real music that’s breaking down boundaries.”
She remembers penning the lyrics to ‘I’m Not Pretty’ over Christmas 2020 from her childhood bedroom in Ucluelet on Vancouver Island. Verses like ‘But I can’t find a way to lose weight / Without literally starving’ and ‘But sometimes I hate myself / I get inside my head and I think that I somehow deserve this’ poured onto the page.
“I came to my mom about all these subjects and she told me that this needs to be said. She said to go for it. Her encouragement is definitely the reason why those verses are as ballsy as they are. Big props to my mom,” said JESSIA, who graduated from Ucluelet Secondary School in 2012 and went on to pursue a music degree at MacEwan University in Edmonton.
Ucluelet Secondary School honours residential school survivors and the children who never made it home
Ucluelet Secondary School students were immersed in activities to honour the survivors and the children who never made it out of the Canadian Indian Residential School System.
In Shannon McWhinney’s Grade 9/10 Art Class, teens learnt about Orange Shirt Day by designing and screen-printing their own orange shirts.
The Literary Studies 11 Class studied about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission 94 Calls to Action, and the B.C. First Peoples 12 Class researched specific Indian Residential Schools in B.C.
A field trip to Tin Wis and the former site of Christie Residential School took place.
From Sept. 24 to Oct. 1, the student led work on residential schools was displayed in the new multipurpose room alongside a museum quality exhibit curated by the Legacy of Hope Foundation called ‘Escaping Residential Schools: Running For Their Lives’.
Nuu-chah-nulth Education worker Jason Sam said every student at USS attended the exhibit as well as Grade 6/7 students from both Ucluelet Elementary and Wickaninnish Community School. During the public viewing on Sept. 30, 206 people visited the exhibit.
New ‘Island Eats’ cookbook hits shelves
West Coast chefs came together on Oct. 21 to celebrate the release of ‘Island Eats’, a 200-page cookbook that showcases Vancouver Island cuisine. Eleven of the 41 featured restaurants are from the Pacific Rim / Alberni Valley region.
Co-written by Dawn Postnikoff and Joanne Sasvari, Island Eats features a compendium of over 80 recipes. Postnikoff said the idea for a Vancouver Island cookbook came about during a media trip to Tofino in March 2019.