Monday 24 Oct 2016

Use the Radio
David Simmonds

I’ll admit I’ve sounded this theme before. There are only so many fields, left, right or centre, where you can hit the ball. I edge to the subject of ‘community’ once again after seeing the wonderful County Theatre Group's production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s HMS Pinafore at the Regent Theatre.

I have seen the play several times and in the wrong hands, it can be a fusty piece of work. In the right hands, as undoubtedly was the case this time around,  it can be a lively display of razor sharp wit. It wasn’t just because it was timely in the ‘99%-versus-1%’ era: it was deftly presented. The irony of a man condemned by his class ranking, but hypothetically being able to choose his nationality is home by the heavy syllablism of the old chorus “in spite of all temptations - to belong to other nations, he is an Englishman; he is an E-E-E-E-E-E-E-Englishman.” 

Director John Burns made a canny move at the end of the show. He brought all responsible for the production - musicians; make up, props, sound and lighting people; dressers, managers and publicists; on to the stage at the end to join the cast. He brought the point home that just as it takes a village to raise a child; it takes a veritable army to stage a performance of this magnitude. Then that army marches in step, it is also functioning as a community. As well, there is a shared sense of community with and within an audience who collectively experience the performance. That is a good thing.

That was only one instance of community. I also experienced the same sort of community last weekend in the preparations for the Bloomfield Santa Claus parade, the Hospital Auxiliary’s Festival of Trees, the fundraising dinner for the Loyalist Humane Society, and the Trinity concert at Wellington on the Lake for the benefit of the Food Bank. That’s my experiences and me over one weekend. 

Community is a wonderful thing - it's as complex as a massive theatre production, or as simple as a neighbour bringing over a plate of cookies. Plainly expressed, it’s about human contact and developing a sense of responsibility for one another. We are fortunate to enjoy it in spades. Many urban wildernesses have precious little of it.

All of which brings me to remind you of a meeting being held TONIGHT (if you’re reading your paper on November 30, the day it comes out) at 7 pm at the Bloomfield Town Hall. The working group struck to develop a proposal for a community radio station in the County will be reporting back, and seeking the authority to do the groundwork for a CRTC licence application and to develop a business plan and a programming plan; to do a technical study, and to incorporate. It wants to do all this before next March. It wants to find people with ideas for programming, and people who are willing to put a shoulder to the wheel to help get all these tasks completed on a prompt and thorough basis. If you can’t get to the meeting, go to the website at County Community Radio and make your views known.

The radio station that the working group envisages is one that will be ‘owned’ by its members - residents of the County. They want to have a broad membership base, to have diverse original programming that reflects the needs of residents and visitors, to broadcast county wide, and to be largely run by volunteers on a shoestring.

I have heard some interesting ideas for programming already. How about a daily show that helps guide tourists; Spanish or Thai language programming for our farm workers or a live broadcast of a house concert? Apparently, at other community stations, the most popular show is the ‘lost dog and cat post’, featuring heart-rending tales of beloved pets gone missing. We could do that.

As for me, I’ll be happy if they just have a bluegrass music show. At the same time, I’m not that big an opera fan, so I’ll be happy if they never have an opera show.

What, never?

Well, hardly ever.

Some readers seem intent on nullifying the authority of David Simmonds. The critics are so intense; Simmonds is cast as more scoundrel than scamp. He is, in fact, a Canadian writer of much wit and wisdom. Simmonds writes strong prose. He dissects, in a cheeky way, what some think sacrosanct. His wit refuses to allow the absurdities of life to move along, nicely, without comment. What Simmonds writes frightens some readers. He doesn't court the ineffectual. Those he scares off are the same ones that will not understand his writing. Satire is not for sissies. The wit of David Simmonds skewers societal vanities, the self-important and their follies as well as the madness of tyrants. He never targets the outcasts or the marginalised; when he goes for a jugular, its blood is blue. David Simmonds, by nurture, is a lawyer. By nature, he is a perceptive writer, with a gimlet eye, a superb folk singer, lyricist and composer. He believes quirkiness is universal; this is his focus and the base of his creativity. "If my humour hurts," says Simmonds,"it's after the stiletto comes out." He's an urban satirist on par with Mike Barnacle, Jimmy Breslin, the late Mike Rokyo and, increasingly, Dorothy Parker. He writes from and often about the village of Wellington Ontario. Simmonds also writes for the Wellington "Times," in Wellington, Ontario.

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