June 17, 2012 § 2 Comments
Yesterday, during Bloomsday, I presented The Point a 1978 documentary on Pointe-Saint-Charles directed by Robert Duncan and produced by William Weintraub. The film presents a very depressing picture of a very depressed neighbourhood in the late 1970s: a picture of unemployment, alcoholism, violence, and dislocation. The graduating class of James Lyng Catholic High School faced a bleak future in 1978, unilingual and unskilled.
I then presented a bit of context to the film, both the historical time period in which the film, and by whom (Anglos in the late 1970s, between the election of the Parti québécois as the provincial government in 1976 and the First Referendum on Québec sovereignty in 1980). In shot, a very volatile period in Montréal’s and Québec’s history. I also pointed out that the Pointe was more than just some sad sack inner-city slum, pointing to such things as the Clinique communitaire de Pointe-Saint-Charles and other examples of neighbourhood organisation and resistance (i.e.: the very things that I love the Pointe for). I felt it was important to demonstrate to the audience that a poor, dislocated neighbourhood with rampant unemployment during the years of deindustrialisation was more than just that, it was a community (this is something I have learned in studying Griffintown, especially from talking to former Griffintowners).
I then moved on to discuss gentrification here in the Pointe. I am of two minds on it. On the one hand, the Pointe is not Griffintown, the condo developers and gentrifying tenement owners do not have to start from scratch. There is a very strong community here already. On the other hand, the community that exists here only works when those of us who are interlopers get involved, and understand what already exists here and how precious that is.
But tonight, sitting on my front stoop, talking on the phone (because it’s about the only place I can get a continuous signal in my flat), the entire process of gentrification was brought home to me in blatant fashion. A young woman, in her early 20s, and pregnant, is looking for a place to live. The flat upstairs is for rent, so I talked to her, told her about it, how big it was, etc. It was apparent that she is a single mother-to-be, as she used the singular in referring to her needs for a flat. She looked sad and defeated, because the flats around here cost too much for her to afford. As she turned to go, she said “It looks like they just want to push all the poor people out of the Pointe.”
What can you say to that? Especially when you’re one of the guilty. It is a simple fact that rents are going up in the Pointe, both because former rental units are being bought up and converted into single-family homes, and because landlords are realising they can make a lot more money if they renovate and gentrify their flats. And so where does that leave this woman? A quick search of Craigslist for flats in the Pointe reveals the same thing, they’re getting expensive. And so where do those who can’t afford to live here go?
I don’t have the answer for that one.
June 13, 2012 § Leave a comment
Montreal’s first annual Bloomsday gets underway tomorrow at 12.30pm at the Atwater Library, with a a reading and music inspired by Joyce’s Ulysses, hosted by Dana O’Hearne. And also tomorrow night, 5pm, at Hurley’s Irish Pub on Crescent, we will be hosting a Trivia Night, so come on down and check out both events.
The full schedule for the 3-day event can be found here.
Highlights, aside from what I’ve already noted:
4pm, Friday 15 June, Bombardier Theatre, McCord Museum, Official Launch, featuring Prof. Michael Kenneally, Principal of the School for Canadian Irish Studies at Concordia, who will speak on “The Achievement of Joyce’s Ulysses.
8.30am, Saturday, 16 June at Le Vieux Dublin Pub on Cathcart, I will be hosting a breakfast event featuring the indomitable Don Pidgeon, who will tell stories about Griffintown. Don’s ALWAYS entertaining, a natural-born story-teller, this is not to be missed.
9.45-11.30am, Saturday, 16 June: Prof. David Hanna of UQÀM will be leading a tour of Griffintown, which will meet at Métro Square Victoria.
10am-5pm, Saturday, 16 June: Our main event at James Square on McGill’s Campus (the entrance on University), where we will have daylong readings from Ulysses, as well as performances by the Bernadette Short Dancers, and Irish and classical music performances.
1pm-3pm, Saturday, 16 June: I will be screening a viewing of William Weintraub’s 1970s documentary, The Point, at the McGill Community for Lifelong Learning, which is located at 688 Sherbrooke Ouest, I’ll be in Room 1041. I will also talk about Pointe-Saint-Charles, my favourite Montreal neighbourhood (and also my home).
2.45pm-4.45pm, Saturday, 16 June, in the Bombardier Theatre of the McCord, film-maker Brian McKenna will present his new film, The Coffin Ship Hanna.
February 24, 2012 § Leave a comment
I will have much more to say shortly, but for now, I just want to update my previous Bloomsday Montreal post with our new website. Everything is coming together nicely for our celebration of Joyce’s masterful Ulysses, 14-16 June. We’ll be updating the site soon. In the meantime, you can also follow us on Twitter and Facebook.
February 4, 2012 § 19 Comments
I am on a steering committee attempting to launch Bloomsday Montréal this year on 16 June.
For those who don’t know, Bloomsday is an annual celebration worldwide of James Joyce’s masterful novel, Ulysses, which was first published in 1922. Ulysses traces the travels of one Leopold Bloom, a Dubliner, across the city on 16 June 1904. That date was significant for Joyce as it was the date of his very first outing with his wife to be, Nora Barnacle. Many consider Ulysses the finest novel of the 20th century. The first Bloomsday was celebrated on 16 June 1954, the 50th anniversary of Bloom’s travels, in Dublin, where the Irish artist John Ryan and the novelist Flann O’Brien decided to re-trace Bloom’s route around the city.
From there, Bloomsday has grown to be a massive cultural phenomenon, celebrated in over 60 nations around the world. In 2004, the 100th anniversary of Bloom’s travels, a massive celebration was held in Dublin, with over 10,000 people in attendance. On 16 June 1958, the star-crossed Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath were married on Bloomsday. Why Montréal, a major city of the Irish diaspora has not had a Bloomsday until now is beyond my ken. But, it is time.