Local town crier makes provincial top five

By Cecilia Nasmith


Each town crier is as unique as his or her fingerprint, but Liam Cragg's version put him in the top five at the recent provincial competition as he represented Alnwick-Haldimand Township.

“I'm very pleased to come in fifth, out of about a dozen,” Cragg said in a recent interview.

Last month's Ontario Guild of Town Criers championship on Amherst Island was his second time at a provincial competition, he added, and he hopes to go to many more.

The rules are intriguing, he said. You author your own cries that cannot exceed the 100-to-125-word range – and they even define what constitutes a word. 
“'Oyez' is a word,” he stated.

Judges score you on your entrance and exit, he continued. It must be prompt, and you must remain smoothly in character.

You are also judged on your so-called attention-getting device and how you use it (Cragg admits he has lost points in the past for excessive bell-ringing). Clanging schoolbells may be the most common, but he has seen a trumpet, a horn and even a silent device. When everyone saw the seven-foot-long talking stick carried by an Indigenous crier who wordlessly hoisted it horizontally over his head, Cragg reported, they instinctively went silent.

Clarity, projection and sustained volume matter, and so does content – adhering to the subject matter with a narrative that is appropriate, effective and smooth-flowing.

Points are subtracted if your voice cracks, if you leave an item onstage, if you deviate from the script (the judges will have received an advance copy and will be following along). And if you give a cry but have given the wrong script to the judges, that's a deal-breaker.

All are judged against what is called a benchmark crier, a non-competing guest crier who is given a score on a range of one to 10. For the Amherst Island event, a most entertaining gentleman from eastern Pennsylvania did the honours.

Pendulums swing, Cragg reflected, but the current trend is to incorporate humour to enhance the showmanship of the craft – in the content of the cry, the manner of its delivery or both. But it's a matter of balance.

“Where does entertainment stop and representation of your township begin?” he wondered.

He expects no respectable town crier would use such an approach for a civic function in front of his or her mayor. Any mayor, however, would appreciate what is called the home-town cry, which Cragg called “pretty much a 100-word advertisement for your township.” The Brantford crier, for example, worked in the fact that the telephone was developed there and that it's Wayne Gretzky's home town.

At the provincials, they had to give a market cry and a second cry based on either sheep or Loyalists (Loyalists because the area is rich in Loyalist history, and sheep because of the sponsor of the event). Because the competition coincided with the 70th-anniversary Amherst Island garden party, they asked for another cry based on gardens, gardeners or a garden party. Cragg adapted a Margaret Atwood quote he found in Uncle John's Bathroom Book of Canadiana.

“You never know where an inspiration is going to come from,” he allowed.

Cragg moved to Grafton in 2014 from Bracebridge, which is where he first encountered the discipline. The position of town crier is a municipal appointment that, ideally, is earned through what is known as public spectacle – a public competition. Bracebridge did that 18 years ago, and Cragg was one of the competitors.

Years later, when the Heritage Alnwick-Haldimand committee thought it would be nice to have a town crier in place by the Canada 150 year, the municipality decided there wasn't time for a proper competition and offered the job to him.

“I said, 'Give me a one-year appointment, and see if anyone complains or feels they might like to be one and maybe have a public competition,'” Cragg said.

Provincial competition is open to members of the Ontario Guild of Town Criers, and Cragg is always glad to go to such events for the simple reason that it helps him become a better crier.

Kingston crier Chris Whyman has been provincial champion three times and Canadian champion once, and has competed internationally as well – illustrating the opportunity one gets at these gatherings to learn from the best.

“It's very important to hobnob, see what's going on, meet with old friends, find out what direction is the discipline going in,” he said.

The organization holds its annual general meeting following the competition. Cragg has been elected to the board for a one-year term and is looking forward to the opportunity for input.

Every new town crier learns one surprising fact – there is no official town-crier uniform.

Cragg has seen everything from a slapdash sweatpants-tucked-into-knee-socks job to a Scottish theme with kilt and sash and a hat with the single feather that only a clan chieftain is allowed to wear. National Capital Region crier Daniel Richer dit LaFleche of the seven-foot talking stick (the only francophone and the only Indigenous crier competing this year) has dozens of outfits, ranging from traditional regalia to buckskins.

For his own livery (a term he far prefers to “costume”), Cragg researched the Guild Facebook page and realized some assembly would be required.

He found a pattern for his green gentleman's frock coat based on what a gentleman might wear in the 1780s, and enlisted the help of local nurse Laurie Sandziuk. She does costuming for the VOS Theatre group, and created a beautiful one with gold braid and vintage-looking metal buttons. Upon closer inspection, you will see the buttons come from a variety of sources, including Expo '67, his father Charles's Second World War uniform and his mother Carol's sewing basket.

Sandziuk also created the scarlet sash, which was just a matter of a visit to Fabricland to pick out a striking colour.

Tricorn hats are extremely hard to find, he learned from his research. He heard he might be able to find one in New England, but struck the jackpot in Tampa, Florida.

Home of the NFL team Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the city boasts shops with pirate regalia of all kinds, from low- to high-end. Cragg picked up a great hat there, as well as his brocade vest and pants.

A Scottish men's-wear place in Barrie is where the shirt came from, as well as a good pair of socks (which he has recently swapped out for men's compression socks from Shoppers Drug Mart).

The boots are motorcycle boots which have been modified by a local shoe repair shop.

That tricorn hat sports on its turned-up brim lapel pins from the township, Canada 150 and the William Street Brewery. The jaunty feathers come from birds on Cragg's farm – turkey tail and wing feathers, two pheasant feathers, and one from Romeo the Rooster.

He wanted a bell with a certain kind of ring. A friend from a consignment store in Bracebridge (called Worth Repeating) called him up when a shipment of school-yard bells came in. Cragg had him ring each one over the phone for him, picked the one he liked, and turned the phone over to his wife Becky to negotiate the purchase.

It's a lot to pack when he leaves for a competition, but he has found some criers go even further. Along with awards for the winner and the most humourous cry, this year's provincials offered an award for the best couple.

Competitors are invited to bring along a consort, he explained, and a number of them did show up with elaborately costumed companions.

When next year's provincials come around, count on Cragg to compete in that area as well.

Presentation details the grand gamble of Victoria Hall

By Cecilia Nasmith


In its history, Victoria Hall has been a grand gamble for Cobourg two times, 110 years apart.

John Taylor is an expert on both, and he will share the story on a return visit to town on Sept. 18.

Taylor is currently completing The Grand Gamble, a documentary film detailing the turbulent and intertwined history of Victoria Hall and the Cobourg and Peterborough Railroad.

This project draws on his decades (and professional connections) as an actor in British Columbia, where he currently resides. He has worked with a roster of distinguished directors and actors, and scored roles in The Pledge, Smokin’ Aces, Watchmen, X-Files, Stargate, Supernatural, DaVinci’s Inquest and The Killing.

He has also worked as production designer on documentaries, short films and features, and garnered several awards for this work. A more complete account can be found under his listing (as John R. Taylor) at the IMDB website.

But his time in Cobourg in the 1970s allowed him to draw on different skills. He came to town as the first director of the Art Gallery of Cobourg (now the Art Gallery of Northumberland) and was instantly struck by the grandeur of Victoria Hall.

While his documentary deals with the gamble of investing in an edifice worthy of a town that might well have become the nation's capital, Taylor arrived in time for the second gamble – what to do with a building that had deteriorated to the point that it had to be vacated for everyone's safety.

In a presentation at the Cobourg Public Library in April, he explained that the town council of the day frankly despaired of being able to come up with the millions of dollars its restoration would cost, and they came razor's-edge close to authorizing its demolition.

Taylor lost no time penning an impassioned letter to the editor that appeared in the Cobourg Sentinel-Star, arguing for its preservation. On the strength of that, a group of like-minded citizens recruited him to be the first executive director of the Society for the Preservation of Victoria Hall.

Taylor said in April that he realizes that the time to share this story through the medium of film is now or never. The Victoria Hall Volunteers are hosting this Sept. 18 presentation – and offering it free of charge – to help that happen.

Cobourg council got behind the project and endorsed the request of the Volunteers to waive all fees for the rental of the Victoria Hall Concert Hall for this 7 p.m. program (a venue that, according to Taylor, was in such poor shape by 1971 that anyone walking across the Concert Hall floor would jingle the chandeliers one floor down in the Old Bailey Courtroom).

“For the presentation in Cobourg, the screening of the film will be preceded by a 45-minute talk and slide presentation on the restoration of Victoria Hall from 1971 through 1983,” Taylor said.

“Then the film The Grand Gamble will be screened, and a Q-and-A session will follow.”

County council wants your say on web resdesign

County council wants your say on web resdesign


By Cecilia Nasmith

Northumberland County wants you – to offer your input on its website redesign.

A redesign focus-group meeting is planned at 5:30 p.m. Aug. 23 to seek input from the public as part of the process, which began earlier this summer.

“The goal of the website redesign project is to update the county's main website, increasing accessibility, user-friendliness and visual appeal,” the press release said.

The project began with a July on-line survey to obtain feedback and suggestions regarding the current design and to gain an understanding of user needs for the new version.

The next stage involves seeking feedback regarding the organization of information for the new site, focusing on the design of menus and pages, the release continued.

“The objective is to ensure people can find the information they are looking for on this website as quickly and intuitively as possible.”

The meeting will take place at the county building (665 Courthouse Rd., Cobourg), and anyone interested is asked to register by e-mailing or calling 905-372-3329 ext. 2277.


Cobourg Council News

By Cecilia Nasmith


Unique mailing offers Cobourg Waterfront information

Cobourg has never undertaken such a project before, but director of recreation and culture Dean Hustwick pointed out that there's never been such an issue before.

An oversize colour pamphlet offering facts and figures on the Cobourg Waterfront has been printed and, by Wednesday, should have arrived at all 8,654 Cobourg households. Extra copies can also be picked up at such public places as the Victoria Hall foyer and the Cobourg Community Centre.

The front of the pamphlet carries a personal thank-you message from Mayor Gil Brocanier for a community that participated in the multi-hear waterfront-planning process in unprecedented numbers. The level of engagement was unprecedented not only in Cobourg, but also in the consultants' previous experience in other communities.

It also states that the purpose of the publication is to share key finding of the Waterfront User Needs Assessment and Detailed Design Plan, information that aims to help the reader understand the Waterfront Operations Department.

Inside, facts and figures are offered in four key areas – tourism, campground, harbour and marina.

On the back, a pictograph offers a graphic look at key findings, and a chart sets out annualized financial information on the marina and the campground.

For all the information contained in the pamphlet, Hustwick said, it's only a smaller version of a more comprehensive version that can be found on the town's website.


Cobourg votes support for statue project

Cobourg council endorsed a waterfront location for the Ferne Blodgett Sunde statue at its August meeting.

Council also endosed this project by authorizing a letter of support that the committee behind it can use to bolster grant applications, as well as $5,000 worth of in-kind support for the statue's base.

The project was explained last month by its proponents, who are raising the money for the tribute to a former Cobourg resident who was a pioneering female war-time naval communications worker in the Atlantic theatre of operations during the Second World War.

“I totally support this, based on what we see in front of us,” Councillor Suzanne Seguin said of the staff report.

“A good job – it covers all the bases.”

“The other piece of this project that I think council should consider – it's only creating a base, but we will then own this,” Councillor Debra McCarthy pointed out.

“We need to have a policy on each of our public-art pieces – I think there are 14 – and their maintenance and all that. I hope the Cultural Master Plan recognizes that when they look at the public-art policy,” McCarthy said.

“I have no problem with this at all, but there's a cost to maintaining these.”


Cobourg council okays five Community Improvement projects

Now in its third year, the Community Improvement Program keeps getting better, Cobourg director of planning Glenn McGlashon said at the August council meeting.

The program provides such incentives as grants and loans for project studies and improvements to facades, structure, residences. For 2018, McGlashon said, $150,000 was budgeted for this.

Of the seven applications received, six were approved.

The seventh was for work on the capitals of the columns at 323 George St. Though the work was considered worthwhile, he said, there are still outstanding orders on the property that the committee felt would disqualify it. In case this is remedied, he continued, $13,000 remains in the fund that could conceivably be accessed for this purpose. As it's a $20,000 project and the proponent can only apply for up to 50% of the cost, that amount would be sufficient.

McGlashon listed the six approved projects.

Applicants will receive assistance for work at 2 King St. W. and 239-243 Division St. - a $2,500 study grant, a $8,100 facade-improvement grant and a $8,658 building-improvement grant.

A $4,000 building-improvement grant was approved for 40 King St. W.

A $2,750 building-improvement grant was approved for 42-44 King St, W.

A $2,500 study grant was approved for 89 King St. W.

The property at 39 King St. E. will benefit from a $18,750 facade-improvement grant and a $12,500 building-improvement grant.

At 35-37 King St. W., there is help in the form of a $2,500 study grant, a $6,250 rear-facade-improvement grant, a $12,500 building-improvement grant, a $49,714 residential grant, a $7,500 rear-facade-improvement loan, a $25,000 building-improvment loan and a $66,286 residential loan.

The total value of this work is $940,000, McGlashon reported.

Mayor Gil Brocanier stated that he has received very positive feedback at the prospect of work that will bring more residential units to the downtown.


Monk's Cove project wins applause

Cobourg council voted this week to reallocate up to $30,000 from the parks reserve for work on the Monk's Cove retaining wall and the park restoration.

This is a response to devastating flooding that the town experienced in 2017. The town hired a company to perform repairs last month for about $50,000. Now restoration of the park is underway.

However, during repairs, several spots were noted where armour stone had been dislodged and erosion was taking place, director of public works Laurie Wills said in her report.

Though this was not part of the original work the company hired on for, staff directed the contractor to fill in the voids anyway. As a result, the project went $27,331.70 over budget.

Meanwhile, as staff restore the park by installing topsoil for erosion control, $2,669 worth of materials are required.

Deputy Mayor John Henderson reports that the work done is receiving plaudits. As he walks his dog in that area almost daily, he has had at least 20 people stop him to remark how professionally the work has been done.

“I just want you to know many complimentary comments have been given to that – pretty much everybody living in that particular quadrant says, 'Excellent results,'” Henderson said.

Councillor Forrest Rowden said he also hears a lot of positive comments.

“Looking at it, I understand where it's coming from, as long as we don't get any more real, real bad storms like we did last year,” Rowden said.
“These are 100-year storms, but they seem to be coming every few years now.”

Councillor Brian Darling said the park-restoration work includes adding topsoil and leveling out tire ruts.

“We should have grass growing there before the snow flies,” Darling predicted.


Cobourg Heritage Advisory Committee offers update

The Cobourg Heritage Advisory Committee appeared at the August meeting of Cobourg council to offer an update on what they've been up to for the past year and a half.

Chairman George Kamphorst also participated in the presentation of the committee's four heritage awards, spotlighting individuals for significant contributions to the downtown and to the preservation work on the cupola of Victoria College.

Kamphorst works with vice-chair Graham Andrews and members Bryon McMillan, Catherine Richards, Felicity Pope and Ken Bagshaw. Everyone on that roster, he said, has some involvement with such significant heritage-related organization, such as the Cobourg and District Historical Society, the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario and the Sifton-Cook Heritage Centre. Pope and McMillan, he added, have previously won Town of Cobourg Civic Awards.

The committee's mandate is to advise council and staff on the conservation and enhancement of cultural heritage resources, review and make recommendations to council on heritage-permit applications, and assist in the application of the town's Heritage Master Plan.

Kamphorst is proud of how they process heritage-permit applications. Town staff offer presentations on each one, and there's a collaborative and respectful dialogue with the applicants. Guidance is offered, adjustments are made, and the version of the proposal that comes before council often differs from the original one they saw.

They struggled to think of any applications they have ultimately refused, he added, and could only think of one.

Between the committee and staff, he said, 48 permit applications were processed in 2017. To date in 2018, 56 have been processed.

Outstanding accomplishments of the period in question include a seminar last November that 75 people attended and a renewed downtown-signage tool kit.

Looking ahead, a November follow-up to last year's seminar will be called Armistice and Cultural Heritage, a Heritage Day program in February on James Cockburn and consideration of an expanded heritage district.


Monroe Street residents ask for help

Over the past five years, traffic on Monroe Street has grown perceptibly, according to those in a position to know – Monroe Street residents.

A petition they signed was delivered to council by Joan Gamble in time for the August meeting, along with a letter explaining the problem.

Many of these residents are seniors, and some live at the Ryerson Commons retirement complex on the south side of the street. On the north side, there are a number of families with small children.

As traffic has increased, Gamble said, so has a deliberate disregard for the posted 50-km. speed limit.

“A multi-unit, affordable housing development is under construction on the north side of Monroe Street about half-way between Division Street and Walton Street,” she wrote.

“Like us, the future residents of this development, are entitled to a safe and pedestrian-friendly residential environment.”

Gamble has observed that much of the vehicular traffic on Monroe is using the street as a shortcut between Division and D'Arcy streets.

“We would like to see a more balanced distribution of this traffic onto the surrounding arterial roads, as well as suitable and effective traffic-reduction and speed-calming measures,” she proposed.

“We understand and appreciate that the needs of all road users must be considered in a fair and equitable manner. Hence our stated request that you conduct a systematic and rigourous assessment of the vehicular traffic on Monroe Street, between Division Street and Walton Street.

“It is our expectation that the results of such a study will confirm our assessment that suitable and effective traffic-reduction and speed-calming measures are warranted on Monroe Street.”

Deputy Mayor John Henderson's motion to refer the petition to the director of public works was passed by council.


Council supports guide-dog walk

Cobourg council has approved a new event for Sept. 29 – the Walk For Guide Dogs.

Though new to town, it's an event Lions Clubs hold in many communities in support of their Oakville facility that trains guide dogs and special-needs dogs.

The letter brought forward at the August council meeting from local Lions member Ron Wiebe said it would be a 2.5-km. walk that will begin and end at the Lions Pavilion in Victoria Park. No road closures are required, as participants can easily use the sidewalks.

Wiebe said that all promotional materials will be supplied by corporate sponsor Pet Valu. Each participant will receive a bag to clean up any mess their dogs make.

“As there are several Lions-trained dogs helping citizens of Cobourg lead a better life, we are sure this will be a well-received event,” the letter said.


Cobourg loses two of its great citizens

Deputy Mayor John Henderson took a moment at the August council meeting to eulogize two of Cobourg's citizens who have recently died, and to remember what they meant to the town.

Jeremy Nicholls was a long-time member of the town's committee of adjustments, Henderson said, as well as a member of other town committees - “a very dedicated volunteer in the field of planning and heritage and architecture.”

Henderson also paid tribute to Bert MacMillan, the widow of beloved town crier Tom MacMillan.

It takes only a glance at the monument in front of Victoria Hall to get an idea of what a part of everyday Cobourg life was the retired OPP officer who became the town crier.

From civic events and the ringing announcement of prom arrivals to personal appearances (and personalized cries) at birthdays and weddings, he enhanced every occasion, And when anyone offered to pay him for an appearance, he would suggest they make a donation to Northumberland Hills Hospital instead.

And his wife Bert was always part of it. She also gets the credit for finding the massive clanging bell he rung that was originally an old school bell.

“They worked as a dynamic duo for so many years, and served our community for so many functions. Behind Tom, there was always Bert,” Henderson said.

“We keep losing wonderful members of our community, but I know there will be others who will step up.”


Pitch to the Chief wows Cobourg councillor

Cobourg Councillor Debra McCarthy told council at its August meeting that one of the first big events of the new Venture 13 centre blew her away.

The Pitch To The Chief competition took place last week, and McCarthy said all the pitches were really winners.

“The project merges Venture 13 and everything it does with start-ups and technology, and leveraging that, saying, 'How can we improve police? What aspect of these technological studies can improve policing?'” she explained.

“It involves language I barely understand.”

Of the pitches made to Cobourg Police Chief Kai Liu, the runner-up was a bicycle attachment that could display all the appropriate police emergency lighting and sirens. Members of the police service were interested in potential applications for their Segways, McCarthy said.

A psychographic profiling program was the winner, offering analysis of social-media postings to ascertain who might be an actual threat.

McCarthy was also impressed with the violent-activity recognition app that works with the closed-circuit security cameras that seem so omnipresent these days.

“They are developing an algorithm that in real time, because of the movement going on, the camera can send out a message saying, 'There's an incident here.'”

She also liked the block-chain link-up device that connects those socially and financially at risk for bartering purposes – offering a house-cleaning in exchange for transportation, for instance.

“It's astonishing that this opportuity exists in this hub,” she said.

“The chief did say, 'I've got to pick a winner, but every one of you keep in touch. We are very interested in helping you move your product ahead.'”


NP season kicks off as Armistice 18 celebration

By Cecilia Nasmith

As Northumberland Players launches its 2018-2019 season, it kicks off with three plays that are part of Cobourg's big Armistice 18 celebration.

Mary's Wedding, The Stars on Her Shoulders and Last Day, Last Hour: Canada's Great War on Trial are the group's contributions to a wide-ranging commemoration that is believed to be the largest celebration of the end of the First World War in the country. Other ways the occasion is being marked include a giant kick-off musical presentation, artwork, exhibitions and a speaker's series (a full line-up, along with ticket info, can be found at

As for Northumberland Players, they will be offering the Stephen Massicotte play Mary's Wedding at the Firehall Theatre (213 Second St.) in 12 evening and matinee shows between Sept. 21 and Oct. 14, a story of love and survival set against the backdrop of a pivotal battle of the Great War. Tickets are $23,

Massicotte's play The Stars on Her Shoulders will be presented in a staged-play-reading format in the Victoria Hall Concert Hall (55 King St. W.), with five evening and matinee sessions between Oct. 18 and Nov. 10. The play deals with a group of the Nursing Sisters of the Canadian Army Medical Corps as they cope with the recent bombing of their own hospital and the effects of the physical and spiritual wounds they have suffered. Tickets are $17.50.

Hugh Brewster's Last Day, Last Hour winds up this particular series, a dramatization held in the Victoria Hall Concert Hall of an actual event that took place one floor down in the Old Bailey Courtroom – the libel suit brought by Sir Arthur Currie against the Port Hope newspaper that blamed him for high casualties on the last day of the war. There are 15 evening and matinee shows between Oct. 19 and Nov. 11 (offering the chance to make this part of your Remembrance Day observances). Tickets are $27.50,

This contribution to the Armistice 18 event does not mean a regular dramatic season will not be offered. This begins with Michelle Riml's Sexy Laundry, a dinner-theatre production between Oct. 19 and Nov. 4 at Cobourg's Best Western Coourg Inn and Convention Centre (930 Burnham St,). This production shares the struggle of a couple of a certain age to – shall we say – rekindle that spark, The $56 tickets include dinner.

An adaptation of Miracle On 34th Street is one of their two Yuletide productions, with evening and matinee shows between Nov. 30 and Dec. 16 at the Firehall Theatre. It's a great family outing with the opportunity to enjoy the beloved story from the classic motion picture of the same name. Tickets are $22.

The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe is a new dramatization of the C.S. Lewis classic which will be offered at the Victoria Hall Concert Hall. School performances will be available Dec. 12 through 14, with a public performance at 2 p.m. Dec. 15. Tickets are $12 for adults and $10 for youth,

Another dinner theatre runs from Jan, 18 through Feb. 3 at the Best Western, and it's another classic – Neil Simon's The Odd Couple. While the Players have done a female version of this story in the past, this particular production is the original male version. Tickets are $56 (including dinner).

The spring musical at Port Hope's Capitol Arts Centre (20 Queen St.) is The Drowsy Chaperone by Lisa Lambert, Don McKellar, Bob Martin and Greg Morrison. A young couple on the eve of their wedding could not imagine what's in store as other characters come into play, from a bumbling best man and a not-too-bright hostess to an intoxicated chaperone and pastry chefs who are not what they seem. Tickets are $30, and there are evening and matinee shows from Feb. 22 through March 3.

Silent Sky by Lauren Gunderson is the true story of 19th-century astronomer Henrietta Leavitt. If you loved the movie Hidden Figures, this is a similar story that unfolded in another branch of the sciences. There are evening and matinee shows between March 22 and April 7 at the Firehall Theatre, and tickets are $22.

The third dinner theatre of the season is Ken Ludwig's A Fox On The Fairway. It's a tribute to the great English farces of the 1930s and '40s, and you don't have to be a golfer to enjoy the story of how far archrivals will go to win the big inter-club tournament. Tickets are $56 at the Best Western, and there are shows between April 26 and May 11.

The final show of the season is The Drowning Girls by Beth Graham, Charlie Tomlinson and Daniela Vlaskalic. There are three of the girls, with two things in common – the same husband and the way they died in the bath. The show is at the Firehall Theatre, with evening and matinee shows between May 24 and June 9. Tickets are $22.

Tickets are available at the Best Western for the dinner theatres (905-372-105), and at the Capitol for The Drowsy Chaperone (905-885-1071). Otherwise, you can purchase tickets at the Victoria Hall Concert Hall box office (905-372-2210).

Press Release regarding All-Candidates Meeting

The Cobourg Taxpayers Association today issued a press release explaining their withdrawal from hosting the All Candidates event in Cobourg.    It said, in part, “It is unfortunate that 89.7 FM, as an important media outlet in our community, decided not to proceed with the all-candidates meeting.”

This statement requires some clarification.

Northumberland 89.7FM first became aware over this past weekend of some problems developing with the CTA and the event.  It was quickly decided by our radio station to take this matter to our Board of Directors at our meeting this past Tuesday evening.

Before our meeting convened, we learned the CTA had withdrawn from organizing the event, which meant that Northumberland 89.7FM had no decision to make.  

Subsequently we learned the CTA had withdrawn from the event because they were told that 89.7FM had withdrawn.  

Northumberland 89.7FM has always been and always will be supportive of events in the community that promote the distribution of news and information.  We are disappointed that the all candidates event has been shelved, but we at Northumberland 89.7FM are willing to work with a group that will take on the role of organizers to make it happen.  As in the past, we can fill the role of recording the proceedings and replaying the event on air at a later date, as well as promotion of the event.

It is our hope that something yet may be worked out so the event can proceed.


Barry Walker

Chair, Northumberland 89.7FM


Tickets now available for Canada's largest Armistice observance

By Cecilia Nasmith


Cobourg is proud to be home to the nation's largest observance of the centennial of the Armistice that ended the First World War – and announces that tickets are now available to the many celebrations that are planned.

Furthermore, the town's press release said, many of them are almost to the sold-out stage, so plan accordingly.

The Armistice 18 project will feature events from Sept. 11 through Nov. 11, a list that includes music, theatre, art installations, historic exhibits and a speaker's series.

One reason Cobourg is an appropriate venue for the commemorations is a piece of history that dates from 10 years after the Armistice, when Victoria Hall's Old Bailey Courtroom was the scene of a sensational libel trial that some have called the last battle of the Great War.

The case was a libel suit brought by Sir Arthur Currie, the general who had led the Canadian corps to victory in 1918. He was aggrieved by a front-page article in the Port Hope newspaper that claimed he had needlessly wasted Canadian lives in the campaign to capture Mons on the last day of the war.

The trial placed Canada's entire role in the Great War in the spotlight, and kept the country riveted for weeks.

“We have a great opportunity ahead of us here in Cobourg to commemorate the World War I centenary, and to do so in a truly respectful and collaborative way,” Councillor Suzanne Seguin said in the press release.

“It is absolutely crucial that we remember the many sacrifices that the armed forces and their families made, and continue to make every day for the safety of our country. Armistice 18 is a commemoration project that will ensure future generations are fully aware of how their ancestors fought bravely for our country, We encourage you to come out to one of the many plays, concerts, art and history exhibits, and speaker series taking place here in Cobourg.”

Several theatrical productions are planned.

Hugh Brewster's Last Day, Last Hour: Canada's Great War On Trial runs Oct. 18 through Nov. 11 (most Thursdays through Sundays), staged right where it originally happened – in Victoria Hall's ground-floor Old Bailey Courtroom.

This new play by Brewster recreates the charged atmosphere of the epic Sir Arthur Currie trial, produced by Northumberland Players and directed by Michael Khashmanian of the Beech Street Theatre.

Stephen Massicotte's Mary's Wedding runs Sept. 21 through Oct. 14 (most Thursdays through Sundays) at the Firehall Theatre, located at 213 Second St. (immediately south of Victoria Hall), a dramatization of the last great cavalry charge of the war.

Also by Stephen Massicotte, The Stars On Her Shoulders will be offered as a play reading on Oct. 18 and 20, as well as Nov. 4, 8 and 10. This is a new play about Canadian nurses in World War I, produced by Northumberland Players. It will take place in the Victoria Hall's second-floor Concert Hall.

Playwright Brewster will serve as director for a big Sept. 29 concert, Armistice: Cobourg's Great War Remembered in Words, Images and Song.

This unforgettable depiction of the era commemorates the remarkable part played by the men and women of Cobourg, with Brewster and Bridgette Robinson narrating the spellbinding history – to the accompaniment of a multi-media screen show and beautiful choral music by the Grammy award-winning Elora Singers.

The show takes place at 8 p.m. at Trinity United Church (284 Division St.).

Several leading Canadian historians will be coming to town for the speakers' series, held Sunday afternoons at 1 pm. in the Victoria Hall Concert Hall (and sponsored in part by Lit On Tour).

Oct. 14 – Jack Granatstein, acclaimed as the Dean of Canada's war historians, author of more than 60 books and former head of Canada's War Museum, will speak on Canada's Hundred Days in 1918 (the subject of his latest book, The Greatest Victory). This appearance is sponsored by the International Festival of Authors.

Oct. 21 – Tim Cook, a historian at the War Museum and author of many authoritative (and highly readable) accounts of Canadians under fire), will discuss the difficult relationship Sir Arthur Currie and Sam Hughes shared. This is the subject of his book The Madman and the Butcher.

Nov. 4 – Hailed as Canada's best-loved historical writer, Charlotte Gray has written such best-sellers as Sisters in the Wilderness and The Promise of Canada. She is also a biographer of women's-suffrage pioneer Nellie McClung, who will figure in her talk about how Canadian women won the vote in 1918. This appearance is sponsored by the Vimy Foundation's Centennial Speaker's Series.

As well, throughout the span of the observances, a multi-media exhibition on the First World War will be offered at Victoria Hall.

At the third-floor Art Gallery of Northumberland, a World War I painting exhibition by Canadian artist Charles Pachter is on display.

An exhibition at the Concert Hall will include The Great War In Colour photographs, book and documentary sponsored by the Vimy Foundation. A timeline of the war will include information on local veterans, Sir Arthur Currie, the Hundred Days and the capture of Mons.

Tickets to all events are available at the Victoria Hall Concert Hall box office, which you can contact at 905-372-2210 or information on Armistice 18, call the Victoria Hall Concert Hall box office or visit

Local Affordable Housing Committee Urges Province to Get Back on Track with Basic Income Guarantee

The Northumberland Affordable Housing Committee (NAHC) is urging the Conservative government to stay on track with the Basic Income Guarantee (BIG) Pilot Project.

The committee claims that in attempting to cancel the pilot project, the Conservative Party is going back on its word, as it assured the public prior to the election that the project would go forward under their leadership.

Further, the NAHC believes this decision is also causing chaos and distress for more than 4,000 people in Lindsay, Hamilton-Brant and Thunder Bay who are taking part in the trial program.

“The way the government is cancelling this project is inhumane and unjust,” says David Sheffield, a member of the NAHC.

In a letter written to the provincial government, the committee states that keeping people in poverty is not a path to better employment and income opportunities. Cutting social assistance rates and giving people less is not going to work.

“The government is claiming that the social assistance system is broken and that people stay on assistance too long and can’t get off it,” Sheffield says, “We know that people who are forced to live on amounts that don’t even cover rent can’t get out of the negative poverty cycle. The basic income pilot program was looking into just that – a simpler approach, to allow people to get involved in education, training, or better work opportunities.”

As Sheffield further notes: “It’s important to consider that 70% of people living in poverty are working, so the simplistic notion the government puts forward, that people just need a job, is not accurate”.

The NAHC feels that the basic income pilot project is a well thought out and designed version of a previously successful approach that showed people stayed in school, engaged more in work opportunities, were healthier and costs the system less, when given a basic income to meet their needs.

The NAHC is urging the provincial government to maintain the pilot and its planned evaluation so that policy decisions affecting millions are evidence-based and credible.