2020 saw arts communities determined to pivot amid the pandemic

·3 min read

While it’s often said, “The show must go on,” this proved especially challenging for arts communities the world over in 2020, and no less so in Queens and Lunenburg counties.

The COVID-19 pandemic forced people to step back from their routines, stretch their imaginations and to try and find new ways to deliver programs.

The annual Liverpool International Theatre Festival was forced to cancel its annual in-person event that typically attracts hundreds of fans and theatre groups from all over the world. Organizers decided early on to switch gears and hold a virtual event instead.

The pandemic set the stage for appreciation of the new South Shore Drive-In in Queens County this past summer. Catherine Croft came up with the idea as a means of bringing communities together. Showings were held in several locations including Greenfield and Liverpool.

The Queen’s County Fair celebrated its 140th year, adapting to pandemic restrictions by holding ox pulls and horse pulls on two different weekends instead of as part of an event held over one week.

While two acclaimed musical artists turned to a new form of stage, by purchasing church buildings in Queens County.

The First Lady of Country, Carroll Baker, bought the Port Medway Baptist Church in October with the hope of holding concerts there in the near future. And organ virtuoso, Xaver Varnus, from Hungary, purchased the Pilgrim United Church in Brooklyn, and has since renamed it Varnus Hall.

Under the direction of a new artistic and administrative director, Janelle Lucyk, Musique Royale celebrated its 35th year and held virtual concerts over the summer.

The Lunenburg Folk Harbour Society had to cancel its annual event; however, the group did host a series of free, live concerts at the Lunenburg bandstand over the summer.

The Lunenburg Doc Fest also went online, hosting its festival from September 24-30 to a record number of viewers.

Meanwhile, the books kept rolling out of the publishing companies with releases offered by Ivy Coolen, Mill Cove (Poetry of Sea and Sky); Dean Jobb, Kings County (Daring, Devious and Deadly); Tim McDonald, originally from Liverpool (Remembering Queens County: The 1950s and 1960s); Linda Rafuse, Kathleen Stitt and Vernon Oickle (Queens County: A History in Pictures); David Mossman, originally from Rose Bay (Rum Tales: Down Home Yarns Around a Pot-Belly Stove); and Christine Welldon of Lunenburg (Kid Sterling).

Lunenburg author Rosalie Osmand was also named as one of the finalists in the Atlantic Book Awards for her novel Broken Symmetry.

Musicians took inspiration from the challenges of 2020. The Lunenburg Alternative Rock Band, Juicebox, launched its first single, Social Distance. And Mahone Bay’s Kristen Martell released her first album in May, Coming Home.

For those left watching TV, there were programs with a local flare to choose from. Keara Leary Daniels of Pleasantville was part of an Eastlink documentary series, Champions. While several South Shore artists, including folk artist Bradford Naugler of Middlewood, were among those featured in a 13-episode local television series called Handcrafted.

And the Southwest Biosphere Reserve, including Kejimkujik National Park, was featured in the television series Striking Balance, which highlighted Canada’s National Biosphere Reserves.

Meanwhile, things were pushing ahead in other areas of the South Shore arts community. Work began on an update at Chester’s Playhouse at a cost of about $1 million.

Lunenburg’s Sharon Fox Cranston began drawing images of people navigating the new normal. She did 71 sketches in 71 days during March through to June and published a book containing them entitled Lunenburg Confined.

The Fo’c’sle Pub had managed to squeeze in the 20th anniversary of its The Coldest Day of the Year fundraiser on February 8. While the South Shore Players helped cap off the year with their online performances of Christmas Sprits, which ran from December 18 to 26

Kevin McBain, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, LighthouseNOW Progress Bulletin