The kitchen party almost lost forever: Watch a piece of N.L. history in this new documentary

·3 min read
The kitchen party almost lost forever: Watch a piece of N.L. history in this new documentary
Shanneyganock/Facebok
Shanneyganock/Facebok

Thirteen years ago, a crowd of singers and musicians, young and old, gathered around the kitchen of Marg Maynard's 100-year-old home in Flatrock.

There they sang and played instruments, reciting old stories and dancing familiar jigs.

That night, like the many that had come before it, could well have been lost in time forever, were it not for one local photographer's camera.

For Shanneyganock's Chris Andrews, these gatherings were something truly special, and the idea of documenting one of these nights was an obvious one.

"We used to go visit a friend of ours' mother, and she was a lovely lady, Aunt Marg, and the couple times we'd gone before I said, b'y, this is so special, and so interesting, and so amazing. I should record this."

Not long after there was another gathering at Aunt Marg's, but this time it was a little different.

Shanneyganock/Facebook
Shanneyganock/Facebook

"[Photographer] Gerry Boland came down and recorded it for us, and we just sorta had a kitchen party," Andrews says, "and like a ton of people came. It turned into this magical night."

The footage Boland recorded from that night in 2007 was left untouched for over a decade. Thirteen years later, Andrews and filmmaker Roger Maunder unearthed the videos and began editing them into a new short documentary, which they're calling All Hands Together.

Andrews wanted to tell the story of a distinctly Newfoundland tradition: The old-time kitchen party.

WATCH | Take a trip inside Marg Maynard's 2007 kitchen party in All Hands Together:

Kitchen parties, like the one captured at Marg Maynard's home, have always been an important part of Newfoundland heritage, Andrews says.

"B'y, you know, people have gathered in there for a long, long time," he says. "That was a place where people always gathered, and it was always warm in there or [had] something to eat."

For many familiar with Newfoundland parties, the kitchen holds a magnetic pull, with revellers and partygoers drawn to the sociable comfort and intimacy unique to any group wrapping itself around a dining table and hot stove.

'Who we are'

While sheds may have stolen some of the spotlight in recent years, says Andrews, the kitchen is always a place Newfoundlander's will gravitate toward.

"The kitchen was the place where the party happened: the guitars came out, the accordion, people had a dance, or a few drinks," he said. "It's kind of who we are."

COVID-19 has affected wide swaths of daily life within the province, and the kitchen party is no exception. In many ways the jovial, and often cramped, atmosphere of a kitchen party, replete with singing and socializing, is the antithesis of the physical distancing we've adopted to combat the virus's spread.

Despite his love of this particular Newfoundland custom, Andrews says he hasn't attended what he'd call a true kitchen party since March. The current restrictions make it nearly impossible, he says, certainly by the standards shown in All Hands Together.

"There's a lot more than 20 people in that small little kitchen," Andrews says.

Shanneyganock/Facebook
Shanneyganock/Facebook

Despite the necessary pause on kitchen parties this year, Andrews knows they're integral to Newfoundland culture, and hopes that this time capsule of a pre-COVID era will remind audiences of kitchen parties past.

"There's some lovely performances by some old people, people that were real up in their years in the mid-2000s, so sort of long past and gone now," Andrews says.

"But they sang and told stories that we'll show, that will certainly give people a great memory of their past."

In addition to the fond memories of former kitchen party attendees, Andrews says 'All Hands Together' showcases the community of Flatrock, and their continued enthusiasm for carrying on their culture.

"Most of it is from 2007, you know, that actual night in that hundred-year-old house, where a bunch of people from a small community came together and sang for hours," says Andrews.

"It was one of the best experiences of my life."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador