Riddim an’ Resistance: Lillian Allen, Clive Robertson, respondents Britta Badour and Klive Walker
Friday, February 26, 2021 @ 2 – 3:30 pm
“Truths and Rights and Lillian Allen Talks About ImmiCan,” Interviews by Isobel Harry and Lisa Steele, Centerfold 4: 1 (November 1979)
“Gayap Rhythm Drummers,” Interview by John Greyson and Clive Robertson,” Fuse 5: 4&5 (May/June 1981)
“Rhythm and Resistance,” Clive Robertson interviews Lillian Allen, Devon Haughton, and Clifton Joseph, Fuse 7: 1&2, (Summer 1983)
Lillian Allen, RIDDIM AN’ HARDTIMES with de dub poets, 1983 (Clive Robertson)
Support documents: https://osf.io/87g2a/
Network diagrams: http://photomedia.ca/visualizations/artexte/sigma/agyu/
Documents from overlapping artist spaces, print, and audio publishing networks can show us how engagement from BIPOC communities transformed the Toronto arts scene. How does a proactive presence of creative modes and cross-cultural solidarities encourage openings for new generations of artists? One key historical example from the early 1980s is where issues of Centerfold/Fuse magazine and the artists audio label Voicespondence created the space for dub poet and publisher Lillian Allen (Verse-To-Vinyl) and media artist and publisher Clive Robertson to collaborate. Following the production of Gayap Rhythm Drummers vinyl album, The Challenge, in 1982, Voicespondence releases a 12” EP, De Dub Poets (Lillian Allen, Devon Haughton, Clifton Joseph), in 1983.
Lillian Allen is a professor of creative writing at Ontario College of Art and Design University (OCAD). Two time JUNO Award winner and trailblazer in the field of spoken word and dub poetry, Allen artistically explores the aesthetics of old and new sounds in music to create her distinctive leading-edge brand of Canadian reggae with new world sounds in her poetry recordings, with her powerful reggae dub poetry/spoken word recordings including her latest single Woken & Unbroken (2018), album ANXIETY (2012), her groundbreaking first solo Juno award-winning album Revolutionary Tea Party (1986), a Ms. Magazine Landmark Album, followed by another Juno winner, Conditions Critical (1988). Her third album, Freedom & Dance (1999) and her recording for children and young people, Nothing But a Hero (1992), were released to critical acclaim.
Allen’s debut book of poetry, Rhythm An’ Hardtimes (1983), became a Canadian best-seller blazing new trails for poetic expression and opened up the form. Her other collections, Women Do This Everyday (1993) and Psychic Unrest (1999) are studied across the educational spectrum. Her literary work for young people includes three books: Why Me (1991), If You See Truth (1987), and Nothing But a Hero (1992). Multi-disciplinary and experimental, Allen’s creativity crosses many genres including radio, theatre, music and film; as writer, featured artist, and producer/director and national radio show host. She co-produced/co-directed Blakk wi Blak…k…k (1993), a film documentary on Jamaican dub poet Mutabaruka which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival.
Allen, who grew up in Jamaica, moved with her family as a teenager, studying in New York and Toronto. Founder of the Toronto International Dub Poetry Festival and a variety of cultural organizations such as Fresh Arts that empower youth, Allen has spent over three decades writing, publishing, performing, and doing workshop presentations of her work to audiences around the globe.
Clive Robertson is a performance and media artist and former artist curator/critic/publisher whose work after five decades continues to be researched and featured in domestic and international museum surveys and alternative venues. A co-instigator and programme director of artist platforms/collectives/spaces in Reading (UK), Calgary, Toronto, and Ottawa, Clive is a founding editor and publisher of the magazine Centerfold/FUSE (1976–2014), ARTON’S Video Publishing (1977–1980), and the audio art/music label, VOICESPONDENCE (1974–2007).
His books on performance art include w.o.r.k.s.c.o.r.e.p.o.r.t with Paul Woodrow (Beau Geste Press, 1975) and Performance art au/in Canada 1970–1990 with Alain-Martin Richard (Éditions Intervention and Coach House Press, 1991). Clive’s cultural policy studies book on self-administration, funding accountability logics, and ‘carings for art’ through mediation and representational struggles, Policy Matters – Administrations of Art and Culture, was published by YYZ Press in 2006. Then + Then Again – Practices within an artist-run culture 1969–2006 was a retrospective exhibition of his collaborative projects organized with Modern Fuel, Kingston, which toured Canada between 2007 and 2013. A retired Associate Professor of Contemporary Art History, Performance and Cultural Studies at Queen’s University, Clive is currently writing and producing audio and video texts for open research access.
Britta B. is a Toronto-based spoken word performer, teaching artist, emcee, and voice actor. Most recently, Britta was recognized as a 2020 Finalist for the Toronto Arts Foundation Emerging Artist Award.
She is an alumna of the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity Spoken Word Residency and a 2018 Toronto Arts Council Leaders Lab Fellow. Her works have featured in print, in sound, and onstage across North America in notable spheres such as the Art Gallery of Ontario, CBC Arts: Poetic License, The Walrus Talks, TEDx, and The Stephen Lewis Foundation.
As an artist-educator, Britta facilitates artist-training seminars, poetry workshops, and social justice programs in partnership with organizations like JAYU (pronounced JAH-YOU), Poetry In Voice, Prologue Performing Arts, and League of Canadian Poets. Britta is currently a Creative Writing MFA candidate at the University of Guelph. Find her on Twitter and Instagram.
Klive Walker is a Jamaican-Canadian author, editor, music historian, and cultural critic. His specialty is the history of reggae culture, its birth in Jamaica and its adventures in Canada, the United States, and the UK. He also writes about jazz, rock, and hip hop.
His book Dubwise: Reasoning from the Reggae Underground was published by Insomniac Press in 2005. His essay “The Journey of Reggae in Canada” appears in The Global Reggae Reader edited by Carolyn Cooper (UWI Press, 2012). His reggae timeline is showcased in Nadia Hohn’s children’s book Music (Rubicon, 2015). The book Ears, Eyes, Voice: Black Canadian Photojournalists 1970s-1990s (BAND, 2019) features his essay “Essential Thermometer.” Walker was a keynote speaker at the inaugural Global Reggae Conference in Jamaica and has guest lectured at Ryerson, University of Toronto, York University, and the University of Michigan at Ann Arbour.
He was born in the UK and lived there and in Jamaica. He currently resides and works in Toronto.
Desire Lines: the series
The trajectory of arts magazine publishing in Toronto from the 1970s onward has always been a space criss-crossed by lines of desire. This speaker series takes an algorithmically produced network diagram of publishing metadata as a jumping off point for story-telling around personal memories.
This series is organized by Felicity Tayler, Interim Head, Research Support (Arts and Special Collections) at the University of Ottawa Library and Michael Maranda, assistant curator. New generation respondents are curated by Faith Paré, made possible by an RA-ship from the SpokenWeb partnership. The background to the series comes out of a metadata analysis of three magazines from the seventies and eighties, Fuse, Border/Lines, and Fireweed, that Felicity put together with Tomasz Neugebauer of Concordia University.
We would like to offer thanks to the participants who are generously contributing to this program, which is deeply informed by the legacies of their practices. We would also like to thank our partners Artexte and SpokenWeb.