Riddim an’ Resistance: Lillian Allen, Clive Robertson, respondents Britta Badour and Klive Walker
Friday, February 26, 2021 @ 2 – 3:30 pm
See the transcript below.
“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.
Notes on this transcript:
The following transcript has been edited for clarity and published without a Q&A section in keeping with the other event transcripts of this series.
Michael Maranda: Welcome. In recognition of our place on the traditional territory of numerous Indigenous nations, the Art Gallery of York University thanks the Wendat, the Haudenosaunee, and the Anishinabek who have and continue to care for this land. This land is the subject of the Dish With One Spoon covenant wampum between the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, the Three Fires Confederacy, and other allied nations in an agreement to share the land and its resources. The gallery occupies land referred to in Crown Treaty 13, also known as the Toronto Purchase, which waschec originally signed in 1805. While the government of Canada and the Mississaugas came to an agreement on the claim arising from this treaty in 2010, we should also acknowledge the treaties are not isolated in time and the obligations outlined in them should be understood as part of an ongoing relationship, not a one-off historical exchange. I would ask that we all consider the territories in which we are currently residing and feel free to use the chat for your own personal acknowledgement. Thank you and welcome.
This is the first in a series of online conversations on art publishing in Toronto. It comes out of a project that Felicity Tayler and Tomasz Neugebauer are engaged in: a mapping of the metadata of a series of magazines active in the seventies and eighties to establish a network diagram of the social relations within the pages and the offices of those magazines. These maps are not end points, however. They merely point to potential moments to look at and interrogate with the hope of uncovering alternative histories from the time, a counterpoint to charisma-driven narratives that dominate received narratives. We are pursuing micro-histories, looking at specific archival objects to animate them; to place them not in a larger context but rather in a smaller context, one that allows the underlying relationships and the network itself to come to the fore.
I have been a colleague of Felicity’s for many years and had known of her interest in looking at this period in Toronto publishing. I’ve always been interested in her research and admired her tenacity in getting conversations happening. When I first saw the network diagram though, there was something about it that immediately made everything that she had described to me before make more sense. As someone who has been involved in publishing in Canada for decades, it reflected back on me how publishing, as an activity, works. It brings people together in networks and together they do things. It isn’t about one person and it isn’t about one publication. It’s about the spaces between all of these and all of them simultaneously. For me, it’s the lines and the interrelations that those lines underscore, and here it’s important for me to acknowledge that this series of conversations is itself a group effort.
First off, the ground work that Felicity and Tomasz and those people that she motivated to record this metadata is invaluable. Not only for the series, the organizing of this material into metadata form will have ongoing influence in understanding of the field. Her commitment and contributions to this field is immense, and then there’s Faith Paré, who is helping out in logistics and in organizing the respondents for all our panels. Josie Spalla has, meanwhile, been busy with the outreach and graphic design identity, and I want to publicly thank all three of these for their ongoing contributions; and then there’s two organizations that have been key in the coming together of this series, as both models and contributors. Artexte, which has been doing what we are attempting to do here for, well, forever [since 1980], acting as a repository and archive of the Canadian art scene. Their support for the project has been invaluable. There is also SpokenWeb, who facilitated this, joining us, but more importantly, it’s the perfect model to emulate how to have public conversations. Their project of retrieving the sonic artifacts of historical literary events, activating them in the present is an invaluable recharting of the course of literary history in the present. Then there is of course the AGYU itself and its team and its funders, which make this sort of programming possible. Thank you all for the help and encouragement getting the series here. Finally, before handing over to Felicity, there are our panelists, both today and in the future, actualized and projected to thank. If they weren’t involved in the way that they were at the time, we wouldn’t have anything to talk about today. I appreciate their willingness to engage in this process and look forward to the new nodes and edges created as a result, and that’s over to you Felicity.
Felicity Tayler: Thank you, Michael. Thank you for making the space for us today. I’m speaking to all of you from the unceded and unsurrendered Algonquin Anishinabek territory. I live here with my family and we’re very grateful for the many generations of stewardship for this land. Ottawa is a meeting place for many different peoples, and I’d also like to take some time in this moment to acknowledge the Black communities whose ancestors arrived here forcibly and who are experiencing an amplification of inequality in the pandemic moment. Further, I want to acknowledge the generosity of both Lillian and Clive for their trust and engagement in shaping this event, for taking the time to meet with us today and share their knowledge, and for taking the time to have many telephone conversations with me leading up to this point. I’ll also thank our respondents, Britta Badour and Klive Walker, who will share their reflections on the event in future texts and performances.
I’ll give brief versions of everybody’s bios now but I’ll also encourage you to look at the event page for expanded versions of the bios, which really encompass lifetimes of engagement.
So, first of all, Professor of Creative Writing at Ontario College of Art & Design University, OCAD, Lillian Allen is a two-time Juno Award winner and trailblazer in the field of spoken word and dub poetry. Lillian’s debut book of poetry, Rhythm an’ Hardtimes, became a Canadian bestseller, blazing new trails for poetic expression and opened up the form. Founder of the Toronto International Dub Poetry Festival and a variety of cultural organizations, such as Fresh Arts, that empower youth. Lillian has spent over three decades writing, publishing, performing, and doing workshop presentations of her work to audiences around the globe.
Clive Robertson is an artist, organizer, activist, writer, and publisher. He was Associate Professor of contemporary art history, performance, and cultural studies at Queen’s University. Founding editor and publisher of Centerfold magazine, which had a title change to Fuse, Art and Video Publishing, and Voicespondence, Clive has played a central role in the development of artist-run culture in Canada. His published works on performance and cultural policy are key texts in the field.
Klive Walker is also here with us today as a respondent and a knowledge holder. He’s 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. Published widely, Klive 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 Arbor.
Britta B, who is with us in a listening role today, 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 alumna of the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity Spoken Word Residency and a 2018 Toronto Arts Council Leaders Lab Fellow. Britta is currently a creative writing MFA candidate at the University of Guelph.
So, thank you. Thank you everyone. I love these silent snaps [from the Zoom audience]. I also want to thank everybody who’s joined us in the tyranny of the Zoom boxes. I really, truly wish that we were all in a room face-to-face and could look at each other. Many of the people who are in the room today have a direct experience with the histories that we’ll be speaking about and I also want to acknowledge that.
I’m going to talk a little bit about etiquette points in the Zoom room. I want to remind everyone that the event is being recorded and it will be published and transcribed for accessibility in the future. We have many participants with us today and we’re excited to see you submit your comments and your questions in the chat throughout the event. So there won’t be a Q&A session at the end. Your questions are welcome as a response to the activities as they go on and I’ll ask the questions on your behalf as the conversation between Lillian and Clive unfolds. This means that your texts statements or your questions that you put into the chat may appear in the published version of the video and the transcript later on.
I’ll also be pasting links in the chat to supplementary materials, so it’s worthwhile keeping open. I put a link in the chat already which I will put in again, because I see other people have added material, this link takes you to a folder and a kind of research repository that has articles that we’ll be referring to today, and also the network diagrams that I will show you momentarily.
I’m going to just do a little bit of work to position myself in the room, how I got here, and how we got to having this conversation. I’m going to screen share, so that you can see the network diagrams while I talk about them, and you also can see them through that link that I sent you to, and I’m going to try to keep this brief because we’re really here to listen to Clive and Lillian.
The network diagrams that you see on the screen right now is the visualization of a complete data set, that includes metadata describing the multiple contributors to three different magazines published in Toronto between the period 1976 and 1987. Even though some of these magazines had print runs that went on much longer into the future. The network itself begins when Centerfold began publishing, which later became Fuse. Arguably the most well-documented and historicized visual arts magazines from Toronto in this period are Canadian Art and General Idea’s File magazine. As someone who’s not from Toronto and who did not come up through the mentoring relationships in the city, these are histories and imaginary communities that are not really readily available to me. So for this project, I deliberately chose to shift my reading gaze away from those magazines and onto these three titles that were not comprehensively indexed and have not been widely written about in the same way.
The shift in gaze opened up a rift in received histories for me to see what cultural critics Monika Kin Gagnon and Scott Toguri McFarlane have noted of Border/Lines and Fuse. These were two discursive spaces where the language and practice of cultural race politics were developed in the 1980s and the 1990s and in their words, “they documented contemporary events in the arts and registered in their articles the immediacy of social relations that were so pressing in identity politics.” Monika and Scott also explained, using the language of networks, that these magazines operated as “crucial nodal points for the dissemination of discourse into other sociopolitical contexts.” In the early 1990s, cultural critic Himani Bannerji also noted that in comparison to other Toronto-based cultural magazines Fireweed and Fuse and, these are her words, “have been the most responsive in terms of infusing our race, gender, sexuality analysis throughout their volumes.” Although it’s also important to mention that another critical race historian, Vijay Agnew, has positioned Fireweed within the discursive field of second wave feminism, in which an emphasis on gender solidarity had the systemic effect of reinforcing racial discrimination present within the dominant culture, so there’s many complex dynamics that happen within these magazines and within the field of social relations that this network may or may not materialize.
More specific to the experience of our speakers today, Klive Walker, who’s with us, has written that Fuse was one of the few white media spaces that engaged with reggae culture and dub poetry. The three articles from Fuse that are shared with you today in that link are examples of this journalistic and cross-cultural engagement and if you read them closely, you can see why this media representation was significant at the time to building self-determination and agency in communities around Regent Park in Toronto, and reaching beyond to expanding publics, nationally and internationally.
So how did this panel come out of this network visualization? Artists networks in Canada can be described as a social movement, can be conceived of as a utopian form for non-hierarchical ways of living and practicing art and producing art, but the semiotics of digital networks that reify humans into data points also conjures the specter of what Safiya Umoja Noble calls the “algorithms of oppression,” which repeat and reinforce the unequal power relations of society.
Today’s critical data practices engage with this troubled history of mapping and data collection with a call for an engagement of multiple voices and readings. This multiplicity of responses gives the active mapping or the visual object of the network drawings meanings that work against the colonizing tendency of the method. This panel came into being because when I first went public with these networks in Toronto in 2018, I claimed the summer 1983 issue of Fuse connected the most people within the network. Not able to attend in person, Clive Robertson posted a response to me on Facebook, which was recently shared and it’s public so you can Google it and find it, elaborating on the significance of the interview featured in that issue with De Dub Poets, Lillian Allen, Devon Haughton, and Clifton Joseph. When I frantically Googled to find more information I found a video of a mix down session with De Dub Poets that Clive had then posted to YouTube. We will watch a new edit of this video together today.
To me, this video shows us a moment where we can see that artistic community is contingent upon acts of recognition from within that community and to, you know, to a different degree, recognition from without the community, as well, outside the community as well. And as my colleague, Faith, who’s also with us today, recently observed in this video and through this conversation, I think we might perceive the living and working that takes place when communities invite each other in. We also see how infrastructure, in this case the recording studio but it could also be a magazine, is an important meeting place. So, just a few more things before we move on to the video and I stop talking and we start listening to Clive and Lillian. I just want to read this, this network diagram, with you. So, network diagrams are notoriously hairballs and we’re not really sure what they are until we start to tell stories about them. The way that this diagram works is that the size of the name or the size of the dot representing the people in the network is determined by the frequency in which they have contributed to magazine issues. The lines between the people get bigger depending on how many times they contributed to magazine issues together and the size of the names and the dots also changes depending on how strongly they connect other people together in the network.
So, for instance, Klive Walker, who’s with us today, he’s in this network, but during the time period, he only published three articles in three issues and so his dot is probably pretty small. Likewise, Devon Haughton and Clifton Joseph are also in the network, but their dots and their names are smaller than Lillian’s. We can see Lillian Allen here and she’s sort of a medium-sized green dot and seems to bridge both the Fuse and the Fireweed community, and the community is read by the computer, but she bridges the magazine space that’s Fuse and Fireweed, which means that she could be read as part of the Fuse community that includes writers like Norman Otis Richmond, who’s right here, fairly close to her in the diagram, and she also has co-relationships with people who wrote, edited, and produced Fireweed, which is what this sort of orange line is telling us. Clive Robertson’s name over here is really large in the network because he connects many, many people together. So he’s depicted as important or sizeable, not because he’s a dominant voice or because of his writing, although he has written a lot. Rather, it puts a spotlight on him as a connector, and so this function of being a connector is a nice way to think about the relationship to Isobel Harry, who we see here, or Lisa Steele, for example, along with Lillian and everybody else in this Fuse section of the network, because, you know, he’s bringing them all together or it’s through him that they all kind of get connected to other people. So with that in mind, I’m going to play the video, and then we can start having a conversation.
[Video titled “Lillian Allen Riddim An’ Hardtimes Mixdown” plays. Shows Clive Robertson, Quammie Williams, Lillian Allen, Clifton Joseph, and Devon Haughton at Voicespondence in 1983. https://vimeo.com/515083606]
Clive Robertson: This is just going to be on for 20 minutes.
Clifton Joseph: Oh, good!
Clive: I tried telling you.
Clifton: I was just about to ask. This makes you tired, man.
Clive: Yeah, we’re just documenting through these albums as they go through.
Clifton: No problem, no problem.
Just ignore it.
Clifton: Well I can’t ignore it.
Clive: Come on, somebody spends half his life around studios but ignores my little TV camera.
Lillian: Yeah, right. ♪ Albert Johnson, Albert Johnson, Albert Johnson, dead ♪ ♪ Dead, dead, but this ya country hard eh ♪ ♪ But this ya country hard eh ♪ ♪ And wey wi come ya fa? ♪ ♪ Dread times, Jah signs, drum beat ♪ ♪ Heart beat, pulse beat, drum beat ♪ ♪ Riddim an’ hardtimes ♪
QUAMMIE[?]: Well, all I’m saying is if we can start out with the loudest possible moves possible that we can get from the voice and then take it back.
Lillian: ♪ Roots wid a Reggae resistance riddim ♪ ♪ Roots wid a Reggae resistance riddim ♪ ♪ Noh dub them call it ♪ ♪ Noh dub them call it ♪
QUAMMIE[?]: Okay, so that’s the voice?
Lillian: ♪ Heart beat, pulse beat, drum beat ♪ ♪ Riddim an’ hardtimes, riddim an’ hardtimes ♪ ♪ Riddim an’ hardtimes, riddim an’ hard, hard ♪ ♪ Hard, hard, hard, hard ♪ ♪ An’ him chucks on some riddim ♪ ♪ An’ him chucks on, an’ him chucks on some riddim ♪ ♪ An’ yu hear him say ♪ ♪ Riddim an’ hardtimes ♪ ♪ Riddim an’ hardtimes ♪ ♪ Music a prance, dance ina head ♪ ♪ Drumbeat a roll, hot like lead ♪ ♪ Mojah Rasta gone dread, dread, ♪ ♪ Natt up natt up Irie Red ♪ ♪ Riddim a pounce wid a purpose ♪ ♪ Truths an’ Rights mek mi hear yu ♪ ♪ It’s a drum, it’s a drum ♪ ♪ It’s a Drum Beat, Heart Beat, ♪ Pulse Beat, Drum Beat, Drum ♪ ♪ Roots wid a Reggae resistance riddim ♪ ♪ Roots wid a Reggae resistance riddim ♪ ♪ Now dub them call it, now dub them call it ♪ ♪ An’ him chucks on some riddim ♪ ♪ An’ yu hear him say ♪ ♪ Riddim an’ hardtimes, riddim an’ hardtimes ♪ ♪ Dem pounce out the music ♪ ♪ crav out the sounds ♪ ♪ Hard hard hard like lead ♪ ♪ An it bus im in im belly, an it bus im in the belly ♪ ♪ And a Albert Johnson, Albert Johnson, ♪ ♪ Albert Johnson, dead,♪ Dead, Dead, ♪ But this ya country hard eh, but this ya country hard eh ♪ ♪ And wey wi come ya fa? ♪ ♪ Dream times, Jah signs, Drum beat ♪ ♪ Heart beat, pulse beat, drum beat ♪ ♪ Riddim an’ hardtimes ♪ ♪ Riddim an’ hardtimes ♪ ♪ Riddim an’ hardtimes ♪ ♪ Riddim an’ hard, hard, hard, hard, hard ♪ ♪ An’ him chucks on some riddim ♪ ♪ An’ he chucks on some riddim ♪
Felicity: Amazing! So thank you. Thank you, Lillian and Clive for sharing that video with us today. Lillian, I’d like to ask you a question about, to open the conversation, I’d like to ask you a question about the video, if you’re you’re willing.
Lillian: All right. Yeah.
Felicity: Excellent! So, the question I wanted to ask was whether you could tell us a little bit about what you’re thinking when you’re watching this video. Sort of, what do you see when you’re looking at this video? Could you speak a little bit about the choice perhaps of De Dub Poets to record with Voicespondence and how this choice resonates with your community activism at the time with ImmiCan or other self-determined media activities that you were undertaking with the Domestic Bliss imprint — and I can direct people here to one of the articles from 1983, the Fuse interview from 1983 that has more details around these activities but what the print interview doesn’t tell me or doesn’t show us is what you and I have talked about leading up to today about what it meant to you, Lillian, that the Fuse folks such as Isobel Harry, Lisa Steele, and Clive attended De Dub Poetry events and why this was important to you at the time.
Lillian: Yeah. Thank you. Thank everybody for coming out. I won’t talk fast, but we have a lot. I wish people could have just tuned into the conversations that Clive Robertson and I’ve been having since we decided to do this. It’s just been pretty amazing with sparking each other, remembering things differently, different granularities, and just remembering the sense, you know, going back to that feeling of collaboration and solidarity. Even in that moment, I think we sensed that what we were doing was important and transformative. So, I wanted to say that.
Well, you know, De Dub Poets came on the scene in various ways. I was doing my stuff. Clifton was doing his stuff. Devon was doing his stuff. We showed up at all of the community events because we were doing political work. We weren’t artists. We were political folks and art was a dimension to the work. So, the work would not have existed if we didn’t have this political mission and this activist impulse. So, that’s the context for the work and part of what happened is this, us taking it to the community. We got invited to the various other spaces and it was, we met with a lot of resistance from some folks. You can check that out in, for example, League of Canadian Poets’ history, but there were some folks who just kept showing up to what we were doing and telling us that it’s really important and sometimes they would be crying and they wanted us to come to see what they were doing and become a part of it and, of course, those folks include numerous, a few people—not numerous—but people like Lisa Steele, Sarah Diamond actually, and Clive Robertson. Just remembering that I lived out at Weston Road and Clive Robertson made the trek, taking three buses to get to my house. To me, that was some kind of signal that here’s this person who was so committed and stepped outside of the formalities and whatever we had and wanted this human connection, and sat down with me and the baby and my hubby at the time and talked about possibilities. So that as far as we were concerned, there was somebody in our corner and when we got a bit more involved and we were invited, we didn’t know about A Space or some of these things. We didn’t stumble up on it. We were invited in. And when we came in, and it was very supportive, you know, I can’t remember any major wrangling or anything. So, we began to see this as part of what we were doing, and that’s what they were also reinforcing, people like Clive and Lisa, that this is an important part. There’s Paul Wong over there in Vancouver, we later met. This is a new, new world. This is our culture. And so, we were excited to be part of it and seeing, talking about Clive and specifically seeing some of the work he did, I can’t remember, of course, some of the pieces, but one of them was about domestic violence and it’s like, Goddamn man. Yes! You know, we need men to be talking about those things.
And so, we, you know, we, there’s a sort of a collaboration that started to happen. My connection, because I was already rooted in the community and trusted by my community, facilitated other people to make that connection, too, because before that remember, Toronto was a little apartheid city. Remember that there was days when, if I’m walking down the street with, you know, white folks and I see some Black peeps come in, I want to just separate a bit because it was going to be a bang-arang-adang or some questioning because of that mistrust, because already we were having police violence against Black folks and we were shut out of everything. So, when we got into this environment, it actually felt very supportive, it felt right. And then, being invited to participate and to see the equipment, at that time, nobody had any studio. Nobody could afford it, right? And studios were like $150 an hour or something. $50 is the minimum. So here’s somebody who wanted to support our work, willing to do it, and, in a way that we felt uncontrolled, that this is not somebody who wanted to control us but wanted the work to happen. So, yeah, so I would say that is part of the genesis of how we generated community in collaboration in that situation.
So, ask me another question cause I might’ve forgotten some stuff, but maybe Clive can jump in because, you know, there was a Gayap Rhythm Drummers that he recorded. He saw what was going on. We had lots of conversations. We have conversation with Lisa [Steeles] who, you know, at that time was probably my best friend. He initiated a lot of these things unprompted. So you can imagine our surprise and our appreciation in those situations. So maybe Clive, what attracted you to us, to me as a figure out there doing my stuff and, you know I wasn’t nice-ing it up or anything, and to De Dub Poets and the Gayap Rhythm Drummers and to Ato Seitu and this little impetus of Black culture that was bubbling in its own little pocket, which included Truths and Rights that the Parachute Club also connected with and broadened the Queen Street movement there. Can you talk a little bit about that?
Clive: Sure, I’m going to show some images in a minute but I’ll just answer this part of it. I saw, there’s a period of time here between 1981 and 83, where I soloed in on Clifton and Devon and of course the Gayap Rhythm Drummers, and the pattern that started was that Fuse was as you can see, Fuse began interviewing Lillian and interviewing De Dub Poets and Gayap Rhythm Drummers and others as it was developing its content. But the story is, of course, is much more complicated. I mean, the studio existed in Toronto. It had been a home studio before. The label itself had started in 1974 and I can show you some of that, and I will show you some of that, to try and show these interconnections between the magazine, the label, the audio work, and so on. I, instead of, getting a down payment for a house, I spent my money at Long & McQuade and bought all this equipment to, first of all, to create a home studio. And it was this facility that I had moved out of a place where I was living and so I was actually living at the studio, and it was in this studio where it was possible to record De Dub Poets and Fifth Column and the Plasterscene Replicas and Gayap Rhythm Drummers was funded and was recorded in a 24-track studio in Kensington South. So there are, as Felicity has mentioned, summary ways in which this network works, not through just through these three publications but through this desire, as I had run our different centers myself, to actually have social spaces and to sort of not prioritize these white wall galleries. And before I get to work with Lillian, the first, what Voicespondence does is to release first a video by a number of groups and bands. And the first one that was The Government with Andy Patterson sitting right up at the top of the screen there. So, and that was part of a music scene that, an alternative music scene and history that I’m, that where I’m not really part of, but I mean, it’s there. So, can I show these photos? Can I show these images now?
Felicity: Yeah, I’m just noticing that in the chat, there’s a lot of… Okay, so one of the things that these networks do is it makes people tell me all the other magazines that should be in this network and there are many, many magazines that need to be talked about in relationship to this network, and so Clive, I think this is an excellent point for you to show your images and to talk about what it means to be looking at networks and what you see in the work that you’ve done in your own practice, looking at these networks.
Felicity: Thank you.
Clive: So, here first, this is on the screen itself. So here is the grant, a notification of a grant from the Canada Council’s exploration for producing the recording of the Gayap Rhythm Drummers in 1982. I’m going to go through these quickly, but I want to show them because they make, they are these visual connections, the way to see networks, a different way to see networks, primarily, of course, through publications themselves, and then secondarily through mastheads, credits, table of contents, annotated chronologies of events by the active participants. So, I’m not going to, this is not a lecture. I can make these images available to anybody who wants to see them. This here, if you look at the bottom left here, I’m going to go to this… This is the first album that I produced and it’s in 1969 and I am at art school in Wales, and this is a thesis project and I produced one copy of this. That’s the audio, that’s part of the audio publishing audio connection right there. On the right-hand side is the earliest stages of Voicespondence that was funded by Explorations, too, coincidentally, and allowed this audio art magazine to be published, which deals with a different network, and Voicespondence exists before Centerfold and Fuse magazine, so you can see these projects themselves are switching backwards and forwards. In Calgary, the desire I had was to be able to publish in print and audio and also on video. But before I keep talking about Fuse as if it was my doing, I’d like to name a few people who initially made the project possible, including Marcella Bienvenue, Leila Sujir, Kenneth Coutts-Smith, Lisa Steele, of course, Tom Sherman, John Greyson, Lillian Robinson, Karl Beveridge, Carole Condé, Isobel Harry, Tanya Mars and Kim Tomczak. These are just the first, some of the first people. They’re not all of them. So, I want to thank them, which is making what I’m showing you possible.
This is a diagram of Centerfold/Fuse itself from 1976 to 1983. First in Calgary, as Felicity says, and then it moves to Toronto. As it moves to Toronto its capability to, or Artons, which is its publisher, to do things that we had been doing, like organizing performance and video festivals, drops away and we can’t really publish video. The Canada Council tells us to make up our mind. Which are we going to do? And we chose to do Fuse magazine. And later, of course, I come back and do other stuff. So, you can see it go from a tabloid to this news magazine format that was chosen so that artists and other people could write in the front as well as the back of the magazine. It leads into this period of artists doing journalism, culture journalism, that some of you are familiar with. This is a very important issue [Centerfold 3.3 (February/March 1979) The Body Politic Issue]. We did some, not so much some thematic issues, but some supplement issues. So this is 24 pages of artists working at Fuse at the time, Lisa Steele, myself, Robin Collyer, actually doing media analysis of TV and newspapers and attending The Body Politic trial itself in 1979. It’s important here to say that The Body Politic, which was just down the road from where we were located on Richmond Street and John, is where Centerfold/Fuse gets its headlines typeset. This  is the issue in which Isobel Harry and Lisa Steele first interview Lillian Allen, in an issue edited by Karl Beveridge on immigration and refugees, racism, and police violence in Toronto in 1979. This is another important cover that, or issue where we first took, John Greyson and I interviewed Gayap Rhythm Drummers. On the front, you see, prior to Riot Girls, a Toronto band with Susan Sturman in the middle called Mama Quilla II, and Lorraine Segato, who was a singer for this band in the top right corner. And on the back, you see Fuse already, it’s not that old, but it’s also, it’s already doing these ads like this. “Why we write for Fuse.” Getting people like Susan Sturman in the bottom left, Norman Otis Richmond, which is, who is the first Black columnist for Fuse, Tony Whitfield, George, the late, George Smith, and Nancy Johnson.
So, this I’m showing you this because this is what’s happening before we do De Dub Poets. So in 1982, after that issue, I get invited to create a video performance in Berlin for the “O Kanada” show, which is where I’m first working with Janet Martin, who I work with at Voicespondence and this is, as strange as it sounds, this is a performance art work about cultural policy and in particular about this, these sets of national hearings, this Royal Commission on the future of culture that was conducted in ‘81. And of course, not surprisingly, it downplays or excludes many feminist organizations and queer, gay organizations and at the top right, you’ll see, which I was trying to edit, you’ll see this at some other point but this is a series of interviews I did with the late Chris Bearchell and Gerald Hannon who are both Body Politic collective members, Jesse Daniel, from the Gayap Rhythm Drummers, and Krisantha Sri Bhaggiyadatta, and all four of them are talking about how there were politicized as artists in a period from 1972 to 82. So here’s some publicity we were able to do. This on the left, it’s, you know, my first solo electro-beat album that was mixed by a person called Michael Brook who was the director of A Space Video. I’m saying this because I’m trying to make these connections which we now know as Charles Street Video. And Michael also was one of the producers for Gayap Rhythm Drummers’ album, which this is the publicity for it as you can see on the right.
Here’s this issue of Fuse with the interview that I did with De Dub Poets before we start working with them on their EP and also, on the back, you can see Domestic Bliss Publications. You’ll see the significance of using the publication itself as a promotional device for music, too. I put this up on Facebook the other day in a different context. I want to show you this because in 1984, in 1982, A Space, there’s a takeover of A Space for the second time, or not the second time, but in the second time in the eighties. And Lillian Allen is part of this new configuration. Not only is she a part of it, she becomes the president.
This is 1984 and you can see here, I don’t know if you can read it, but this is the structure of the way that the programming was done at A Space. And if you look down to the music part of it or I’ll read it for you anyway, you can’t see it, I know. There’s Janet Martin, Chris Devonshire, Ayanna Black—the famous late Ayanna Black—Susan Sturman, and Chris Devonshire, and here, Janet and, or I should say Susan Sturman, Janet, and, not only myself, organized this women’s band performance series at the Rivoli.
This is an important, and probably the only piece of publicity that I have about a lot of things, but this was by Liam Lacey, who then was a sort of new music critic or a music critic at the Globe and Mail. And here he is writing. But anyway this is a review of the Voicespondence project or label and in particular writing about De Dub Poets and on the left-hand side, as many of you that are those of you that were involved in alternative music scene in the eighties, nineties, two thousands, whatever, the real importance of community and campus radio and you’ll see a chart here on the left, and, you know, these numbers are not to be taken too seriously, but, you know, leading this chart is Lillian Allen. Well, unfortunately, Laurie Anderson and then De Dub Poets, the Meat Puppets, The Smiths, John Cale, Fifth Column and so on and so forth, Billy Bragg. So there was a space there for this to happen. I’m showing you these now, because it follows on from here. Isobel Harry again, who was an editor of Canadian Composer as well as being a photographer, and here’s, again, being able to use the publication for Lilian’s award-winning “Revolutionary Tea Party” album and the follow-up album, too.
This is another, this is 1988 now, Fuse magazine and this is an ad for Lillian’s “Conditions Critical”. And here it will say the mail order through on the left is a part of a mail order catalogue for Voicespondence designed by John Greyson and on the right, you’ll see Lillian’s Verse to Vinyl catalogue, listing the, that’s on the inside cover of the magazine I just showed. Here I wanted to put this in. Just it’s pure publicity for Clifton Joseph and myself with an what unfortunately looks like an Aryan colored haircut, but you savour photographs of yourself, you know, when at different points in your life. This is just to end this. This is the end, the last two slides. This is an article I wrote for Lillian. I wrote for Tanya Mars and Johanna Householder’s book Caught in the Act on women performance and they asked me to write a piece on Lillian’s work in 2004. And this I put on Facebook last night, which I was honoured to have the possibility of introducing two keynote speakers. One of whom is Amiri Baraka and the other one, which is Lillian Allen. Well, that’s it.
Felicity: Thanks Clive. Lillian, I don’t know if I, you know, just looking at the image of the Voicespondence catalogue and the Verse to Vinyl catalogue next to each other. I don’t know if you want to talk a little bit about the connection between Voicespondence and Verse to Vinyl and, you know, even going back to De Dub Poets?
Lillian: Yeah, you know what, I even want to go back a little bit further. Yeah, and maybe Klive Walker can help me out here, too. I just want to go back to, you know, Kaie Kellough talks about some of the forms of Canadian racism. And one of it is kind of neglect, lack of access and so forth, and that you basically have to come fully formed to get anywhere to know what’s going on, right? So, I think I want to just go back a little bit to talk about some of the stuff that was happening in the Black community before we got there because we had no access. We didn’t understand. We didn’t know anybody who got government grants. We didn’t know about these organizations, as I said, and but we were doing a number of things. We were publishing with things like Gestetner, anybody remember that? Am I pronouncing it right? That machine you roll off and print stuff. I actually found some in my archives. We were making these broad sheets to get the word out, to get, you know, our poetry out. We made a number of works and we took to Caribana and we would try whatever the issue was that year, whether it’s, you know, our kids in school being streamed, or police, racism, brutality, or apartheid. That was part of our publishing. And I know you’re doing magazine publishing as a comportment there, but I just wanted to give you that. So, we were also doing cassettes because I purchased a cassette machine that duplicated its cassette and by the time I was done with that, the machine went wobbly and people would say, “Oh man, this is quality so bad”. But there’s a whole bunch of other things that were happening in the community that got us situated and got us to that point. So when the photocopying machine came out, that made a big difference because now we could actually pay—and it was expensive at that time—to get the stuff duplicated. So we started to make things, you know?
But I just want to put one little point here. I worked as a community legal worker in the Regent Park area and after work, Clifton would come in and we would work the typewriters and the printers and produce materials. There were some other things we produced for other people, too. In terms of Domestic Bliss, we came together with the person who was doing that also. We were already doing our thing and we figure, you know, make space and we went with that name. It only lasted for a short while because of, you know, political tensions, which are inevitable, and then we went into our own kind of publications. So Frontline, much later on Well Versed. We had a partner from the Women’s Press, Maureen Fitzgerald. But Verse to Vinyl was a dream. And, actually, it was a dream that you couldn’t see how it happened but seeing Clive do his thing really helped us to visualize that this was possible and we could do it and in fact, people were amazed in the community that we were able to do it. So, the whole idea was very much like Voicespondence, to support the artists—and not just in recording but a whole, you know, performing arts, arts as activism, and so forth.
So that was the relationship and, you know, Clive might not remember, but actually the name Verse to Vinyl came out of a conversation with me and Clive. And I’m talking about, isn’t this just perfect? And he named an award after that and I’m like, “Yeah, this is just exactly what we’re doing”. And I went with that name. So, Verse to Vinyl was both a recording company. Didn’t have the equipment. We should have. If we’d understood what it was, we probably would have bought the equipment ‘cause it cost $40,000 to do “Revolutionary Tea Party” in studio money alone, right? That was the kind of stuff at that time, to tell you about access and barriers, right? And then we had distribution. We supported artists, we went around the country, get invited to festivals. Didn’t have a distribution deal because they didn’t, although the record companies were ringing off the hook—not the record company, the record stores, because people were coming in asking, and I had a very healthy mail order situation.
So, Verse to Vinyl actually made money to support the publication of other people, various books from Well Versed and a number of books. Itah Sadu, probably the first book in Canada for children with a person in a hijab. We were just representing what was normal and natural in the community. And also doing the network of providing festival people with the names of the kind of artists that we could bring, and I would take them with me as part of my deal. I’d say, “I would come to your festival but I need to bring Motion,” and pulling some young people together and giving them a name, United We Stand, and taking them out to festivals with me and all of that. So it’s all fluid and, you know, I just haven’t been in the actual archives to remember specific things, but it was all part of this thing that was bubbling up. And so, we were made visible, you know. Before that, we were not. So I didn’t want that to be lost because that lack of access is what makes us invisible and erase the work. So that we were made visible, that we became visible, we were able to make that connection and that we were there. Our very presence challenged the normative notion of what Canadian culture is. We didn’t have to say anything but luckily we were political like hell! We were not just political. We were radical. We were rabble-rousers. We were calling things into account. We were ready to roll up our sleeves, to be in committees, to lead organizations and so forth. So, I want that part to be felt by everybody, and I wonder if Klive Walker could jump in on that? And thank you, Clive, that’s, you know, we’ve talked about what you presented and it’s lovely which it fits right in.
Felicity: Yeah, I also just want to note that there was kind of an active chat around, you know, what’s happening with Clifton Joseph these days? And so, and somebody asked if Klive Walker had any news on that, so Klive, if you have additions at this point, we’d love to hear them.
Klive Walker: Yeah, I just wanted to, can everybody hear me?
Lillian: Yeah, man.
Klive: Yeah. So, I just want you to add to something that Lillian was talking about earlier in terms of stepping back and kind of understanding the issue of access that, of course, in the Black community we’ve always, always, you know, probably dating back to post-slavery had some form of communication that we put out there, and certainly in the fifties and sixties, there was print newspapers and magazines in the Black community. Obviously one of the most sort of famous ones is Contrast, a newspaper which was kind of like a mainstay. Before I came to Canada, I was told by somebody who lived in Toronto that the first thing you have to do is go to Bathurst Street and get Contrast. There was also an arts magazine, which was a glossy called Spear.
Lillian: Oh, my golly!
Klive: And Spear is a magazine that a number of people that I grew up with in the community, I grew up with Lillian in the community, but I also grew up with Dionne Brand and Makeda Silvera. Both Makeda Silvera and Dionne wrote for Spear. In fact, yeah, Dionne’s review, a film review that Dionne did in Spear was just, I read it back just recently, something was written in the early seventies and I did some research on it. I was just completely floored. It was so brilliant. But so I wanted to kind of add that to what you said Lillian about, you know, that there was some Black infrastructure but I do like your term, apartheid, because that really is a great description of what was happening then, lack of access and lack of outreach, because, you know, obviously as an artist, you want to reach everybody and you don’t want to be limited to your audience, and yes, your natural audiences are what you want to connect with, but you also want to reach out to the broader society, and so certainly Fuse and Clive and Lisa and my first editor at Fuse, Isobel Harry, certainly were very cool connections in that regard, and so I had a couple of questions I wanted to kind of throw out there.
The first one to Lillian about, you know, intersectionality in terms of what you think about the context of what we’re talking about now, in terms of these magazines and the record labels and so on, and the idea of intersectionality which is looking at sexual preference, race, and women, right? In terms of, if you can say something about that and how that fits into Felicity’s chart and yeah, I think, yeah, let me just leave it at that for the time being.
Lillian: Well, that’s interesting because, at the time, all kinds of debates were raging. I mean, the thing about the apartheid nature and, you know, “you talking to white people?!” You know, ba-da-da! That fear that we’re going to get in a situation of hurt and mistrust and, you know, racism, it was perilous among white folks because that’s what we experienced with our children in school, with the police, and so forth. Also as various other issues started to emerge, the one around sexuality, sexual diversity, lesbians and gays. There was homophobia flying everywhere. So issues of even reading or performing at gay pride was a big debate in the community, and it was really important to us that we took a stand and then face whatever we had to face. So, the thing about women also was another big thing. It was well known that the women who were benefiting from what we were going on about women’s rights were at home taking care of their husbands, some of us were told that. So, yeah, but what, the collaboration that we were able to build, the trust that was offered to us, and the ease with which we were able to move among people that went beyond bureaucracy and went into friendships, I think, for me, is what gave me the strength to keep working across cultural and racial lines.
If I didn’t have that experience, there is no way I would be doing that. It’s just because I was very lucky to have had that experience, and I had a bit of it in New York where I’d studied before, but coming here and on Queen Street with, you know, A Space and as I go again, Lisa, Sarah, Clive, and a variety of other people who would actually stand up for us. Even when people didn’t understand exactly what was going on, they were willing to stand up and to come out to demonstrations and to let us know that what we were doing was important. I’ll mention too, that when I was contemplating leaving my legal work job and becoming a full-time poet, Sara Diamond wrote me an eight-page letter to tell me how important my voice was and that anybody could be a lawyer. So, you know, those things are really important. You know, that human connection? And I hold these people in my heart. I mean, I imagine that they have done for me what I do for them. I will do the same for them. If they were in situations of danger in places where, you know, I was in a dominant situation or whatever, I would definitely be protecting them and at any risk whatsoever. So, that has been my personal gift, I would say that, and that is what has given me the strength to keep believing in the vision that we can do it as a human race, and I’m still in there, you know? Seven decades, I’m still in there. I’m still hoping. And some of my peeps are still standing.
There are a lot of [other] people, too, I’m just focusing on the cultural aspects and, the route we made on Queen Street. But I’m thinking of people like Beverly Bain, of course, the other writers, Dionne Brand, Makeda Silvera, and so on. I’m even thinking earlier than that, when it was more risky than that, but it was the personal relationships that made, you know, intersectionality. We didn’t have the word then, but it was so natural because the idea was, this is a new culture. You are, we want to be part of it. You are part of us, and this is what we stand for and come be with us and share with us. That was what I got during my time with the folks at Fuse and A Space and Queen Street, Rita Davis, and so forth. Did I answer, Klive?
Klive: Yeah, yeah, no. That’s exactly it. Exactly it, Lillian. I did have, wanting to ask Clive—my namesake— about the writers at Fuse and you mentioned in passing, kind of ran right past it, that Norman Otis Richmond was the first Black columnist at Fuse. But I happen to know that because at the time, I mean, because the Black community, writers of the Black community, we know, we knew each other. So, I remember at the time seeing Dionne on the subway and her having read one of my articles in Fuse, which was kind of stunning to me, but, you know, I also know for sure that Marlene NourbeSe Philip also wrote for—
Lillian: Yeah. Yes.
Klive: And I want you to maybe talk a little bit about that, and talk a little bit about the journalism and why you were open to us?
Clive: Thanks for the question. I’ve been staring at the wall where I have some pieces of paper to prompt me on very specifics, and one of them that isn’t there that I wrote was about Marlene NourbeSe Philip, who I think published 16 out of 24 articles of a collection of hers in Fuse. And Marlene, of course, or NourbeSe, rather, also wrote for Border/Lines and other publications, too. I think the connection was, and you can see if this was a different type of panel or if we were in different circumstances where we could share more material, you can see where the connection with NourbeSe over her work as an advocate, as a writer, an advocate to change arts policy. And this is what Fuse and Centerfold were doing themselves, alongside our many different issues. And this is where Lillian Allen becomes, and we don’t yet have a collection of her writing, but this is where Lillian Allen becomes key in terms of working into the nineties, for making this intervention which changes the artists-run center movement completely. But you have Cameron Bailey and NourbeSe Philip writing together, monitoring the changes to the Toronto Arts Council, the Ontario Arts Council, and the Canada Council in terms of the moves that they’re making to create as they, in their terms, diversity rather than equity, or at least initially. And so, Fuse is a critical place. It’s a place where, when I said initially the idea that there are presumed political effects. There are political effects.
We were very surprised as media artists in Centerfold to learn through correspondence that people within the public service in Ottawa and Ontario were reading what we had to say, right? This idea of cultural journalism, you know, the Globe and Mail didn’t have anybody that they called a cultural journalist until the mid-eighties or something. But to come back to your question, the reasons why Black writers, people of color writers were involved or saw Fuse as a space, as Lillian and Clifton, as De Dub Poets said, it was a space where they weren’t asked to write a particular— their own agency and their own agenda was what was publishable and we managed to be the cover within arts funding under a publication. As did—and I want to mention this because I can see Monika there, Kin Gagnon, who doesn’t just want to be identified with Parallelogram but Parallelogram was such an important publication that was doing a similar thing Fuse was doing and, in fact, has a network that’s even larger in some ways, or, you know, it’s more extensive across the country and in a very specific way. So it wasn’t just Fuse, it wasn’t just Parallelogram. The Body Politic, Broadside, there are a lot of publications that for us were way more important than Canadian Art or— I don’t want say, you know, don’t start me going, but, you know, that other type of publication. Is that any good, Klive?
Klive: No, that’s great. That’s great. That’s great, Clive.
[Lillian holds up an article featuring herself and Clifton, Klive laughs]
Felicity: We have about 10 minutes left and I wonder, Lillian, do you want to do a show and tell of the objects you have on your couch next to you?
Lillian: I just got a whole bunch of my archives back, about a half of it from somebody who’s digitizing it for me. So, just yesterday, so two days, I just put my hand in and pick something out, and this is me and Clifton Joseph at a cruise missile event. You can see we were just babies. And by the way Clifton is around and he has more than enough work for a book and I’m trying to get him to do it, ‘cause that’s how it happened in the past. I have to go get it and take it.
And this was 1983, I think, NOW Magazine. When I was just out there, as they say, on the turf. And I did want to bring this in, it maybe has no connection. This is the Lexicon at York, 1977. There was a real battle for the editorship. I was competing with Judith Doyle, whose dad was the editor of the Globe and Mail at that time, and the International Socialists joined forces with me and we won. So, just to show that, you know, the whole battle for expression and journalism and generating community through writing and culture is a protracted one, and it’s taking its form everywhere.
Why Me? from Well Versed. Clive showed De Dub Poets. Just want to talk about De Dub Poets a little bit because I really love this cover that was done by Kwasi [Ahmad] who left Canada and went to live in Iran. And we basically sat down and talked about it, and we wanted to represent how we felt about ourselves in the community, what we saw, and this is a very good example of a Black aesthetic ‘cause this is our interpretation of Eglinton Avenue. And some of the details you can’t see, like the mailbox says, “Chocolate City News”. The street is Dub Street. I mean, you look in the back, you see the stylization and even the colours, although we couldn’t afford colour for the album cover. We love the fact that it was black.
So, just wanted to show that and that we ourselves were a collective, seemed to have captured the imagination of a lot of white Canadian artists. I mean, we, it’s not like we were doing stuff intertwined. We were just together hanging, traveling together, doing our stuff one by one. We were definitely a team and that made it all the more powerful, and I think Derek Walcott says, “You’re either a nobody or a nation”. And we are a nation. Yeah. Are we good?
Felicity: Yeah. Thank you, Lillian. Oh, we have a question from Jamelie Hassan—
Lillian: Oh, my God!
Felicity: Who asks, how do we take care of our generation’s archives of this activist cultural history? It’s a big question. We have five minutes left. But it’s a resonating question.
Lillian: You’re asking me?
Felicity: Clive, do you maybe want to take this?
Clive: Yeah. I mean, I live in a two-bedroom apartment. If you could see the camera behind, if you could see behind here, I’ll point over my shoulder, whoops, somewhere over there, there are boxes and boxes of Fuse magazine, Parallelogram, and there are files, my own files, that are supposed to go into an archive, but I can’t let them go now because I’m trying to, after five years, I’m actually trying to write and I can see Vera Frenkel there and as an artist, peers like Vera Frenkel are always telling us to write. So, I’m trying to do that now, but the question is taken very seriously and there is the question of where archives go right now and what happens to them, and the work that Felicity’s doing raises a number of prompts that we all can receive and we have to do something about. Digitizing materials that can be used for research, including magazines, that can be indexed and so on and so forth, and a lot of this work hasn’t been done and these collections of materials, aside from in people’s individual work, is very important.
Felicity: Yeah, I think—I’m a librarian. I’m an artist. I work in an institution. My experience with these kinds of archives is that it’s really important that the community who built the archive feel that it goes into a place that is reflective of its values in as much as it becomes part of the institution that it worked against it during its time. At University of Ottawa, we have the Women’s Archives that came out of the magazine The Other Woman, essentially, and had many different kind of evolutions over time, and there’s lots of contradictions to have it in the university archive now. It’s just to say that it’s not an easy act or it’s a series of difficult decisions, I think, to make that archiving happen.
Lillian: Yeah. I just wanted to say something about that. My colleague, Dori Tunstall, Dean of Design at OCAD U, she proposes that this archiving stuff be something alive. And that in fact, they’re like big events that would happen and people bring their stuff in, and then it’d be a two-way street that you can talk about it to the community and then you can archive it. But that, in fact, we start to think about these things in a way that’s connected to community and that is alive. And I think I love that idea and, yeah.
Felicity: Yeah, I’m seeing many, many examples of archives that are examples of initiatives where people are digitizing and making available materials that are related to histories that we’ve talked about today. Not all of them have the preservation power to go on into the future the way that an institutional archive does, and that’s the double-edged sword of the choice between active community archiving and the institutional archive. But what I do want to do is just give a shout out to Andrea Fatona’s “The State of Blackness” project, which is also actively wrestling through this question of how to bring together material and then make it available to the communities for which it matters the most. Artexte has also been instrumental to providing access to some of the materials that we’ve had available to us today, and I personally would not have been able to construct the visualizations that I constructed if I hadn’t harnessed external funds and then worked directly with Artexte in order to be able to describe the magazines that we’ve talked about today because they’re not described, you don’t even have indexes. Although Border/Lines has digitized versions of it online, but it’s not indexed anywhere. You can’t search it by article.
Lillian: We have to make some demands on those institutional archives. I don’t just think we can leave it like that and now is a good time. We do have to say these things need to come alive. Even what they have already, a couple of times a year, they need to bring it out to the community, invite the community in, and we can figure it out for them but we do have to make demands. We have to transform the way that we archive, do museums, and so on and not make them into detention centres that, you know, that detain these documents and stuff, and only few people can get to them.
Felicity: That absolutely true. I didn’t want to sound like we shouldn’t be fighting for the institutional archives to become living, breathing, relationships with the communities that surround the institution and actually become the institution, because people from the communities do enter the institution and become part of the archival profession. It’s also actively seeking out archivists from the communities within the collections. These are all kind of simultaneous parallel actions that need to take place and we need to make those demands.
Clive: I think the other thing we need to do to bring this back into the spirit and which Lillian and I have worked is we need to redirect some of these million-dollar SSHRC grants or large grants from arts councils to major institutions to do this work because quite frankly, as much as I, of course, endorse the idea of paying grad students, as we do, $45 an hour to do menial tasks so they can get their own awards, the people that we’re asking to get oral histories from, that we need those oral histories, we need those people to be able to access their own archives to actually inform those histories, they get paid nothing, right? So, we get, at the other end of the age scale, we’re getting people who— There are real concrete issues. One of them is how, forget the pandemic, who is going to do this labor of actually doing this work that most people don’t want to do? Let’s be blunt. And secondly, are we going to, I mean, some of us have worked in these educational institutions, how are we going to support the people from who we want the oral histories from? From who we want this knowledge transfer from? It doesn’t have to be just money but how are we going to support them?
Lillian: Yeah, yeah. That’s great. I just want to give a shout out to Jamelie Hassan, I can’t go without saying that, who has been one of those people to a touchstone in the trenches, have reached out to me, to my community, and established a sister-to-sister relationship, so I want to say that. I did also just want to mention, if we have two more minutes and maybe someone can tell me, Indigenous connections, because in terms of the mainstream that was very late in coming, although my first involvement with Indigenous artists and Indigenous issues happened at A Space, and you’d be talking about the late, mid to late seventies. So maybe we could, is that okay if we just sort of make some kind of connection to that?
Felicity: Yeah, I think it’s important. Okay, so I’ll be really honest. There isn’t a huge amount of Indigenous presence in the networks that I have drawn and it’s a question that I’m actively wrestling with and that we’ll address hopefully in a later panel, but I really appreciate you bringing this forward for discussion, Lillian, and I think if you want to take a bit more time to talk about that then I invite people to stay on the call to listen.
Lillian: Clive, did you have anything to say? We talked a little bit about that.
Clive: Yes, we did.
Lillian: Joane Cardinal[-Schubert]?
Clive: I think we did. We can all name and recognize a number of people who can speak more clearly to when the presence of that is felt in terms of articles, exhibitions. You know, Lee-Ann Martin, Ryan Rice. There’s so many Indigenous scholarly resources that we know and we see all every day now, I think, but to do what Lillian, or what Felicity and Lillian and I are a part of, or Klive, have attempted to do here, it is a whole different area that needs to be not only discussed but needs to be made public and in this type of forum, right? I mean, what this discussion leads to is what other type of topics can be dealt with in this way and what are the other alternative means to this? You know, obviously academic conferences, but ways in which not the knowledge and the questions and the complex histories can actually come back into being, because it’s not the way I see Will Straw up there. It’s not that these haven’t been here, some of them are coming around again. But I think the encouraging thing is that it’s never over. That there are always— people can take on these responsibilities, take on these initiatives and not just redo it again but to do it from their own perspective and to say loudly what is important and of use to themselves, right? I think that’s how we started, or started off.
I just want to say one more thing. I want to recognize Lillian as an amazing producer whose work I don’t really know completely, but in the sense that of what she did to raise money and to bring resources to people. And although it seemed to be that Voicespondence did work, we did collaborate together, but I want just to say this, that when Voicespondence was in trouble because it wasn’t publicly funded, Lillian was one of those people who co-signed a collateral agreement with the credit union to keep it going and when it collapsed, of course, then I sold everything to make sure that Lillian wasn’t hurt by that. But it’s really, aside from our friendship, these other ways in which we interact with each other, sometimes economically, too, are really important. So, thank you, Lillian.
Lillian: Oh, thank you, man. Thank you. You know, I just have to say we did it. We transformed the city, you know? So, there are two small things, if you don’t mind? I’d like just hear a little thing from Britta B. and then I want to give you an anecdote before I leave. So, Britta B. is actually a spoken word artist dub poet and she’s going to be doing a response piece to this, either in creating poetic works for performance or in writing for publication, not sure, whatever grooves her. Let me introduce you to her and let’s hear a little bit from her.
Britta B: Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you so much, Lillian, for giving me the space to share my voice. Yeah, so I’ve been listening, I’ve been a fly on the wall much like a lot of you have, and I have the opportunity to create from this conversation. So, actually, you know what? If you’re cool if I share a little something, just a small little portion of something that’s inspired me along the way. Of course, I’ve taken many pages of notes here today, so I feel really good about that. But just sometimes on the way to writing, you write little things, and I don’t know if it’s something we’ll see later with my creation but just in case we don’t, why not share it?
“She could be read, a medium-sized green dot, her relationships. Who’s who? Who connects her to the connector? We bow our heads to her vows and vowels of drum beat, heart beat, pulse beat, coming through the voice on the tape.”
And I’ll leave it at that.
Lillian: Thank you. Thank you. And if you don’t mind, I’d love to share a little anecdote with everybody, just the kind of thing that gives me just extreme joy to think about and to show the connectivity. Well, when my daughter, who’s now 40, same with Laroux, they were best friends for many, many years and Laroux had a best friend whose name I can’t remember. Do you remember her name, Clive? Laroux’s best friend growing up?
Lillian: Yeah, Tallulu. Of course, Tallulu. And the kids were playing. They often played together. John Greyson would often take them places, and we had sleepovers and so forth. I saw them in a room one day playing, lots of play, and they were playing “meeting”, and they were fighting about who is the president, who will take the notes, and who is the treasurer, and they just organized themselves and just had a meeting! I just wanted to share that with you. All right. I’m complete.
Felicity: All right. Well, if Lillian says she’s complete, I think we’re allowed to start closing the event. So, on that note, I’d like to say thank you to Lillian, to Clive, to Klive, to Britta, to Faith, to Josie, to Michael, and to the AGYU and to Artexte and to SpokenWeb.
Lillian: And to you, Felicity.
Clive: Oh, thank you, Felicity.
Felicity: I couldn’t do this without all of you including everybody who came today.
Lillian: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Much appreciation. Talk soon.
Felicity: Bye bye.
Lillian: Thanks a lot.
Klive: Thank you everyone.
Lillian: Thank you. Thank you, Klive. And Clive.
Audience off screen: Thank you.
Lillian: Nice to see you, Vera. All right, everybody.
Klive: Bye bye.
Audience off screen[Vera Frenkel]: This was wonderful.
 De Dub Poets interviewed by Clive Robertson, “Rhythm and Resistance: Maintaining the Social Connection” Fuse 7: 1&2 (Summer 1983): 32–38.
 Susan Gingell, “‘Always a Poem, Once a Book’: Motivations and Strategies for Print Textualizing of Caribbean-Canadian Dub and Performance Poetry,” Journal of West Indian Literature 14, no. 1/2 (2005): 220–259.
 Isobel Harry, “Truth and Rights and ImmiCan” Centrefold 4, no. 1 (November 1979) Immigration: Do You Have Canadian Experience? Issue edited by Karl Beveridge.
 Interview by John Greyson and Clive Robertson, “Gayap Rhythm Drummers:” Fuse 5, no. 4&5 (May/June 1981).
 De Dub Poets interviewed by Clive Robertson. “Rhythm and Resistance: Maintaining the Social Connection,” Fuse 7, no. 1&2 (Summer 1983), 32-38.
 Liam Lacey, “Label backs artists exploring culture’s frontiers,” Globe and Mail, March 24, 1984.
 See Fuse 10, no. 1&2 (Summer 1986). Propaganda: 10th Anniversary issue.
 Clive Robertson. “Lillian Allen: Holding the Past, Touching the Present, Shining Out to the Future” Caught in the Act : An Anthology of Performance Art by Canadian Women, eds. Tanya Mars and Johanna Householder. (Toronto: YYZ Books, 2004), 102-110.
 In the early 1980s, the Canadian Government allowed the US government to test Cruise Missile guidance systems in northern Alberta, spurring on numerous anti-proliferation/anti-war demonstations.
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