Archive forApril 2009 - Peter Sibbald's Blog About Photography and Filmmaking

CBC Ontario Today Interview with Hugh Sibbald

CBC Ontario Today Interview with Hugh Sibbald

with Rita Celli April 23, 2009 ©CBC, 2009


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Web Gallery of Red Barn Fire is now up

For a gallery summarizing the events of the past several days, please go to my web site and navigate to my Work page and  “Special Projects & News”


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Official Red Barn Theatre Blog Launched

To those who have contacted me through this blog concerning the events of the past few days,  thank you all for your interest, notes, comments and remembrances.

The Official Red Barn Theatre Blog went up late last night at In the coming days photos, video, audio interviews and stories will be added. As well the Official Red Barn Theatre Blog  will be the nerve centre for ongoing updates and any further news concerning plans for a rebuilding collection fund, rebuilding and plans for the 60th Diamond Jubilee season of the Red Barn Theatre for summer 2009.

The rest of the Sibbald family and I as well, I’m sure, as other local Red Barn supporters and volunteers would greatly appreciate if you could also send/re-send and post or re-post your comments and stories to the Official Blog. In particular, we are looking for your personal stories and remembrances, the livelier, the better.

Please note that your voices are extremely important to hear: the more support we can get, the easier it may make it to access public and private funding in the future to enable the possibility that the old girl may rise from the ashes.



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The Red Barn Theatre Fire of April 18, 2009

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I up loaded this video to CBC Newsworld where it has been running for much of the day.


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Final Act at The Red Barn

Jackson's Point, Ontario Canada. Firefighters from the Georgina Fire Department battle to keep the fire at The Red Barn Theatre from spreading to the surrounding brush and nearby senior's residence. In the end all that survives the fire is the barn's signature silo. ©Peter Sibbald, 2009. All Rights Reserved.

Last night The Red Barn Theatre gave it’s final performance. To an audience of fewer than one hundred, mostly comprised of family, Briars Resort employees, friends, neighbours, Georgina Mayor Rob Grossi and over 30 fire fighters of the Georgina Fire Department, the Red Barn —my family’s barn— in its final and arguably most spectacular performance, burned to the ground.

Theatre historian David Gardner is researching the history of the Red Barn and a small synopsis of his research into The Barn’s illustrious history can be found on the Red Barn Theatre web site at . Originally erected in the early 1800s and rebuilt by my Great-Great Uncle Frank Sibbald in the 1870s to be the family barn attached to The Briars, then being run as a farm, The Barn—as it has simply come to be known—has played stage to nearly everyone who was anyone in the Canadian theatre and music scene for 59 years.  This was to have been its 60th season. Created as a theatre by Toronto-born actor Alfred Mulock in the spring of 1949, and leased from my grandfather Jack Sibbald, then Reeve of Georgina for $1.00, The Red Barn was one of the first professional summer theatres in Canada, predating even the Stratford and Shaw festivals.

Like so many Canadian cultural institutions, The Barn has always operated very close to, or below the line. From Brian Doherty in 1950, who would go on to found The Shaw Festival, Vern Chapman who would become the President of Canadian Actor’s Equity through Bill Glassco who would found Toronto’s Tarragon Theatre, The Barn has run through a tumultuous history of financial struggle from the first season onward. Management was finally somewhat stabilized when it was transferred to the not-for-profit Lake Simcoe Arts Foundation, founded by my father John Sibbald in 1973. Under their auspices, and a series of professional theatre managers and artistic directors, The Barn has been the labour of love for a small army of volunteers and a grateful recipient of Town of Georgina and provincial arts funding. Throughout the theatre’s history and for all but a few years in the early 1960s, the Red Barn Theatre and surrounding 7½ -acre property has been owned and its use donated by Briars Estates Limited of the Sibbald family.

From 1986 to 2007, The Barn played home to the Peter Gzowski Invitational Golf tournament gala performances when Canada’s household names gave generously of their talents to help Peter Gzowski realize his intention to “raise a few bucks” for literacy, fund-raising for Frontier College. Celebrities have included Peter Mansbridge, Loreena McKennitt, Valdy, Natalie McMaster, The Barenaked Ladies, Laura Smith, Ashley MacIsaac, Cynthia Dale, Murray McLauchlan, Pamela Wallin, John McDermott, Susan Aglukark, Ron Maclean, Tom Jackson, and Shelagh Rogers along with Poets Laureates Tim Findlay, Michael Ondaatje, Margaret Atwood, Dennis Lee and Sheree Fitch, to name but a very small few.

If the barn was lost, the Georgina Fire Department nonetheless successfully managed to contain the blaze, keeping it from spreading to the neighbouring field, woodlands and senior’s complex. York Regional Police have secured the site, and the Ontario Fire Marshall is on the scene and has begun his investigation. The cause of the fire is still unknown.

As neighbours and volunteers wept in the waning glow of the fire at the periphery of the property, murmurs of renewed fund-raising efforts, rebuilding and “the show must go on” could be heard in the semi-darkness. Plans for the upcoming season remain undetermined.


Other coverage:


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“Elegy” is part of the Featured Exhibitions at CONTACT 2009

Just got the great news that my work is indeed part of the Featured Exhibitions for this year’s CONTACT Photo Festival Toronto- a small part, but definitely featured, not just a listing:

Welcome, Hope Township, Ontario.  Tombstones, Walker Family Cemetery

Harbourfront Centre, Toronto


From his ancestral home in Southern Ontario, Peter Sibbald presents landscape as a nexus of human will and nature. Elegy for a Stolen Land depicts a place where politics, spirituality, environmental science, commerce, social justice and philosophy collide.

Supported by:

The Canada Council for the Arts


The Ontario Arts Council

The Ontario Arts Council is an agency of the Government of Ontario


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Saving the CBC- A Grass Roots Strategy: Back to Basics

Each of us is feeling an economic crunch to some extent and the Canadian government, this time under Stephen Harper’s Conservatives, has taken advantage of this latest recession to cut the funding to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, yet again. In response, CBC President Hubert Lacroix has announced:

  • 800 jobs will be cut
  • many of his (that is, “our”) crown corporations assets will be sold off
  • more of its regional bureaus closed
  • regional programming cancelled and
  • the airwaves filled with ever greater levels of repeat programming.

The subject of this post then is how we respond to this challenge to democracy—indeed to this core force of our Canadian cultural identity—both in the context of this brave new world of on-line communications but also in this week when our Prime Minister at the G20 Summit in London has quite nakedly stated something to the effect of: ‘I make no secret of the fact that I am a great fan of the United States.’

(Not that I have anything against the US, but they have only the thinnest shreds of a public broadcaster left by comparison. Anyway, I will update this quote as soon as I can confirm it).

In particular I’m prompted to write this post by a request that I received earlier this week from the global pro-democracy organization AVAAZ to sign their on-line petition. by the way is an independent, not-for-profit global  organization that works to ensure that the views and values of the world’s people inform global decision-making.

I would argue that the current federal Conservatives are not the first government to have an antagonistic relationship with our public broadcaster nor are they the only political stripe to act against it. Such antagonism is intrinsic to the watchdog role a public broadcaster ought to fulfill, and one that the CBC has been relatively effective at, and so the CBC has from time-to-time incurred the wrath of each of the parties. But the Conservatives are the ones doing it now, and one would do well to consider the power, long-term bias and typical strategies of this current government when forming a response to their latest tactics.

In March 16, 2009’s Georgia Straight online Friends of Canadian Broadcasting’s spokesman Ian Morrison makes a persuasive case detailing how the Stephen Harper Conservatives have for some time had it in for the CBC, including the hand-picking of Mr. Lacroix, a well-known pro-private broadcasting executive, to head this collapse of the CBC from the inside.

In recent years just as funding to public broadcasting has been whittled away, much has been made of the democratization of media as a result of rising use of the internet with email campaigns, blogs and citizen journalism, the potential power of online petitions and Facebook Groups. Indeed, many of us have enthusiastically seized upon these tools with a sense of greater empowerment, for indeed they do have potential.

As a for instance, nearly 30,000 additional signatures have been added to the Avaaz petition just since I first started thinking about this a couple of days ago and Avaaz is now within a few hundred of their 100,000 target.

But is this not a good thing?

Probably it is good, but more to the point: Is it effective?

There is a potentially serious downside to our online fervour. Uncoordinated use of these tools can easily lead us—we, the people—to be divided and conquered by those forces that would happily stand by and let us expend our energy placating ourselves with the sense of catharsis that such activities bring and the mistaken assumption that we are doing something of essential consequence. For we may in fact not be. It is in so many ways, only virtual, and not tangibly material. That is, if one is not very careful, one can easily fall into a self-delusional trap of non-effective civic engagement, and therein lies the potential for our own undoing.

Consider this: a quick survey of Facebook groups yields some 165 different groups through the filter “save the CBC”. Is joining one of those going to be helpful?

Are writing blog posts such as the one I may yet write in defence of the CBC going to have much effect other than venting for the writer?

Is the Avaaz initiative effective? I’m not sure. It can’t hurt directly, but after all, how much does it matter to a Canadian government what the rest of the world thinks when that particular group of “leaders” has already shown such utter disdain for the institution and role of the media in general and public media in particular, or for so many of our citizens in general with, for example, its parliamentary shenanigans over the Christmas period immediately in the wake of their re-election, what others have coined “ Prorogue-gate”.

Yet… it’s good to be engaged though.

So yes, join a FB group. Write a blog post and let your voice be heard. Join and support the most established voice in this long-time battle, Friends of Canadian Broadcasting and stick with them so that you can follow their lead.  Sign the Avaaz petition if you like. But at the same time, be only cautiously optimistic of the effects of these things and err on the safe side to improve our chances of effecting a desirable outcome.

I am not positive of this statistic but I recall having read in recent years that only 4½ % of Canadians are regular CBC listeners, but nevertheless that is roughly 1.5 M Canadians (Again I will update as soon as I can get an accurate figure…). Add CBC television watchers and perhaps one approaches 10% of our 33M population. Even a conservative estimate of a CBC audience as 8% of Canadians would not be an insignificant figure, particularly given that the demographic of this audience includes most of the country’s decision makers and politically engaged citizens in particular the men and women who will be seeking our votes in the next election.

That is then, make sure you cover the basics:

•    Write or at least phone your MP.
— To find your federal riding and your MP go here.
— For MP contact information go here.

•    Dash off a quick letter (or letters… the more the merrier) to the editor (your choice).

•    Send a note to CBC President Hubert Lacroix ( ) telling him of your concerns and copy it both to the PM as well as to your favourite CBC programs contact emails.

•    For more detailed letter writing toolkit also please check out Stand On Guard for the CBC Blog

To quote from the Avaaz call to action:

“Our CBC is a national treasure, and a pillar of public-interest journalism in a country whose media is owned by a few large firms. We won’t hear an outcry from their media outlets, and the CBC is too principled to use its megaphone to make the case for itself. We are the only voice the CBC has.”

One way or another, in a period of minority government, 1.5 to 3 M letters to federal MPs, or signatures on a petition is not a figure that even the most callused of politicians can ignore easily.

Canada: Yours to Engage!


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