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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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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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Dewatering for The Big Pipe

Stouffville, Ontario. Dewatering
Approximately 43°56’57.22″N   79°15’7.87″W, facing East, circa October 2, 2005

From my series: Elegy for a Stolen Land

As part of the extension of York Region’s $350 million mega-project known as the “Big Pipe”,  a large sewer trunk passes through land along the 9th Line in front of this 19th century farm house. The land is dewatered so that workers can get deep into the ground, at or below the water table, to install the pipe.

This trunk of the pipe, to accommodate growth in Stouffville’s secondary plan, is to move sewage to the Duffin Creek Water Pollution Control Plant near Lake Ontario. Rates of dewatering range from 5,000 – 30,000 litres per minute, and the project stretches well up into the Oak Ridge’s Moraine, the natural aquatic battery for all lands southward to Lake Ontario.

On January 3, 2004 The Toronto Star’s Leslie Ferenc reported in an article entitled Close -up: The Big Pipe, that opponents, from the province’s environment commissioner right on down to farmers and individual farm owners, argue—and officials readily admit—that dewatering process has proven to empty aquifers, parch resident’s wells, bleed streams and fields dry, destroy fish and wildlife habitats, and draw effluent away from failing septic tanks into the wider water table. Proponents argue that they will be able to set things right later by implementing mitigating measures.

Such mitigating measures are planned on the assumption that such measures may yet be invented and successfully implemented.

This and other of The Star’s stories about the Big Pipe are no longer freely available on the internet, but you can find a copy of this one here. Environmental Defence and Lake Ontario WaterKeeper have archived some of that coverage. Otherwise they can be sourced through The Star’s paid archive service.

… Comin up next, “Following the money…”


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Sensational Singles



Markham, Ontario. Real Estate Billboards.
Approx.  43°54’7.53″N  79°14’27.90″W, Facing south, circa May 5, 2005

From my series: Elegy for a Stolen Land

Before Europeans arrived, these lands were rich in freshwater and wildlife, and home to successive waves of first peoples who saw themselves and the land as one.

Later, due to a combination of soil quality, water availability and growing season—determined by latitude and proximity to the moderating influence of Lake Ontario—settlers turned these lands into productive class 1 farmland that would feed the city it surrounded for more than a century.

On the former pioneer family farm of John Raymer, real estate billboards promote the sale of roughly 2,500 homes on the lands of such former pioneer farmer neighbours as James and Adam Clendenen, and John Reesor. According to official documents filed in 2005: “the GTA/905 Regions of York, Halton, Peel and Durham have been and will continue to be the fastest growing regions in Ontario, collectively growing at twice the provincial rate of growth by adding more than 90,000 new residents each year.”

In a time of increasing global economic uncertainty and wildly unstable fuel prices, those and the other new residents of the past half century inhabit a new land crop of bricks and mortar, and are meanwhile ever more dependent on food imports from the USA, Latin America and Asia.


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What We Are and What We Did

In his 2008 essay, Going Home (Anansi), in reference to our changing relationship to land, Governor General’s Literary Award-winning poet and essayist Tim Lilburn writes:

What we are: detached long ago, while still in Europe, from that part of the Western intellectual tradition that would have taught us the suitability of living undivided from one’s earth,” we cannot value what we most need, indeed cannot name it. What we did: we met the new land as conquerors and subjugated it. We moved too quickly over the ground, omnivorous, self-uprooting on principle, marked by the inevitably anarchic character of capitalism… Finally we just filled it with our will, so that the land came to look tired in its heart: almost empty but crammed with human intention, sick with a sameness that came from us.


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“a real treat”: The National Post

Nice little media notice on my recent installation at Harbourfront Centre in, of all places, The National Post, or  here is a clipping:



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Pixels are soooo last century

As one who is constantly torn between the old and the new, I came upon this newfangled equipment:

At the Art Gallery of Ontario the other week, Curator of Photography Maia Sutnik showed me Mike Robinson’s work… and then by chance, I happened to meet him a few nights later: charming fellow, with much to teach us. He had a couple of his recent Daguerreotypes in a little satchel, like gems. Photographs with heft and lasting power. Substance in a time of ephemera!

But how does one embed IPTC metadata in them, let alone PLUS?


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PLUS—Picture Licensing Universal System

At a CAPIC event last held night in CBC’s Glenn Gould Auditorium (and webcast across the country to CAPIC meetings and individuals), Jeff Sedlik was in TO to deliver to a nearly full house the most amazing news of the efforts of PLUS, the system he and his cross-industry cronies have been building the past decade for standardizing rights language and image licensing. The idea is to make it a no-brainer through technology so that all rights language and image licensing becomes as standard as IPTC meta data and systems like Panatone colours. It leaves one very hopeful, if also a bit skeptical about the rate of compliance and implementation that may occur, and of course presumes good will and integrity on the part of buyers which we know is far from the truth in many cases…but the ideas and method seem very solid.

According to PLUS’s website news, here are just three key items pulled from many:
IPTC Integrates PLUS Standards. The Board of Directors of the IPTC voted to approve a revision to the IPTC Photo Metadata Standard, incorporating a significant number of rights-related fields established in the PLUS Standards.

Adobe Announces CS4. PLUS Leadership Circle member Adobe Systems has announced Adobe® Photoshop® CS4 and Photoshop CS4 Extended. Look for PLUS “File Info” panels in an update to CS4.

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 2 PLUS Plug-in Beta. Developer Timothy Armes begins beta testing of a plug-in that allows users of Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 2 to embed PLUS metadata in image files.


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