Wednesday, August 31, 2005

On The Island: My Visit To Victoria

VICTORIA – Hello, I’m Shelagh Rogers and let me welcome you to The Caravan Unlocked.

We’ve posted a couple of things on this site already, but that was just the warm up. These words mark my official launch as a blogger.

Usually no one else reads what I write since it vanishes into thin air. So, this is new – my fledgling blog – and you are welcome to it.

The day began on Wednesday, August 31, with a drive from Nanaimo to Victoria. There’s a feeling of “the closing down of summer” as Alistair Macleod calls it in one of his stories. En route to Ladysmith, I pass a fruit stand advertising local apples, late blueberries and …won ton soup.

Hey, this is the West Coast.

I feel a certain melancholy mixed with an anticipation of the fall – anticipating what, though, I’m not sure.

As is true for my locked out colleagues, there’s a backdrop of uncertainty right now.

You wake up in the morning feeling good, then the white noise of being locked out seeps back in. I’m missing the gearing up to our fall launch. And we had a great one planned.

It was going to be Edmonton on Thursday to celebrate the Alberta Centennial, then off to Nova Scotia and backwards across the country, doing a daily show in a different city each day until we got to Vancouver.

Instead I find myself on a different journey across Canada.

It’s in The Caravan Unlocked (actually it's a tiny car until we pick up our rented Dodge Caravan) with my two companions, my Sounds Like Canada producers Natasha Aziz and Sue Campbell.

The Caravan takes us into the heart of downtown Victoria. We will be walking with our locked out colleagues there, talking to CBC listeners and hosting a community event.

We arrive at CBC Victoria at 1:00 p.m. We walk with our colleagues and hear how they’re doing. Eighteen days in, there’s still buoyancy and hope, though patience is thinning.

At 2:00, I begin series of interviews with the media.

If there’s one thing I hate, it’s being interviewed (I’ve got to remember that when I start doing interviews again back on the air). I talk to a dozen or so listeners, from a 13-year-old CBC fan named Mariah to former CBC board member Jane Heffelfinger, who says she is feeling, “very cross,” about the lockout.

At four o’clock, there’s a public concert on the traffic meridian right across from the CBC studio. Alison Crowe is to play her keyboard and sing. Susan Elrington (the woman who since December, has so admirably hosted On The Island, the Victoria morning show) steps up to the mic in front of the crowd of about 100 people who have come at very short notice. They applaud her warmly.

Alison Crowe is young, vital – dressed in black, head to toe. She has dark hair with electric blue streaks through it and a voice that could swallow the Montreal Forum. And that voice! It soars above the cars, trucks and buses honking their support of the picketers. Alison belts out There Is… a song that contains the line, “There is a way" – it sure rings a bell. Then she’s into the Beatles and soon brings the house down with Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah.

I am covered with goose bumps – I should have worn a looser top.

Alison is great. She closes with some Aretha Franklin…and I think we’ve got to get her on the radio. That’s what CBC Radio does – puts new artists on the air. Till then, if you live in Nova Scotia or Newfoundland – watch for her. She’ll be out there very soon.

The concert closes and the listeners head home and The Caravan heads off to the Vancouver Ferry. We’re feeling better than we did when the day began.

I don’t know what The Caravan will accomplish, but it was good to connect with colleagues and with the listeners. It felt, in a way, like a family reunion.

Before I go, in addition to doing my first blog today, I've also done my first podcast – it's a day of firsts!

Podcasts...blogs...lockouts...it's a Brave New World.

More tomorrow.

- Shelagh

We encourage you to use the blog comment feature below to pass on your thoughts and/or you can write Shelagh while she’s on the road at: shelaghscaravan@yahoo.ca

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Here's Our Plan

VANCOUVER – Take a mini-van, include a well-known locked out CBC Radio host, add in a couple of stray radio producers and aim east.

That’s the formula that Shelagh Rogers and friends are using for their new project, The Caravan Unlocked.

The Caravan Unlocked will see Shelagh and her two colleagues moving west to east, visiting as many Candian Media Guild (CMG) picket lines as they can, starting with the one at CBC Victoria.

The CMG is underwriting the cost of the project.

Shelagh and Co. vow to keep on driving east – and keep on picketing with their colleagues – until they reach CBC St. John’s in Newfoundland and Labrador, or until CBC management unlocks the doors…whichever comes first.

Along the road, Shelagh will constantly update this blogsite. So, please bookmark it now.

In addition to regular written dispatches from Shelagh, check this site daily for photos of the tour and for regular podcasts.

Shealgh’s and her colleagues also hope to make the podcasts available soon on iTunes.ca.

“I was planning to be part of an exciting start to September on CBC Radio One beginning with an Alberta Centennial special from Edmonton, followed by a radio season launch in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, and then capping it off with a cross country tour going east to west," said Rogers.

“Due to circumstances beyond my control, however, I instead find myself in a very different role and traveling west to east. Who would have believed it?”

The mission of The Caravan Unlocked is to meet with her listeners and to reach out to the communities who are sorely missing the CBC, as well as connecting with colleagues on picket lines across the nation.

“This whole trip, really, is about optimism and the hope for a new and better CBC after this is all over. In my heart of hearts, though, what I really hope for is that this trip doesn’t last very long.”

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

It Begins

VANCOUVER – The Caravan Unlocked is all about connection. A few months ago, Shelagh Rogers and Sounds Like Canada planned to launch their new season with a cross-Canada tour. Obviously, this trip has been postponed indefinitely due to circumstances beyond our control. But Shelagh and two members of the Sounds Like Canada crew are still going across the country.

The idea behind The Caravan Unlocked is to connect CBC picketers across the country, meet with our listeners and to reach out to the community in all locations. We will do this by collecting audio stories and pictures from our listeners and employees on the picket lines in as many locations as we can hit. We hope this trip doesn’t last very long.

(Editor's Note: It lasted, of course, to the very end of the lockout...and beyond...Shelagh's Last Post was filed a few days after the union reached a tenative agreement with the CBC in early October)