The Woodstove Music & Arts Festival takes place this weekend, Nov. 3 to 5 in downtown Cumberland, on unceded K’ómoks First Nation territory. The non-profit festival is run by Cumberland Community Culture and Arts Society and showcases poetry, theatre, stand-up comedy and workshops as well as music.
Check out the full schedule here. Here’s a round-up of some upcoming festival highlights.
Saltwater Hank brings songs in Sm’algya̱x to the Woodstove stage
Ts’msyen musician Saltwater Hank will perform a Friday night set into the wee hours of Saturday morning at Buchanan Hall. He will be promoting his new Sm’algya̱x-language record.
Though he heard Sm’algya̱x spoken around him as a baby, and started picking up the language as a teenager, it’s only in the last six years that Ts’msyen musician Wil Uks Batsga G̱a̱laaw (Jeremy Pahl) — also known as Saltwater Hank — has learned to speak his traditional language more or less fluently.
His next step was to record an entire album in Sm’algya̱x, the language spoken by Ts’msyen First Nation peoples, whose territory spans the northwest coast next to Haida Gwaii.
The album, G̱a̱l’üünx wil lu Holtga Liimi, was released on July 1 to coincide with Canada Day, as an Indigenous act of resistance.
“The way that I see it is, we have way too much English language material already — anybody that wants to learn the English language can go all over Spotify and most of the music in the world is in English. I am contributing nothing if I am continuing to write in English,” he says, adding that he primarily learned through immersion by speaking with elders.
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Acclaimed Inuvialuit musician Willie Thrasher to perform with Linda Saddleback
Nanaimo-based Inuvialuit musician Willie Thrasher will be playing a set with his partner Linda Saddleback at Woodstove on Friday at 8 p.m. at Moon Records, as part of Woodstove.
Thrasher was honoured on Oct. 14 with a 2023 Western Canadian Music Association (WCMA) heritage award at a ceremony in Kelowna during the association’s industry awards brunch.
Originally from Aklavik, Northwest Territories, Thrasher has recorded solo and with bands such as The Cordells, Amarok, Mouse Pack and Red Cedar, and shared stages with Gordon Lightfoot, Colin James, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Bonnie Raitt, Willy Dunn and Pete Seeger. In 1979, he was the focus of a CBC special and recorded three albums of original material.
Thrasher experienced a resurgence of interest in his music in 2015 when curator, music journalist and DJ Kevin Howe — who spent more than a decade leafing through record store catalogues and combing the Internet, looking for music from forgotten Indigenous musicians across North America — released a series of compilation albums through his label, Light in the Attic.
The following year, Thrasher was back in the spotlight when Native North America Vol. 1: Aboriginal Folk, Rock and Country 1966-1985, which featured three of his songs, was nominated for a Grammy Award for best historical album.
Cumberland’s Forest Stories Theatre presents: Witches!
Amidst the Woodstove Festival performances is Forest Stories Theatre, an environmental theatre troupe consisting of kids in grades seven and eight who have been acting together since grade one.
The troupe, which is part of Cumberland Community Forest Society (CCFS), tells stories that revolve around mythology, folk fables and nature. This year, given the proximity to Halloween, the theme is witches.
Meaghan Cursons, executive director of Cumberland Community Forest Society and producer and director of the troupe, says that this year’s play looks at the theme of witches from an ecofeminist perspective.
“We start to unpack: Why is it that these witch stories are all about the wicked witches? And what other stories might be hidden in there? Like teachings from our mothers and grandmothers.”
Cursons said that the CCFS has always valued creativity and play in its activism. She said that the playfulness and creativity that kids naturally have is important to the organization.
“It’s important to capture the imagination of the next generation,” she said.
Woodstove Festival passholders can catch Witches on Friday, Nov. 3, 7 p.m. at Weird Church. Or, catch the encore performance on Wednesday, Nov. 8, 7 p.m. at Weird Church.
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Madeline Dunnett, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter and Julie Chadwick, The Discourse