UPDATED! Black History Month brings music, comedy, and cultural celebrations of all kinds to Ottawa

This article first appeared in the Interiors 2015 issue of Ottawa Magazine.


Pierre Kwenders, a Congolese singer-songwriter, performs a concert on February 12 at the NAC


This year’s theme is “Our Canadian Story: Our Elders. Our Legacy!” Opening celebrations reflect on the contributions older adults have made to the Canadian mosaic. Highlights include the proclamation of the city-wide observance for this year’s Black History Month, the unveiling of commemorative Canada Post stamps, and presentations of the 2015 Black History Ottawa Community Builder Awards.
Centrepointe Theatre, 101 Centrepointe Dr., 613-580-2700, centrepointetheatre.ca

BAND is an organization dedicated to supporting, documenting, and showcasing the artistic and cultural contributions of Black Artists in Canada. And wow do they have a line-up! An art exhibit that questions the meaning of “minority” is on view at the GCTC; House of Paint is organizing The Origin of Beat, which explores how Afro, Caribbean, Latin, and Urban Music continue to influence contemporary music; a compendium of young black artists of the diaspora (including Annie Lefebvre, Le R, Yao, and Richard Léger) interpret great black poets of the  past in Prise de Conscience; and on Feb. 23, the Nina Project sees three amazing African-Canadian singers – Jackie Richardson, Kellylee Evans, and Shakura S’Aida – display the depth and range of Nina Simone’s legacy.

Readers from the black community share children’s stories written by black authors.
Ottawa Public Library, Nepean Centrepointe Branch, Children’s Program Room, 101 Centrepointe Dr., 613-580-2700, biblioottawalibrary.ca

In celebration of Black History Month, Pierre Kwenders, a Congolese singer-songwriter, performs a concert on February 12 that blends traditional and modern African rhythms — and is sure to get audiences on their feet. From $20.
National Arts Centre, Fourth Stage, 53 Elgin St., 888-991-2787, nac-cna.ca

Montreal stand-up comics Andrew Searles and Rodney Ramsey have gathered a crew of equally hilarious black comedians to bring The Underground Comedy Railroad tour to Ottawa. Daniel Woodrow and Keesha Brownie join the when they pull up to Absolute Comedy on Preston Street.

In partnership with the Canadian Diabetes Association, the Black Ottawa Business Network Social Group hosts speakers on topics such as health, nutrition, and exercise. Additional activities include a silent auction, Afro-Caribbean dance and poetry, and an exhibit on medical pioneers of African descent. $15.
The Royal Canadian Legion Montgomery Branch, 330 Kent St., 613-233-7292, montgomerylegion.ca

SAMMY DEAD. Feb. 21.
Written and directed by Fay Jarrett and Lorna Townsend, this play takes a lighthearted Caribbean-style approach to funerals. From $20.
Rideau Park United Church, 2203 Alta Vista Dr., 613-733-3156, rideaupark.ca

This event celebrates the diversity in the Ottawa community and recognizes the individuals, businesses, associations, and organizations that have made a difference within it. Highlights include a keynote speaker, award presentations, and entertainment. $65.
Sheraton Ottawa Hotel, 150 Albert St., 613-238-1500, sheratonottawa.com

For complete schedule, visit blackhistoryottawa.org.

WEB EXCLUSIVE: Paint Nite brings rookie artists, friends, and couples to local pubs


Paint Nite at the Clocktower Pub in Westboro

Instructor Olga Climova talks participants through the process of recreating “Italy” at Paint Nite at the Clocktower Pub in Westboro

It’s a Monday night and the ClockTower Pubin Westboro has had a makeover. Instead of sports fans watching the Sens on mammoth screens, rows of 35 easels and canvases line the back room. It looks more like a kindergarten room than a pub.

At the head of the class, instructor Olga Climova is handing out aprons and paper plates covered with blobs of paint. Red, yellow, blue, black and white. That’s it. Those are all the colours these budding Picassos will need for tonight’s lesson/creation.

Their mission? To recreate a painting from Paint Nite’s (their spelling) gallery. Tonight’s painting is (not-so-creatively) called “Italy.” It’s a silhouette of a big-wheeled bicycle leaning against a sunny yellow brick wall. The budding artists — all but three are women, the average age is 30 — wield paint brushes, wine glasses, and a positive attitude to go with their lack of experience. Only one says she’s had formal training; the others are complete newbies.

Michelle Madill

Michelle Madill

In spite of its questionable spelling and boiler-plate painting designs (local artists such as Climova must choose a painting to teach from a gallery prescribed by Paint Nite), the Boston-headquartered company is now global. It’s been in Ottawa — operating out of bars and restaurants downtown and as far afield as Orleans and Kanata — for a year, but it also has chapters in China, Australia, Ghana, Hong Kong, South Africa, and the U.K. It’s in Canada’s largest cities and even some smaller spots in Ontario (think Peterborough.)

Michelle Madill, a nurse who’s having her first baby in a month, was there with her friends Kristan Wadden and Connie Tuttle, who was six days away from giving birth.

“We’re trying to get lots of girl time in before they deliver,” Wadden says with a laugh.

Read the rest of this story »

EVENTS: Orienteering enthusiasts find their way to Arnprior for Championships Thanksgiving weekend


Article was originally published in the October print issue of Ottawa Magazine.

Originally created early in the 20th century as a training exercise for the Swedish military, orienteering is now seeing a rise in popularity as a recreational pursuit. On Thanksgiving weekend (Oct. 10 – 13), athletes from across Canada and the United States, along with competitors from as far afield as Uganda, Barbados, and Romania, will descend on Arnprior for the 2014 North American Orienteering Championships. Enthusiast and event co-organizer James Richardson talks with Ottawa Magazine about the growing appeal of a sport that uses traditional way-finding techniques.


James Richardson out in the wild, training for the 2014 Orienteering Championships held this weekend, from Oct. 10- 13 in Arnprior. Photo: David Kawai

Ottawa Magazine: Since orienteering isn’t well known, can you paint a picture of what it involves?
James Richardson: It’s a running sport, a little like cross-country running, but you choose the route. You have a map that shows a series of points, known as controls, and you have to get from point to point in the most efficient way possible. There’s no GPS and no way to cheat. A big challenge is to choose your route. If there’s a hill in front of me, I could go straight, but I’d have to go up over a hill and then down. A trail might be easier to navigate, but maybe it takes a longer route. People’s most efficient routes may be different. My knees aren’t the greatest, so I’m probably not going to choose the hill.


Orienteering athlete, James Richardson, runs through the forest with map in hand, on his way to the next point — training for Thanksgiving’s 2014 Championships in Arnprior, Oct. 10-13. Photo: David Kawai

OM: It sounds like it’s a test of brain and brawn.
JR: You have to think really fast. You can’t plan things in advance. But when you get really good, you can look at a map and interpret it in five seconds.

OM: What’s in the orienteer’s toolkit?
JR: Not much more than a compass, a whistle (in case you get lost or meet a bear), the map, and a list of the controls. And you probably want shoes that are better than your Converse sneakers.

OM: What brought you to the world of orienteering?
JR: Growing up in Newfoundland, my father was heavily involved [in the sport], and our family used to travel across Canada to wherever the Canadian championships were being held. I thought it was the coolest thing in the world. Then we moved to Ottawa and drifted away [from orienteering]. When I came back in my 30s, I thought, I’m spending a lot of time at a desk — I need to find a hobby where I get out and do something.

OM: How does geocaching compare with orienteering?
JR: Geocaching is a bit more of an adventure or a game, while orienteering is actually a sport. Geocaching has no time limit, and you can use GPS.


Typical Orienteering gear is a good pair of shoes, since the sport requires a great deal of running, as well as a map, a compass, and a whistle — in case you get lost or you run into a bear. Photo: David Kawai

OM: Are orienteering enthusiasts competitive?
JR: There’s a real collegial atmosphere within the orienteering community. Of course you want to win, but if you get to a control and there’s someone there, you don’t throw a hip check to get them out of the way. It’s also a sport everyone can participate in. We have a category for people 85 years and older and one for kids under 10.

OM: So it’s a kinder, gentler sport than hockey or football.
JR: Yes, but it is still a physically tough sport with a lot of injuries. It’s not a gentle walk in the woods. Our club has two training sessions a week, plus our regular weekly meet. Our elite guys train almost every day.


James Richardson, somewhere in Ottawa’s wilds, checks his map as he trains for this weekend’s Orienteering Championships in Arnprior, Oct. 10-13. Photo: David Kawai

OM: What places around Ottawa provide the best terrain for orienteering?
JR: We have maps that cover most of the Gatineau Park area, which has mountainous areas, forests, and swampy areas, and we have maps of many of the Ottawa parks that tend to be a bit flatter but swampier.

OM: How are preparations for the North American championships going?
JR: Arnprior is our host town, and they’ve been phenomenal. They are actually shutting down a downtown street for one of our races, which is unheard of. We’ve also been able to go to schools in Arnprior and get them excited about the sport.

OM: Is orienteering the kind of social sport where people go for beer after a race?
JR: The drinks tend to be non-alcoholic, since our club meets on Sunday mornings. But yes, it’s a very social thing.

FOLK FEST PRIMER: Lorde, M. Ward, Lee Fields, and other make Chris Lackner’s must-see list

For its 20th anniversary, the Ottawa Folk Festival has expanded to five days for the first time (Sept. 10-14), leaving local fans with more musical options than ever before. Pop culture junkie Chris Lackner highlights the acts not to miss at this year’s festival.


M. Ward plays Sept. 10.

M. Ward plays Sept. 10.

M. Ward (Sept. 10) – The Wednesday night lineup features some big headliners in pop-rockers Foster the People and Blues Traveler. But low-fi, Americana troubadour, M. Ward, is the one not to miss. The talented producer and musician’s solo work sounds ageless, culling influences from folk, country, and gospel. But it’s Ward’s gravelly voice that truly resonates. Part of She & Him with Zooey Deschanel, Ward deservedly gets the chance to hog the spotlight when flying solo.

Lorde (Sept. 11) – The young electro-pop chanteuse has lorded over the music scene over the last year, practically taking it by storm with her debut Pure Heroine. Lorde breaks the female pop star mould. A darling of both critics and fans, she may be the most buzz-worthy name in this year’s lineup.


Lee Fields and the Expressions play Sept. 12.


Dailey & Vincent (Sept. 11) – They put the blue in Bluegrass. With stunning harmonies and a top-notch backing band, Jamie Dailey and Darrin Vincent will help many fans discover – or rediscover – the musical genre.

The National (Sept. 12) – The moody, introspective indie-rockers are one of the most talented band’s in the business – proving you can make intelligent rock music and still become a headliner. Matt Berninger’s deep, brooding, baritone vocals are pure magic.

Lee Fields and the Expressions (Sept. 12) – You got soul? The venerable North Carolina artist has been crafting R&B since 1969. The man is timeless.

Neutral Milk Hotel (Sept. 13) – The revered, experimental indie band have a cult-like following despite disbanding after their acclaimed 1998 album In The Aeroplane Over the Seas. In 2013, frontman Jeff Mangum and company announced a reunion tour with their entire 1998 lineup. Dreams do come true. This Milk will go down easy for lovers of bands like Arcade Fire and The Decemberists.

Couer de pirate plays

Coeur de pirate plays Sept. 14

The Strumbellas (Sept. 13) – The Canadian six-piece’s 2013 album, We Still Move on Dance Floors, was one of the year’s best. The indie-rockers fuse folk, country, and bluegrass to craft a stirring live show. Prepare for an assault of hollers, handclaps and harmonies.

The Lone Bellow (Sept. 14) – The Brooklyn country rockers play acoustic-based Americana as it was meant to be – with grit, earthiness and fire in the belly. Fans of The Lumineers and Mumford & Sons will find something to like. Fans of Johnny Cash and Hank Williams will too. (Fans of today’s plastic pop country stars need not apply).

Coeur de Pirate (Sept. 14) – Yes, the final day is chalk-full of headliners such as The Gaslight Anthem and Joss Stone, but one not to miss is spellbinding Quebec songstress Béatrice Martin – otherwise known as Couer de Pirate. The petite singer-songwriter has an unexpectedly powerful voice that could simultaneously break hearts and move mountains.










EVENTS: A-hoy Sailors! It’s National Capital Regatta weekend!

Photo by David Trattles

The National Capital Regatta, this weekend on August 9 & 10 at Britannia Yacht Club. Photo by David Trattles

All aboard
This year marks the 57th anniversary of the National Capital Regatta, which draws participants from as far away as Montreal and Toronto, as well as local sailing enthusiasts, to the Britannia Yacht Club. Held on August 9 and 10, it is considered a major event in the eastern Ontario sailing circuit, as well as one of the best multi-class regattas in Canada. Last year over 100 people took part. The fun, family-friendly weekend attracts sailors of all ages and abilities — plus plenty of water-loving spectators. “People are welcome to come down and watch the races,” says race chairman Tom Clairmont. Take in the action from the comfort of the clubhouse, or cheer on the racers from the water — just stay clear of the course itself.

On course
Races are craft-specific, and because the regatta is open to many kinds of boats, three courses are designed. For example, all Lasers compete in one course, three-person Y-Flyers compete in another, and a special course is designed for windsurfers. All races take place simultaneously, but each course has a designated race officer to watch out for actions, such as false starts, that might disqualify a crew. Inflatable red buoys mark the route but can be moved if winds change drastically. Each course takes between 20 and 40 minutes to complete, depending on conditions, and winners are based on best average rank over multiple races.

Watching the wind
Last year, very high winds on the first day of the regatta caused many of the larger boats to capsize. On the second day, the opposite occurred: low winds left some boats with nothing to fill their sails and some needed to be towed to shore. That’s part of the thrill of the weekend, but it can be an organizer’s worst nightmare. The event gives the Britannia club a chance to iron out the kinks in their course for the 24-foot sailing yachts before hosting the world championships in 2015.

Photo by David Trattles

Photo by David Trattles

THE (WET) WEEKENDER: 5 watery events happening in and around Ottawa this summer


Photo by Rod Beauprie for Bring on the Bay.

Photo by Rod Beauprie for Bring on the Bay.

Bring on the Bay 3K Swim
July 12
For the eighth year, swimmers of all levels will take part in the Bring on the Bay 3k Open Water Swim. Proceeds from the event go to Easter Seals Ontario, which raises money for children with physical disabilities. Registration from $50. Nepean Sailing Club, 3259 Carling Ave., bringonthebay.com


The Ultimate S.U.P. Challenge
July 18-20
The Ultimate Stand Up Paddle Challenge at Owl Rafting in nearby Forester Falls is the first of its kind in Canada. All levels of stand-up paddleboarders are invited to take part in whitewater and flatwater races. Cash prizes total $2,500, and clinics with instructor Dan Gavere will be big draw. A portion of reg- tration fees will go to Lupus Ontario. Registration from $45. 40 Owl Lane, Foresters Falls, 801-554-2236, theultimatesupchallenge.net

The starting line of the Morrisburg Tubie race. Photo by David Trattles.

The starting line of the Morrisburg Tubie race. Photo by David Trattles.

Tubie Festival
Aug. 2-3
At one point, the much-loved Tubie Festival was in danger of being cancelled. Luckily, the South Dundas Chamber of Commerce swooped in and saved the day. So blow up your homemade watercraft, and head to Morrisburg for a fun weekend of tube races and family fun. Free. Waterfront Park, Morrisburg, 613-543-3982, southdundaschamber.ca

National Capital Regatta
Aug. 9-10
The National Capital Regatta is one of the oldest annual events of its kind in eastern Ontario. Over one weekend, the Britannia Yacht Club hosts a number of friendly compe- titions between novice and experi- enced sailors alike on a range of sailboats. There will be three separate courses for those who want to hone their skills; see page 37 for more information. Registration from $80. 2777 Cassels St., 613-828-5167, byc.ca

Dunrobin Kids of Steel Race
Aug. 25
Sanctioned by Triathlon Ontario, Kids of Steel (KOS) races give children and youth the opportunity to try out the popular sports event in a fun and safe environment — the open-water swim is in the Ottawa River; the bike race is along well-paved, closed roads; and the run is through fields and on dirt roads. $50. 1620 Sixth Line Rd., 613-323-5255, bytowntriathlon.com

SOUND SEEKERS: Festival season begins!

Sound Seekers by Fateema Sayani is published weekly at OttawaMagazine.com. Read Fateema Sayani’s culture column in Ottawa Magazine and follow her on Twitter @fateemasayani   

SABphoto crop

 Dave Forcier, Steve Adamyk, Davey Quesnelle. Steve Adamyk Band play Club SAW June 14 for Ottawa Explosion

Ottawa Explosion kicks things off, plus a new track from Steve Adamyk Band

Festival season is upon us. The following weeks offer plenty of opportunities to catch live music. The bouncing and beer-drinking starts with the annual punk fest known as Ottawa Explosion.

At that festival, which takes place June 12-15 at about 10 different venues in the city, you can catch a number of punk/grunge/rawk acts, including hometowners The Steve Adamyk Band.

The trio’s new album is called Dial Tone and their label, Dirtnap Records, recently posted this new tune called “Crash Course in Therapy.” Check it out. It’s a minute-and-a-half of Gabba Gabba goodness from the band’s fourth album, to be released July 1.

See the Steve Adamyk Bank at Club SAW Saturday, June 14 and find the full Ottawa Explosion lineup here .

On the subject of concert lineups, we took an office poll of Ottawa Magazine editors for hot picks from this year’s festival rosters. Here’s who we want to see.

Ottawa Explosion: Steve Adamyk Band, Big Dick, Pookie & the Poodlez, Mother’s Children, Kappa Chow

Westfest: Fevers, A Tribe Called Red, The Peptides, Pony Girl

Ottawa Jazz Festival: Austra, DJ Rekha, The Bad Plus does Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, Bela Fleck & Brooklyn Rider, Holly Cole, Colin Stetson, Sandra Nkake, Socalled, Aretha Franklin

Bluesfest: Sly & Robbie, Drive By Truckers, St. Vincent, Andrew Bird, Blondie, The Killers

Ottawa Folk Fest: Lorde, Jill Zmud, M. Ward, Wooden Sky, Lora Bidner, The Milk Carton Kids.

What are you seeing on the live circuit this summer? Comment here or tweet us @ottawamag

SNAPSHOT: Photos from the launch of the 10th annual Ottawa Mag Interiors issue at Alteriors

The bright blue cover image beckoned revellers — including artists, architects, writers, photographers, builders, and others from the community — to Alteriors, a snazzy modern furniture store in Old Ottawa South. Inside, a bright yellow wall, as well as sushi from Festival Japan, Balderson cheese, treats from Chocolaterie Bernard Callebaut, and Broadhead beer, made for a spirited evening of socializing.

There wasn’t a speech to say as much, but the issue marked the tenth anniversary of Ottawa Magazine‘s blockbuster Interiors issue, which has grown from 80 pages to over 160 pages of breathtaking photography and intriguing editorial. Used to be that you had to travel to Toronto or Montreal to experience great design; the Interiors issue proves this is no longer the case.

Here’s to all the people who continue to make this possible! From the architects who design amazing spaces to the people who tell their stories to the advertisers who support our vision — cheers!


NEW YEAR’S EVE ROUNDUP: Events for the dancehall star, the fashionista, the PG crowd, and everyone else looking to ring in 2014

COUNTDOWN TO THE RETURN OF ALFIE (today!): 11 essays on #11 (essay #11 — Daniel Alfredsson as chant)