Our latest Paris Lectures brought ten storytellers together at the height of summer for what turned out to be an absolutely delightful event: Raconteurs, an evening of storytelling. There was head-rolling laughter, tears of empathy, and an genuine sense of inspiration. The stories our speakers shared were brave, hilarious, triumphant, and honest.
When we planned this event we did so with a bit of trepidation. You never quite know how lineups with multiple speakers will go. Will everyone show up? Will everyone be prepared? What exactly will they all say? But because there are so many unknowns we get to experience the Lectures as our audience does, which is part of the fun.
It was perhaps our most intimate event in the DT Centre to-date, not in crowd size (we – and our speakers – packed a full house), but in content; people confessed moments of insight, of fondness, of desperation, of sadness and of hope, and they did so with a variety of authentic voices. The level of storytelling for a group of non-professional speakers was astounding, and with no credit to us of course – we were simply amazed by how well each of our speakers spoke. These were the best kinds of Moth-style stories, from one end of the lineup to the other.
The evening began with a colourful intro by Mark featuring the most entertaining bits of local history that you can find on the Internet. We aren’t exactly sure how this became a regular feature of Paris Lectures events, but we enjoy putting it together, and where else can you find out about Brantfreudian Slip or the defamation of the Alexander Graham Bell memorial? This episode featured Canada’s 150th anniversary and brought insights into flag design, the process of reaching Canada’s iconic maple leaf flag (just 52 years old), and other municipal seals both successful (Godderich) and less so (St. Catharines). He ended in recognition of the unique point we are at in local Paris history with a slide of that faded photograph on the wall of Sibbick Fuels, a metaphor for a past that is giving way to the growth of the town. History is what we are making of it, right at this moment.
After this intro, we kicked off our speakers lineup with Laura Ruuska who shared a tale of her travels to Japan and a meaningful friendship that facilitated a glimpse of something special over the Sea of Japan whilst the friends sat in a hot spring. Was it a UFO? Was it a military experiment? Or did the women have too much to drink that night? Laura’s superior elocution and flair for the dramatic was an amazing way to begin the evening.
Next we had Ethan Golden, a nine-year-old boy with incredible humility. This amazing young man has set a mission to gather a million dimes for juvenile arthritis research. Wearing his leg braces, he stood tall to the microphone and shared his story about raising money for good causes, but true to form his words were not all about him. He challenged the audience to imagine what we could make of this world if we all strived to improve it just a little bit. How could you not want to do that for future generations, knowing Ethan is a part of it?
For each Paris Lectures event we like to organize a community giving effort when possible, so this event we collected dimes at our ticket table, behind which Ethan also sold handmade bowties and art. Our crowd managed to get him a little closer to his goal, bringing the tally 2,652 ($265.20) dimes higher. Ethan so far has raised a total of 624,033 ($62,403.30) dimes. Way to go, Ethan! We are so inspired by him, and grateful his parents let him stay up a little past bedtime to be with us.
Next up was Christina Speers who shared from her in-progress book a powerful story about hopes and dreams, disappointment and redemption. The specifics are hers alone to share but we loved it. We cried, we clapped, we can’t wait to read the full novel.
Steve Howes has been designing playgrounds for many, many years, but the best playground he’s ever been to wasn’t designed at all – it was the local gravel pit. He and his friends, and later his own son, would go swimming in the abandoned pit, leaving a fondness in his memory not to be altered by too many return trips. It was perfect the way it was. Old-timers might well remember this hotspot, and for people like us it contributes to an indefatigable, magical local lore.
Karyn Pickles had us howling with laughter at the truths of parenting, bravely sharing stories of things she’s never said she’d do before becoming a parent but absolutely found herself doing once becoming one. In front of our microphone she seemed to reconcile her past and present selves and demonstrate just how far her children have (as all children do) pushed her to the limits. It never hurts to have a little more encouragement for empathy and understanding for us bedraggled, tiny-human laden zombies.
After a short break, the stories came fast and furious. Our dear Kari Bishop shared an exceptional tale of getting mugged in Kenya and her unexpected ninja-like reaction which found her fighting back. When a young homeless man reached into the car she was riding in and attempted to steal her earring, she grabbed his wrist and wrestled him to the ground, all the while maintaining a cogent string of thoughts that prevented her from shouting “Thief!” and inciting mob behaviour.
We couldn’t have been more pleased to have convinced Jamie Thompson, a client of ours at Thompson Printing, to get up and share a funny story about a jar of honey that exploded in his car. The lineup was no accident, it was actually Kari’s Bishop Family Bees honey that was the culprit, but Jamie’s sensory details brought the story to life.
Cass took the opportunity to slow down and think about and remember her dad, who’d passed away five years ago to the week. Specifically she shared a story about a pair of boots he bought her for a birthday many years ago. When people fade away, the boots seem to last, and a $300 price tag doesn’t matter one bit anymore. It was a sweet, sad tale, and if any tears were shed Cass’ dad would have agreed – not to worry, crying gets the poisons out.
Julia Mills was our next to last speaker and candidly shared another trial in a family’s life, her father’s abandonment of her and her three sisters, which in the end brought all the women closer and inspires today the bonds Julia encourages in her own children. With a couple of the sisters and her mom in the audience, this was clearly a special tale both for Julia to tell and for us to bear witness.
Our final speaker, Marc Laferriere is a seasoned speaker and very familiar with the microphone (specifically this microphone, as it was his – he lets us borrow it every Lecture!). He was collecting transit surveys in the back of the room during the event – and he got thirty, which is great (they were long!) – as he has been championing public transportation options in the County of Brant for awhile now. He shared a personal story of how as a young boy his own family situation meant he’d had to negotiate rides to all his extracurriculars, which really made an ambitious boy’s life that much more difficult. It’s a reality that doesn’t have to be, and his dream is a modern municipality with modern services, something that could truly enable the disadvantaged among us which could be a kid like him in your very own neighbourhood. We’re grateful for his efforts and were extremely happy he shared his story with us.
All in all, we truly felt reenergized by this event. Although many of our regulars were out of town, or sick, or suffering the Mondays, we felt the intimacy achieved in this event is a feeling we strive for with all our events. We hope everyone else left feeling similarly inspired, and at least reminded that people come from all different walks of life and that every one of us has a story to tell.
We are grateful to our wicked events sponsors, Shopify and Creative Vision Optical, we fully appreciate the support you have given us. We’d like to thank Helina Lewis-Golden, Ethan’s mom, for helping us so quickly organize the giving aspect for this event. Thank you Joan Faux, Jane & Jury’s newest intern, for helping us with last minute organizing (we ♥ you) and Marc Laferriere for once again lending us the PA system! And so much appreciation to our event volunteers, Barb Jenkins and Barb Pynenberg, our faithful ticket collectors, and Tim Srigley, for many of the beautiful photographs featured in this post. And thank you to our babysitters, Homer & Emily. We couldn’t do this without any of you!
Stay tuned for details about our next event, Crit Night with the Glenhyrst Art Gallery on Saturday, September 24th. It’s going to be amazing, inspiring, productive, enlightening, entertaining. See you in the fall!