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The Story from Hear. Right here: Tides Canada supports Indigenous media makers to attend podcast workshop

The Story from Hear is a 5-day creative retreat and podcast workshop on the power of sound, listening, and place-based storytelling. The workshop takes place at the Hollyhock Retreat Centre on the traditional territories of the Klahoose, Tla’amin, and Homalco Nations. During the workshop, participants deepen their listening and audio storytelling skills in a supportive and multi-faceted group environment. They are supported through mentorship and research opportunities. At the heart of the workshop is community engagement, removing barriers for equality, and decolonizing relationships.

Sound artist and Tides Canada Pacific Community Lead, Jenni Schine and writing instructor, Jen Moss have been co-facilitating The Story from Hear since 2018. This year, through a Tides Canada grant, the workshop supported four Indigenous media makers to attend the workshop. This included radio producer and language teacher, Jacqueline Mathieu from the Klahoose First Nation. She joined the team to help support the cultural competency work.

Check out Jen’s reflection of this year’s The Story from Hear workshop below.

Two young women holding a recorder and microphone in front of a bush with a body of water in the background.

Klahoose storyteller, Jacqueline Mathieu and Tla’amin weaver and archivist, Sosan Blaney, recording in the field. Mathieu and Blaney’s attendance were supported by Tides Canada.

The last days of summer are a special time in the Pacific Northwest. An edge of brown creeps into the dry underbrush and the chatter of the geese grows restless. The water is still warm enough to swim, but you sense that fall is not far off. With this realization comes the urge to savour every last second of what is left of the summer by basking in the last rays of warmth, enjoying food from the garden, and spending time close to nature with good friends. And that is exactly what a very special group of women did at The Story From Hear Podcasting Retreat. The podcast workshop is held right at the end of the summer on beautiful Cortes Island, at the Hollyhock Leadership Centre.

Five women spread out in a garden with trees, holding sound equipment and recording sounds.

A morning soundwalk at Hollyhock.

We weren’t all friends when we first arrived by plane, boat, and automobile for the 5-day podcast workshop. For some, it was their first visit to Cortes. Others call Cortes – which falls within the traditional territories of the Klahoose, Tla’amin, Homalco Nations – home. People traveled up from Vancouver, Victoria, the Sunshine Coast, and Toronto. We came together in a circle to listen to each other, and to the sounds of the island and its inhabitants.

These women came because they all share an abiding awareness of the power of sound to represent people, place, and identity, with an intimacy found in no other medium. They were curious to advance their understanding of audio recording, editing, and storytelling for various reasons, including Indigenous language preservation, filling in the gaps in the historical record with sound, and deepening their practices of sonic artistic expression. They stayed because they found inspiration in each other’s company. When asked what surprised them the most, a participant said it was “the power of the supportive group dynamic. I actually feel much of the teaching around storytelling was the bonding, sharing, listening, that happened between participants”.

Two women holding up microphones with fuzzy windscreen to record for podcast workshop.

CBC radio freelancer, Pamela Post and Hollyhock program facilitator, Odette Auger taking field recordings in the garden.

It’s funny how, when you offer up a workshop focusing on listening, a bunch of women sign up. To be clear, registration was not limited to women. That’s just who came. And what quickly emerged in the group was an awareness that each and every person there had the ability to “lead” or “instruct.” We therefore took a deliberate strengths-based approach and asked different women to step up and offer guidance in the areas they felt strongest, and to ask for help in areas where they wanted to improve. Our overarching goal was for everyone to come away from the experience feeling like they had advanced in a way that would benefit them, their career, or their community directly, either by building new skills, learning a new story, gaining confidence in new areas, or receiving feedback on important personal sonic projects.

Woman wearing headphones on standing behind table with laptop and audio device on top, with a pot of flowers on a small rug in front of her.

Canadian poet, Cornelia Hoogland recording one of her poems.

Jacqueline Mathieu – a youth worker and language teacher from the Klahoose First Nation was one of the key facilitators. She welcomed the group to her territory and shared her knowledge of the island. My other wonderful co-facilitator, acoustic ethnographer Jennifer Schine, led meditative morning soundwalks, taught everyone the ins and outs of sound editing, and provided sonic inspiration during the evening “listening parties”.  The incredibly talented electro-acoustic composer and sound artist Brady Marks provided technical backup to our audio learners, and award-winning Indigenous CBC radio freelancer and journalism instructor Pamela Post loaned us her insight into radio documentary production, and into her personal journey to uncover her lost Ts’msyen matriarchs. Sosan Blaney, an accomplished weaver from the Tla’amin First Nation who works in community archives, brought a keen sense of humour and an awareness of local culture and history. Hollyhock program facilitator Odette Auger made a gorgeous sound piece about “liminal spaces.” Hornby Island poet Cornelia Hoogland gave us all permission to be playful and experimental with our words, something that I, as a creative writing instructor, especially appreciated. A closing song was about strength was spontaneously sung by one of our participants, which had many of us in tears. And no, there is nothing contradictory about tears and strength, thank you very much.

There were more women, with more talents, and more laughter. More beautiful soundscape pieces came together in a shorter amount of time than I would have initially thought possible and were shared with the local community at an open house on the last evening of the workshop. The response amongst participants to our strengths-based leadership style was incredibly positive. So positive, in fact, that we’re planning to do it all again next year, and this time we’re making it official: Only people who identify as women, and/or feminist allies, need apply. We are taking this step because we found it incredibly empowering to engage in a deep form of listening, recording, creating and sharing in a group that was able unite around our common interests: respect for the land, respect for our differences, respect for each other, and respect for the sonic tapestry of the world.

Each participant created their own “Sonic S’more”, or, final audio piece. These vignettes were shared at a community evening listening party at Hollyhock on the last night of the workshop. Listen here!

Group photo of participants and facilitators of The Story from Hear postcast workshop

A group photo of the 2019 Story from Hear participants.

The Story from Hear podcast workshop is set to run again from August 27 to September 1, 2020. Early registration begins in November 2019. No matter your level of audio storytelling experience, this workshop enables you to deepen your creative and technical skills while connecting with other sound-minded professionals. Contact Jenni or Jen with questions and please be in touch if you’re interested in the socially transformative power of sound and listening!

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