AN UNTITLED (LOVE) LETTER TO BTOWN
One perspective on the importance of community connection.
Graham Chittenden, December 19, 2022 // Brantford, OntarioNews team assemble, the BTOWN team chatting it up. Photo credit Kyle Fisher.
DISCLAIMER: THE BTOWN TEAM WAS HONOURED TO WORK WITH COMMUNITY LEADERS GRAHAM CHITTENDEN (WRITER) AND KYLE FISHER (PHOTOGRAPHER) ON THIS FEATURE. WE'D LIKE TO THANK THEM FOR HELPING US INTRODUCE OURSELVES TO THE COMMUNITY. IT WAS A PLEASURE WORKING WITH THEM. WE ARE OFTEN ASKED THE QUESTION: WHAT IS BTOWN? ALTHOUGH THE ANSWER TO THAT IS QUITE BROAD, THIS ARTICLE DESCRIBES HOW BTOWN CAN BE A POSITIVE ADDITION TO THE CURRENT BRANTFORD MEDIA COVERAGE.
The idea for this article started at Brantford Apparel, Chris and Amanda’s shop on Colborne Street. I went to high school with Chris and I only just recently met Amanda, but they’re both always so nice to me, even though I know I’m slowing them down when they’re swamped with big orders and tight deadlines. Usually I’m just there looking for t-shirts but I seem to leave with shirts and an enthusiasm for Brantford, its history and its ever changing art scene. In retail that’s known as upselling. I also snagged a tote bag with a cat on it, but for now let’s focus on the art scene enthusiasm.
On my last visit, I mentioned BTOWN to Amanda, specifically how much I enjoyed Angel Panag’s recent piece about Ylook (a.k.a. Salman Rana, hip-hop artist and lawyer) and I continued on how important I thought it was to showcase and share stories about Brantford-raised artists. Amanda and/or Chris (I’ll let them fight over the credit) had the idea that I should write a piece for BTOWN to expand that sentiment, “But not a love letter,” Amanda clarified. And while this piece is going to read that way, it’s also a piece for BTOWN about BTOWN, so it technically qualifies as meta comedy. That solves that problem.
I write for a show on CBC called Still Standing (you’ve either never heard of it, or it is somebody in your family’s favourite show.) For each episode, we go to a town, share the town’s history, highlight the struggles, and showcase the locals who are doing something big, fun, and significant to the town. Still Standing does episodically what BTOWN is doing in digital print for Brantford and I applaud everyone who makes BTOWN happen for just that. I think it is a vital resource in any community, but I think it’s extremely valuable in a place like Brantford.
Behind the scenes at the Brantford Train Station. Photo credit Kyle Fisher.
This is a weird statement but I believe it very much: Brantford is an awkward size for artists. It’s a big city that expands outward. We have no Greenwich Village or Broadway, a gallery district or even really a main street where swarms of pedestrians will just discover artists and show. And we live in the shadow of much larger cities, meaning I’m forced to drive at least as far as Hamilton if I want to see huge artists like the Backstreet Boys… I mean, the National.
Besides being too small, the Telephone City’s only other problem is that we’re too big. You might think the hardest place to draw a big crowd is in a small town, but numerous times I have experienced the opposite. When Still Standing’s live show portion of the episode happened in Manitou Beach Saskatchewan, with a population of 314 people, our attendance was 400 people. I think we only told 30 people and the town did the rest. In Woody Point, Newfoundland, the theatre is visible from most of the town. You don’t need to print anything. You can open the front doors of the theatre and people will instinctually wander inside.
But regardless of size, why does a city like Brantford need a digital community hub like BTOWN? On a serious note, it gives a voice and a spotlight to marginalised artists and groups that are often denied access to mainstream media. An outlet like this can also give an artist the chance to stay in Brantford, or may act as the catalyst for a new artist to relocate here. An artist can’t live on exposure, but they also can’t do much without it.
Say hello to our incredibly talented team, left to right - Maichina Veri, Geoff Fitzgerald, Celeste Percy-Beauregard, Amanda Mersereau, Sarah Evans, Christopher George, Paul Smith & Tim Ford, not pictured - Angel Panag and Ethan Silver. Photo credit Kyle Fisher.
I love what BTOWN is doing, and I love what Amanda and Chris are doing. Obviously they should have checked with me and planned Gnar Fest on a weekend when I wasn’t out of town working, but other than that, I have no complaints.
I spent my youth saying that in Brantford there’s nothing to do, and it’s fantastic that BTOWN is a colourful reminder it’s not true. So do that thing that I cringe when “influencers” request it – like and subscribe, but in this case do it for Brantford. Or do one better… love and get involved.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Graham Chittenden is a stand up comedian and award-winning television writer as well as a lifetime Brantfordian who enjoys hanging out with his dogs and wandering in the forest.
ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPHER
Kyle Fisher is a professional musician (The Dirty Nil) and freelance photographer from Hamilton, Ontario.
I also am a resident of Brantford. 81 yrs and born here. We have many famous people from here as you know, but many talented people are being overlooked as well. Potters, authors inventors, to just mention a few. I didn’t know about this company of local supporters. However I have met some of these wonderful artists over the years. Hurrah Brantford!
Perfect. What a fantastic article that expresses exactly how I have felt my entire life. It just made my day and I’m so glad I found out about btown and want to become more connected.
I was born and raised in Brantford and I too have felt that it is time that the artistic and cultural talent living amongst us—the humble people who know their gifts and just want to share—have a place to shine. And why not right here!! Brantford’s municipal government needs to get more engaged with its community members and stop putting up so many roadblocks—stop pushing our talent outside of our city limits.
I am also part of a grassroots arts and culture group called ViBrant ARC (Art Reconnecting Community) that wants to let the residents of Brantford know that we have it all…right here, right now!! Look up and when you can’t look around not down.
May the art circle ever expand.
(BTW I am a big fan of Graham Chittenden and Still Standing.)