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To celebrate the publication of the book Islands of Resistance (New Star) and the fifth birthday of Tree Frog Radio, a small but enthusiastic group gathered in the back room of the community hall of an unnamed island to eat cake and entertain each other. The book, which is subtitled Pirate Radio in Canada, is a collection of essays about just that, and Tree Frog Radio is the local pirate radio station.
The evening started with the lighting of the five candles on the organic chocolate pirate cake and a traditional island blessing: everyone held their hands up in front of them, palms facing out, and then swept their hands down and up three times, bowing their bodies slightly as they moved, and chanting "Yummmmm, yummmmm, yummmmm." Then, after an impromptu and original birthday song on guitar, banjo and accordion, we performed a "communal blow" to extinguish the candles.
Sheila (Freedom Soundz, Sundays at 11 am), one of the contributors to the book, acted as MC, and Bruce and Gary (Old Friends, Saturdays at 6:30 pm) were at the radio controls broadcasting parts of the event, which was taking place in their time slot (if you were tuned in you probably heard me laughing).
Marian van der Zon, who is also one of the editors of and a contributor to the book. She and her husband make up the musical group Puzzleroot (banjo, guitar and voice) that played a set later in the evening.
I sat between Dr. D (The Grow Show, Fridays at 8 pm) and Bob Sarti, a writer from an island nearby who, accompanied by other pirate radio supporters, gave a sneak preview of the latest Theatre in the Raw project, Yippies in Love a musical that covers events in Vancouver in the early 70s (including the Gastown Riot) and which will be premiered this fall. They sang a catchy little number called "Vote for No One" and remember, you heard it here first.
Robert (The Classics, Thursdays at 7 pm), and his group "Flocons de Mais" played tangos on violin, piano and guitar, and a ten-year-old named Stephanie (no radio show—yet) sang "Gotta be strong, gotta keep my head high" without accompaniment and without forgetting any of the words.
Ron Sakolsky, another of the book's contributor/editors, read a list of "Tactics Towards Radio without Programming" from Christof Migone's essay because Ron will be talking about his own essay at the upcoming Denman Island Readers and Writers Festival (July 12–18). Ron was accompanied, on the accordion, by the third editor, Andrea Langlois ("play the accordion" is tactic number 9).
The finale was performed by a couple of late additions to the program: Miles Howe (who calls himself Happy Feet) and his buddy Maxim (banjo, vocals and interpretive dance). Miles took a minute to strap bells to his ankles, set up his harmonica holder and tune his mandolin, and then they performed a song called "Ain't this almost like the savannah" about a lion plotting his escape from the zoo and another one called "The Swamp Monster blues." They finished with Miles singing a song about a salmon struggling up a river to spawn (and then die) while Maxim danced/acted it out.
Islands of Resistance from the book table, opened it at random and couldn't stop reading. Lots of inspiring stories including the creation of Radio Barriere Lake, a pirate radio station in one of the poorest communities in Canada, and another about Temporary Autonomous Radio (TAR), a pirate radio station that holds day-long festivals in secret (and not so secret) locations. For only 20 bucks I got to take home a treasure chest full of the kind of anarchaic joy and playfulness that had been a big part of tmy evening in the back hall. What a steal.