Ted Bishop was writing creative non-fiction before he even knew what it was. A Professor in the Department of English and Film Studies at the University of Alberta, he had previously concentrated on scholarly pieces about the likes of Virginia Woolf and James Joyce. “From the time I was 14, I wanted to write a book with a penguin on it and a motorcycle in it,” he says.
Bishop finally got his motorcycle, a Ducati, and decided to ride it to Texas and write about it. A New York agent told him he was one of countless others with the same goal. What was so special about his idea? Riding with Rilke: Reflections on Motorcycles and Books, published by Penguin/Viking, answered the question. One critic described it as “an account of a road trip on the back of a Ducati that is also a tribute to literature, life, and landscape.” Bishop’s next book, The Social Life of Ink: Culture, Wonder and Our Relationship with the Written Word, is another example of how, in the words of another critic, he “makes the reader share his wonder at the world.” The book arose from his question to a librarian: where is the book on ink? There wasn’t one, until Bishop wrote it. That book took him around the world from Utah to China exploring everything from the ball point pen to a Qur’an stained with the blood of a caliph who was assassinated while reading it.
Bishop has written numerous pieces of non-fiction and been nominated for and won many awards. Both of his books were finalists for the Canada Council Prize in Non-fiction. He is equally comfortable speaking to a high-level academic group or a class of Grade 4 students. “I gave them the same exercise I give all my classes: take the sentence ‘the woman walked up to the door’ and substitute more descriptive words. Those kids were actually inspiring. I’m hoping enough people will have them write stories that will become their own creative non-fiction.”
“Usually what comes to me are questions that I can’t find the answer to, so I go off and write something. I never know how it is going to end. It’s a journey and mode of exploration.”
John Hudson was well on his way to becoming a lawyer when he got sidelined by the requirement for an arts option at the University of Alberta. “I took something like introduction to acting and absolutely loved the course. I still hold a sense of wonder for theatre. Each time out is an adventure.”
The Executive Director and one of the founders of the newly refurbished Varscona Theatre and co-founder and Artistic Director of Shadow Theatre, Hudson has played many roles on the theatre scene in Edmonton. As an actor he has performed with nearly every theatre organization, from the Fringe to the Citadel, and has directed in almost every theatre venue in Edmonton. In 1998, he was recognized as one of the University of Alberta Drama Department’s “most distinguished graduates.”
Hudson is equally comfortable in a management role. “I’ve always felt that arts organizations need to be able to be well managed and sustain themselves. The business side is always a challenge. But it’s actually something I quite enjoy.”
As Artistic Director of Shadow Theatre, Hudson implemented a successful new play development program. He has directed more than 100 plays and won the outstanding production award at the Edmonton Fringe Festival 3 times. He also served 3 years on the Edmonton Arts Council, one as Chair.
Hudson was the driving force behind the Varscona Theatre reconstruction. With up to 350 performances per year, the Varscona Theatre is one of the busiest theatre spaces in Canada. As CEO, Hudson was a key member of the team that raised over $7.5 million for the theatre’s rebuilding. He is working now to build the theatre into a major cultural centre for Edmonton. “When we finished the building, the last two years were exhausting and draining. Now I feel revved up and ready to go. Why rest now? It’s time to take another leap!”
“I really feel that if your company is in good shape financially, it makes the art thrive.”
Everyone in the music business, and beyond, knew her only by her last name: Kirby. That was how she wanted it. They also knew her as one of the best sound technicians in Western Canada and as a booking agent, a publicist, an artist manager, a venue broker, a journalist, and the list goes on.
Kirby died after a short battle with cancer at age 60 in 2014. During her more than four decades in the music business she wore nearly every hat imaginable. It would be difficult to find an Edmonton musician who hasn’t been helped or motivated by her. This trailblazing matriarch of the music scene in Edmonton was a staunch advocate for musicians’ rights. No one was too small to receive her full attention and the benefit of her knowledge and wisdom. She was a mentor to hundreds of young people as they tried to establish themselves in the Edmonton music scene.
Nicknamed “The Badass Queen of the Edmonton Scene,” Kirby started in the industry in the early 1970s as sound technician for blues act Tacoy Ryde. She toured with the band and ran venue sound for Edmonton spots such as the Power Plant, Starlite Room and Dinwoodie Lounge. Her company Ramparts Entertainment served as manager and publicist for musical artists and she booked talent for the Sidetrack Café, Black Dog and Festival Place. Meanwhile, she helped local artists write grant applications and was a passionate music commentator.
Kirby helped many achieve exposure on the local, national and international scenes. She moved many local careers forward and was behind some of Canada’s successful acts, including David GoGo, Bobby Cameron and Jr. Gone Wild. Her contact list was a who’s who of the Canadian music scene, yet she was never too busy to help emerging artists seeking direction.
“We all owe Kirby a huge thank you for making Edmonton’s music scene one of the most vibrant in Canada. Her life and legacy leaves all of us (musicians and music lovers alike) something very special to celebrate.” Gord Steinke
Sharma Padmanabhan & Radha Padmanabhan
Sharma and Radha Padmanabhan arrived in Edmonton from India in 1974, and while they loved their new home, they felt something was missing. What they did to fill that void has added meaning not only to their own lives, but to countless others while also adding to Edmonton’s multicultural image.
The Padmanabhans are in their 38th year as producers of the Image India television program on Shaw TV. The program is a labour of love and depends wholly on volunteers, says Radha. “It is Indian-based, but the communication is in English and includes every culture.”
The program’s content ranges from arts, culture, dance and music to local news, documentaries and interviews with well-known local, national and international personalities. Radha does a cooking segment in her own kitchen titled “Cooking With Radha,” featuring vegetarian cooking. Shows have also included segments on meditation, spirituality, fitness, healthy living and mobility for seniors.
“We give media volunteers practice with camera angles, lighting, and producing a quality show,” Radha says. “Some go on to careers in TV production and establish their own video studios. There’s never a dull moment.”
The Padmanabhans also produce successful stage concerts featuring local artists as well as world-class visiting artists, mostly from India. They provide the hospitality of their own residence to make Edmonton a home away from home for the visitors.
She adds, “All our crews are of different religions and ethnicities. After each rehearsal for our stage concerts, we all sit down for a meal together and I do the cooking. We bring people from different cultures together. We have so much talent everywhere. It is definitely a passion for us.”
The bi-weekly program is broadcast every Sunday between 6-7pm on Shaw TV, Ch. 10.
“It is never going to end. We still have the same passion and energy we had when we started. And I think through our leadership we’ve made Edmonton a paragon of multiculturalism.”