Archive for the 'Features' Category

What’s your big idea for the future of the city?

Nov 13 2013 Published by under Features

By now you’ve probably heard The Scope is publishing its final print edition this December. It might be sad, but we think instead of dwelling on the past how about we all put our heads together and come up with some ideas for the future?

We’re asking you to send in a 100-200 word response to this question:

What is your big idea for the future of St. John’s?

If you get us your answer by next Tuesday, November 19 at midnight, your idea could be featured in our upcoming print edition. E-mail your writing to Be sure to include your name and occupation. Your writing may be edited for clarity or length.

A few tips on how to write a good Big Idea:
– Stick to one idea. Be specific!
– Describe why your idea is a good one and how we can go about it.
– Be unique! We’re more likely to run an idea we’ve never heard before.
– Don’t limit your thinking to just planning, roads, water, or public transit. Think big! Think little! Think in-between!
– Outrageous, silly, or improbable ideas? Most definitely encouraged.

To get you going, you can read our previous Big Idea features:

Here are some examples of previous Big Ideas:
“Integrate high school gyms with community recreation facilities.” – TA Loeffler
“Make city-supported community gardens” – Andrew Harvey
“Offer free city-wide Wi-Fi” – Kerri Breen
“Stretch a clothesline across the narrows.” – Ramona Dearing
“Move the provincial capital to the West Coast.” – Liam Herringshaw
“Open up a downtown movie theatre.” – Roger Maunder
“Build the bigger buildings up the hill [and out of the downtown core]” – Geoff Meeker
“Convert Bell Island into a theme park.” – Kerri Breen/Bryh Greenough/Elling Lien

See you in the future,

Elling Lien
Editor, The Scope

What’s your big idea for the future of the city?

21 responses so far

Society Life

Aug 28 2013 Published by under Features

When you’ve already got heaps of classes to attend, it seems like the last thing you need is another addition to your schedule. Here’s a fact: getting involved is fun, it helps you meet people, and it makes you more likely to stick around when school gets tough. Here are a few recommended things to register for in September to make your busy life a lot better. No pre-requisites! No wait list!

Illustrations by Ricky King.

Advanced Geekery

MUN Geek Society

Whether you’re very into tabletop gaming, bitchin’ knit goods, or the collected works of Joss Whedon, you’ll probably find somebody else that shares your passion at the MUN Geek Society. “It’s a group where it is acceptable to be really into something whether it is chess, or school, or comic books,” says president Nicole Baldwin. “It is a place were everyone is not just accepted for the things that make them weird in other places but those things are celebrated.” Their society room (UC-6008) is always a safe space to geek out. Firefly marathon? Yup. Solar eclipse party? Sure.


CHMR-FM Volunteers

Memorial’s campus and community radio station is staffed by student volunteers. Newly minted DJs set the radio playlists for their own shows, and news writers and news readers bring the latest bulletins to air. For those not blessed with a soothing radio voice or steely nerves, the station also trains technical producers to work with on-air talent (the ‘Roz’ to their ‘Fraiser’, if you will). The station has some illustrious alumni who have made it to network news and radio. Everybody gets their start somewhere.

Physical & Mental Development 9000

MUN Aikido

If late nights and harsh profs have got you feeling off balance, MUN Aikido may be able to help. Aikido, which translates as “the Way of Harmony”, is based on ju-jitsu and weapons arts, but its focus is personal development and the peaceful resolution of conflict. Students have been coming to MUN Aikido for thirty years, to learn about self-defense, for noncompetitive physical activity, for exercise, and to learn about Japanese culture and philosophy through the study of a traditional martial art. It’s a diverse group: a typical class has a 70/30 split between male and female participants, and open membership means people of all ages are welcome. Also, it’s a highly sociable group. Nothing says “let’s be pals” like throwing, locking and disabling an opponent. MUN Aikido’s new dojo (21 Mews Place) will be open mid-September with a special two-week introductory session for beginners.

Practical Leadership


Members of AIESEC (pronounced “eye-sic”) are out to run the world. As the local chapter of the largest student-run organization in the world, AIESEC is home to students that are focusing on using their powers for good, not evil. “We provide leadership experiences for students by sending them on international volunteer and internship programs in all corners of the world,” says president Ben Steffler. “We go into the business community and find companies interested in hiring interns from around the world. Using our vast global network, we match companies with exchange participants that meet the job requirements.” AIESEC welcomes anybody looking for real world leadership experience. “There are no gimmicks with us,” says Steffler. “We are sending people around the world, giving them experiences they will remember for the rest of their lives.” Of course, when you’re changing the world, it’s funny how often a dance party will break out. “Be ready to shake it,” says Steffler.

Swing 101

Lindy Hop on the Rock aka MUN Swing Club

“Very positive. Very smiley. It’s the ‘swing’ attitude!” says organizer Tim Thomson. “Swing” refers to the family of dances associated with jazz, including the Lindy Hop, Charleston, and East Coast Swing. “We get lots of people that have never danced before,” says Thomson. “The best dancers are built from beginners.” The social club offers classes at all levels, but the focus is on keeping the doors open for everyone, especially newcomers. Going solo? Not a problem. In a club that all about mingling and having fun, there’s always a dance partner nearby.

Modern Global Issues

MUN Oxfam, MUN HOPE, RADHOC, MUN Campus Food Strategy Group (CFSG)

MUN Oxfam, MUN HOPE (Health Outreach Promotion Education) and CFSG are globally minded organizations, interested in fundraising, advocating and outreach, with MUN Oxfam focusing on global issues such as world hunger, gender justice, climate change and individual rights, and MUN HOPE on health and education, RADHOC on social justice, and CFSG on bringing sustainable food to campus. All four groups work to open doors for their members and make a difference in the world. MUN Oxfam hosts biweekly “Oxtalks”, informal seminars on global issues, and offers opportunities to travel. MUN HOPE also helps send volunteers overseas each year to work on a health-related project of their choosing. RADHOC organizes a youth leadership conference for high schoolers. No experience or background is necessary to join, just a strong desire to make a difference. • • •

For a list of other student societies, visit

Society Life

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Wha? of the Week: Gardening

May 13 2013 Published by under Features

This week at you can ask organic farmer (and Scope mom!) Judy Lien any questions you have about what to plant when, companion planting, and tricks for growing vegetables without pesticides or herbicides.
Click here to submit a question.
Click here to read the submitted questions and answers.

Wha? of the Week: Gardening

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Outdoor Winter Activities & Resources

Dec 05 2012 Published by under Features

Resorts & Outdoor Recreation Areas

Butterpot Park
Located 36 kilometres southwest of St. John’s. Park hours are 8am to 4pm, then the gate locks. The park is home to the Avalon Nordic Ski Club, which maintains 10 kilometres of groomed runs. Rentals, available on weekends, are $30, but may be limited. Reach the park office by calling 709-685-1853. Map:

Marble Mountain Resort
Located in Steady Brook, 676 kilometres from St. John’s, or a 30-minute drive from Deer Lake airport. Ski season runs mid-December to early April. Open seven days a week, closed on Christmas Day. Winter Carnival runs February 15th to 24th. Air, stay and ski packages available. Snowline is 709-637-SNOW or visit

Downhill Skiing: Five lifts connect to 37 trails and 230 acres of skiable terrain. Average annual snowfall is 16 feet. Full day adult lift pass is $59 and $43 half day. Complete ski and snowboard rentals are $37 per day.

Other Winter Activities: Opportunities for snowshoeing, cross country skiing, winter zip-lining and snowmobiling. Rentals (including snowmobile) are available.

Pippy Park
Located in St. John’s off Allandale Road.
North Bank Lodge opens in early January and cross-country ski and snowshoe rentals are available here for $12 per day or $4 per hour. All trails are free and open to the public. Pick up a free map or find one here: Call 737-3651 for more info.

Classic Cross Country and Skate Skiing: Three kilometres of groomed trail. Lights on till 10pm on Fridays and Saturdays.

Classic Cross Country Skiing and Snowshoeing: For a longer excursion into ungroomed territory check out the Three Pond Barrens area of the park. The longest in park loop is six kilometres, and the connecting extension will take you 11 kilometres to Windsor Lake.

White Hills Ski Resort
Located in Clarenville, 190 kilometres from St. John’s. Season typically runs from late December to April. Days and hours vary, with night skiing most Friday nights. Many area hotels offer ski and stay packages. Call to verify hours of operation 1-877-466-4559 or visit

Downhill Skiing: One chairlift and a magic carpet connect 12 trails and 55 acres of skiable terrain, plus unpatrolled ‘glade area’. Adult lift pass is $49 or $39 half day. Complete ski and snowboard rentals are $35 per day.

Other Winter Activities: Over 40 kilometres of groomed cross-country ski trails with warm up huts maintained by the Clarenville Nordic Ski club. Entry, administered through the White Hills resort, is $20 or $16 half day. No equipment rentals.
Entry to the three-kilometre snowshoe trail is $15 and rentals are available for $15 or $10 half day.
Map of cross county ski and snowshoe area:


The most popular spots in St. John’s to have a slide include Bowring Park, Pippy Park and Victoria Park.

Groomed Walking Trails

The following trails are maintained year round. Find maps here:

St. John’s
Grand Concourse winter trails include Long Pond Trail, Kenny’s Pond, Mundy Pond, Quidi Vidi Lake, and T’Railway from Railway Museum to Mount Pearl Boundary. Bowring Park walkways are also cleared in winter.

Mount Pearl
T’Railway from Wells Crescent to Park Avenue.

Octagon Pond and Neil’s Pond.

Clubs & Organizations

Avalon Nordic Ski Club
Non-profit and volunteer run, an adult membership is $80 per year. This goes towards maintaining trails, the clubhouse at Butterpot Park, and rental equipment. Organized tours throughout season of Pippy Park, Bauline, Torbay, Pouch Cove, Portugal Cove, Butterpot Park, and other areas, includes some moonlight tours. More info at

The Outfitters
Tours, clinics and rentals. Cross-country skis, both classic and skate available, rent at $25 per day or $90 a week; snowshoes $15 per day or $56 per week. Located at 22 Water Street, phone 579-4453.

Outdoor Winter Activities & Resources

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Dec 05 2012 Published by under Features

You know the cycle. The eating, the drinking, the family-ing, the partying, the spending. It’s a fun time while it lasts, but it’s not sustainable. By New Year’s Eve, the hyper-social debauchery spirals out of control and the old year goes supernova. Then the character of the city changes. As the temperature drops, the streets and sidewalks plug up with snow and our world gets quiet. Inhabitants build blanket nests in their burrows and begin to hibernate. While this brave new year may come as a relief for while, eventually it gets a little too quiet.

So how do you warm things up at this time of year without the pressure of your night being a barnburner? One way is to open your home for a weekly evening hang-out. No high stakes conversation, no dinner party, not much booze, just a hang out.

Last January I hosted something like this and dubbed it WednesdayLite. Here are some things we did.

Illustrations by Ricky King



This is the entry level variety of WednesdayLite. It’s a low impact hang-out, which is why it’s great.

Someone you know has Twister, Pictionary, Settlers of Catan, or even just a deck of cards kicking around. Dust those suckers off, then maybe round up a little prize (FREE BAG OF CHIPS!) for the winner to up the ante. It’s guaranteed to activate a competitive streak or two.

My favourite game these days is Cards Against Humanity. It’s like a terribly crude version of Balderdash that is actually fun. The rules are very simple, and you can get the gist of the game in a single round. The makers tout it “as despicable and awkward as you and your friends.” The best part is you can download a set for free at


D.I.Y. Karaoke

Karaoke can be magical, it can be terrible, and it can be both at the same time. At a bar the stakes are higher and the necessary amount of alcohol to get up the nerve to do it is a little too high. So why not try it at home?

The bare bones minimum for gear is a computer with some speakers, while a mixer and mic plugged into a stereo would turn your living room into a real karaoke bar.

You can search YouTube for karaoke versions of your favourite songs. You never know what you’ll find, but if classic rock is your thing, you’re probably in luck.

If you’re looking for alternatives, there’s a free and easy site with a nicely curated list of songs by Arcade Fire, Belle and Sebastian, Blur, Of Montreal, and even a drop of Johnny Cash. I have no idea where that site came from, but it’s great.

Yes, singing in front of strangers can be terrifying. But if you don’t have the guts to belt out a song or two with your friends in the safety of someone’s living room, you are doomed. So do it!


Big Screen YouTube

You probably already do this with your friends, but why not make it a real event, or even a game? Find the biggest computer screen or video projector you can and tell your guests to come with their best internet video suggestions. Maybe ask for them to follow a theme, like “cutest animal videos ever” or “unintentionally funny” or “amazing feats of humanity.” The sky’s the limit, because it’s the internet.

The internet: check it out sometime.


Noise Jam

Sure, this one is a little weird, but whatever. This brings the joy of jamming without the pesky requirement of making it sound good. Now is your chance to discover what musical genius and/or sonic atrocities you and your friends are capable of. Round up some instruments, or things that make noise from around your house. Your kitchen might be a good place to start. Bowls, ice cubes, wine glasses, water can all be coaxed into making sound. Clang!


Scar Stories

Storytelling can be a lot of fun, but not everyone thinks they have one to tell. One way around that is to talk about scars. Every person has a story of how they got their marks, and they are often pretty exciting and/or terrifying. This is show-and-tell for adults. No special equipment or preparation required, although it might be good to warn people that you want to do this ahead of time, in case anyone is squeamish, or shy about their scars.



Intrigued? Ahem. Let me put my lab coat on. Okay, miracle fruit is a plant native to West Africa that temporarily causes your taste buds to perceive sour things, like lemons, as sweet. It is not a psychoactive drug. It contains a certain molecule that temporarily binds with the sweet receptors on your tongue, and as a result sensations of sour are perceived as being insanely sweet. SERIOUSLY.

Serve up a platter of fruit — lemons, grapes, rhubarb, grapefruit, pineapple, lime, and, for the more adventurous, maybe some pickles, sauerkraut and other weird sour things. The effects last about an hour. We ordered the Frooties brand off the web, and it arrived in a few weeks.

The New York Times did a great feature on flavour-tripping with miracle fruit a few years ago, if you want to read more.


Arm Wrestling

People enjoy arm wrestling. Even the people who say they don’t like arm wrestling like arm wrestling. Especially when they win.

An important part of hosting an arm-wrestling gathering is hype. First send out a message for each invitee to submit their arm-wrestling handle for their would-be arm-wrestling character (or threaten to run an online wrestling name generator). This gets them thinking, their arms flexing, and their alter-egos start to take shape.

Using these names we put together an old-timey-looking wrestling poster with pictures of our friends’ heads on wrestler bodies. We called it Arm Fight Club.

You’ll need an announcer and a ref, and maybe some good intro music for wrestlers as the strut onto the battlefield. The rest is history.

For the serious among you, check out this website for actual arm wrestling rules.


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The Best of #NLBondMovies

Nov 30 2012 Published by under Features

Photo illo by Elling Lien

If the tweets load too slowly for you, you can read them here.

The Best of #NLBondMovies

One response so far

Big Ideas for Local Art & Music: Local Ideas

Oct 31 2012 Published by under City,Features

Illustration by Kelly Bastow

Every year The Scope publishes a feature that brainstorms ideas for the city. This year, for the first time, we decided to focus on ways to improve or grow the local art and music scene.

The St. John’s art and music scene is pretty great. There are tons of talented people here doing amazing things. It’s relatively easy to get in there, get your hands dirty. Even if they don’t participate, people in the city are proud to live in a place with vibrant culture.

But for all we has going for us, where can we go from here?

Here is a handful of great ideas already in the works in St. John’s.

Written by Morgan Murray, Lauren Power and Sarah Smellie.


Poetry, right? Widening gyres, coffee spoons, yadda yadda — get yourself a Lit degree and an indoor scarf already.

“Actually, we’re trying to cut through all that bullshit,” says Allison Dyer, Interim Executive Director of the Writers’ Alliance of Newfoundland and Labrador (WANL).

This September WANL and the City of St. John’s launched the latest installment of MetroVerse, which will put excerpts from 16 different Newfoundland-written poems in Metrobus buses all year.

Each season, four poems by four poets will go up in four buses among all the regular advertisements. It’s a way to expose a larger audience to an art form that doesn’t normally get a lot of publicity, or even a fair shake.

“We’re hoping to show that poetry is an extremely accessible form,” she says. “People are there, on the bus, and they’ve got a chance to really read it and understand it for what it is.”

Dyer, a poet herself, says that even she took a while to warm up to poetry.

“I made those assumptions, too,” she says. “And the stuff you read in school is so removed. But I think that if people see and read what our poets are writing — they’re talking about everyday things, in everyday language — they’d see that none of those assumptions are true and that poetry is there to be read and enjoyed by everyone.”
Sarah Smellie




On the 63rd anniversary of Confederation, artist Bill Rose decided to declare his independance: he left the private art galleries behind and, with his business partner Peter Coombs, set out to be his own art dealer.

“Bill was struggling with how he wanted to show his work,” says Coombs. “In a gallery, he rarely had the chance to talk about his work. He thought people needed to see it more often, and in different contexts.”

Rose and Coombs now operate, where Bill “houses” his work. Rose makes the art, Coombs takes care of selling it. They hold pop-up art shows, which last just a few hours, and they bring Rose’s pieces to folks that are interested in them.

“The pop-up art shows get his art to people who wouldn’t normally go to galleries,” says Coombs. “We can take it to different places, show it to different audiences, and we can take it outsideSt. John’s.”

Doing the work themselves also means people are paying less to own Rose’s art.

“As a senior artist in the province, prices were getting high for his work,” says Coombs. “He felt that it just wasn’t accessible through a gallery. This new model helps bring the cost down, and Bill is now the primary beneficiary of all of the sales, there are no gallery fees being paid. When people know that the money is going directly to the artist, it becomes more of a community thing. People will pitch in to help, they’re offering sites to show the art, free transportation of the pieces — it feels more like a movement.”
Sarah Smellie



NL Musician’s Association Emergency Fund

When Gene Browne, musician and proprietor of The Levee, was left homeless after a fire razed his apartment, help found him.

The Newfoundland & Labrador Musicians’ Association’s Emergency Fund was formed in October to provide a safety net for all music industry professionals in the province, to help with everything from home heating fuel costs to disaster relief. With Browne’s house fire, the fund was created, had its first fundraiser, and made its first donation in the same week.

The sold-out launch and fundraiser on October 18 featured Mary Barry with Charlie Barfoot, Shawn Beresford, Sean Panting, Lynda Boyd and Krysten Pellerin.

“We were able to present our first emergency donation the very next night to the ‘Let Me Stand Next to Your Fire’ Fundraiser for Gene and Robyn,” says association president Gary Johnston.

Browne was blown away by the response. “I feel, in terms of a community thing, it’s a great thing to see happen,” says Browne. “The fact that everyone came together at the drop of a hat, was amazing. I’m happy to see it. I’ve always been outspoken about the whole community aspect of the scene, and it’s good to see it’s still there. We’re both very speechless about it, to be honest. We can’t say thank you enough.”

With the fundraising goals met,Johnston is happy to have a base to draw from. “With the fund created and the first donation made, the focus has shifted to the future,” he says. “We do need to continue to build that fund and our board will be meeting to discuss our next moves and plan future events. You can probably expect to see similar events 3 to 4 times a year.”

Donations to the NL Musicians’ Association Emergency Fund can be made by contacting theNewfoundlandand Labrador Musicians’ Association at or by calling (709) 722-8005.
Lauren Power



Heavyweather / BalconyTV / Radio Hugo

Music video crews are a big deal here these days. The days of means-to-an-end video production and promotion are long over, and music video art is happening here in town.

In October, HEAVYWEATHER, the St. John’s based music video crew of Adam Penney and Justin Davis, won the MusicNL award for Company of the Year. The award recognizes venues, labels, promoters, broadcasters and any group that is, in some way, elevating the music industry in the province. The win is indicative of a shift in the province’s music industry, and the role of music video crews.

“A band can spend from 5 to 10 thousand dollars or more on a 4 minute music video which takes three days to film and doesn’t always turn out the way they want,” says Penney. “Most local bands would be better off putting that money into studio time and recording a solid album.”

Through filming and hosting natural live performance videos, HEAVYWEATHER is capturing and promoting Newfoundland musicians. Their “one continuous take, all live audio” style is their own.

HEAVYWEATHER are not alone in making music videos in St. John’s. Other crews are defining themselves: BalconyTV, the 36-city former art-project that turned into an international organization, hosts artist performances online and has recently set up a franchise in St. John’s.

Hugo LeBlanc, creator of DIY crew Radio Hugo, says, “There’s an audience for everyone. In the end, if people like what I do and bands or artists can get gigs using the videos to promote their music, mission accomplished!”
Lauren Power



RPM Challenge / 24 Hour Art Marathon / 48 Hour Horror Challenge

Sometimes what you really need to get over that hump between aspiring artist and actual artist isn’t better gear, or a better muse, but a deadline.

Couple that ticking clock with a crowd of likewise underslept, overcaffeinated creators around you and you’ve got yourself, quite literally, a real art scene: a shared creative experience that nets great art and even greater community.

This past February more than 260 local musicians recorded 139 albums of original material as part of the annual RPM Challenge, coordinated locally by The Scope. One hundred and thirty-nine albums.

Eastern Edge Gallery’s annual Art Marathon Festival, which has grown into a week-long contemporary art festival from its 24 Hour Art Marathon, has been going on for past 13 years. This year 58 artists of every sort were nestled in every nook and cranny of theBairdBuilding onHarbour Drive, creating from noon to noon.

And now the frantic rush to create is hitting local film. The Nickel Independent Film Festival is holding its first 48 Hour Horror Challenge this month. Teams of filmmakers must write, shoot, and edit a five minute horror short over November 3rd and 4th. The team with the best short will have it screened at the next Nickel Festival and will also win $1000 worth of services towards their next film project. Find out more on their Facebook page.
Morgan Murray

Big Ideas for Local Art & Music: Local Ideas

3 responses so far

Big Ideas 2012 for Local Art & Music: Out of Town Ideas

Oct 31 2012 Published by under City,Features

Illustration by Kelly Bastow

Every year The Scope publishes a feature that brainstorms ideas for the city. This year, for the first time, we decided to focus on ways to improve or grow the local art and music scene.

The St. John’s art and music scene is pretty great. There are tons of talented people here doing amazing things. It’s relatively easy to get in there, get your hands dirty. Even if they don’t participate, people in the city are proud to live in a place with vibrant culture.

But for all we has going for us, where can we go from here?

Here is a bunch of great ideas from elsewhere that might be worth copying in St. John’s.

Written by Morgan Murray.




Diyode (Guelph,Ontario)

While robust and a source of immense pride, the St. John’s arts scene can’t really call itself an arts scene because it is missing one crucial component: Fighting robots.

Okay, just kidding. Still, the idea of people building things themselves for fun is a good one. And it’s a gateway into all sorts of collaborative cultural creative activity, or at least could be.

In cities around the world, communal work spaces, sometimes called “Hacker Spaces” have been popping up recently. These spaces bring together creative sorts — call them DIYers, geeks, artists, what-have-you — to share knowledge and resources (power tools!) as they work on gnarly projects. One such place is Diyode in Guelph,Ontario.

Diyode is a 1,600 square foot space divided into a fully-stocked wood shop, metal shop, clean work space for electronics and such, a common area, and classrooms. For a nominal fee members can use the tools, participate in workshops — on everything from furniture design to computer coding — and team up with others to make, say, killer underwater robots. Diyode also owns an old beat-up pick-up truck that members can use to haul around their creations.

Surely if a similarly small city like Guelph can pull it off, we can too.



Fredericksburg All Ages (Fredericksburg,Virginia)

Fredericksburg All Ages (FAA) is a youth-run not-for-profit organization in the city of Fredericksburg— a city of 24,000 mid-way between Washington,DC and Richmond,Virginia. The group books and organizes all ages shows.

Yes, FAA is run by youth. There are adults on the board of directors, and young adults (or older kids) who hold administrative positions, but the organization ensures that youth are involved in all aspects of running the organization.

All-in-all this isn’t so unique (in fact, St. John’s Peace-A-Chord was an annual festival coordinated by youth through the 80s and 90s) but one unique feature of FAA is they actively pair local bands of high schoolers with big shot touring bands. Similar groups showcase young local acts, some bring in touring acts, but few do both at the same time, on the same stage, on the same nights.

The young bands love it, and according to the organization, the touring bands like it too.

“They see their younger selves in the high school bands and are reminded of the excitement they had when they were their age,” reads the FAA website. “It’s not uncommon to see professional musicians take the time to talk to the opening local bands backstage, give them mentoring advice, and assume a big brother or big sister type of role.” 



826 Tutoring Centres (Various American Cities)

It all began simply enough. David Eggers and his McSweeney’s indie-publishing swashbucklers needed a new place to work. They found a place in an old storefront at826 Valencia StreetinSan Francisco, and it was so good that the crew thought they could run some free after school writing tutoring on the side to help out people in the area. But there was a catch. The building was zoned for retail. If there was no store, it was a no go.

Instead of walking away, they opened a tongue-in-cheek Pirate Supply Shop in the front and a publishing house and a tutoring centre in the back.

Things went incredibly well. The store was a hit, the publishing house continued to grow, and the tutoring sideline was an overwhelming success. Things went so well that the idea has been farmed out to other cities across the States. There is now a superhero supply store in Brooklyn, a time travel supply store in LA, a robot supply and repair shop outside Detroit, a secret agent supply shop in Chicago, a space travel shop in Seattle, a Museum of Unnatural History in Washington, DC, and a Bigfoot Research Institute in Boston. All with free creative and expository writing tutoring for kids between six and 18. The tutoring centres have had such a huge impact that Dave Eggars won a TED prize for his work.



The Apartment Series (Nanaimo,British Columbia)

The Apartment Series, based in Nanaimo, British Columbia, is a roving performance art troupe that performs in people’s homes. Their first piece, performed last November, was a one-act play called The Table Saw, about a too-close encounter with a table saw, performed in the very apartment it happened in. Interested theatre-goers simply contacted the organizers to find out the secret location and pay-what-you could donations were accepted at the door.

The Apartment Series’ shows are public events in private homes, sort of like house shows for music. And consideringSt. John’sis awash in talented thespians, dramaturges, and playwrights, you would think that something like this would fly here.

On top of the public-in-private performance, you would also think that in a city full of increasingly wealthy socialites, there would be an opportunity for enterprising actors and directors and writers to make a buck performing plays at private parties too.

Big Ideas 2012 for Local Art & Music: Out of Town Ideas

4 responses so far

Big Ideas for Local Art & Music: Submitted Ideas

Oct 31 2012 Published by under City,Features

Illustration by Kelly Bastow

Every year The Scope publishes a feature that brainstorms ideas for the city. This year, for the first time, we decided to focus on ways to improve or grow the local art and music scene.

The St. John’s art and music scene is pretty great. There are tons of talented people here doing amazing things. It’s relatively easy to get in there, get your hands dirty. Even if they don’t participate, people in the city are proud to live in a place with vibrant culture.

But for all we has going for us, where can we go from here?

We polled a passel of local arts luminaries, and opened it up to the crowd online. Here’s what they, and you came up with.


I just want to point out there is no place to practice the hot arts, such as blacksmithing, jewelry making and glass blowing. These practices ideally need an industrial type area, with concrete floors and ventilation. Lots of spaces that fit the bill, of course, but they are taken up by industry. Another issue is that insurance companies don’t want to insure artists who play with fire. A big oil company can afford the insurance and often gets lowers rates due to the volume of their sites. Jessica Butler


More house concerts in St. John’swould be a great idea. While there are a few that happen on a semi-regular basis, there is nothing as established as I’ve seen in a number of other cities around the country. This is slightly bizarre, simply because we are brimming with talented writers and musicians here, and house concerts are a fantastic way to experience music. I should be clear on the definition for those who may not know: a house concert is not to be confused with a house party. Instead, it’s exactly what the name suggests: a concert in a house, complete with two sets, an intermission, and a ticket price. They happen in all sizes, but the result is always the same — a special evening where the audience and performer get to interact in an often profound way. There are actual circuits for this kind of thing around the country ( I think a number of regular hosts in St. John’swould be great for both local and touring artists looking to gain a new audience in the city. Ian Foster


What St. John’s needs is an online forum to act as an outlet for people to post honest reviews of the various events, shows, plays, films, and bands in this city. Most people here, especially artists, seem to fear openly criticizing other artists’ work, even if it is in fact constructive criticism. Everyone can’t like everything everyone else does. You can’t grow as an artist if all you ever hear is “Congratulations, that was great!” Ross Moore


Art has always been a vital element of transferring feelings, ideas, stories and opinions to one another. It is very important for us to teach the younger generations the significance of art and expression by recognizing their creativity. An ongoing public space for youth art would provide such an opportunity. Michael Fantuz


A music fest like the Ottawa Explosion ( where mostly younger bands can get together and build on the punk and rock scene in the city. The folk and indie scene in town is great, and Lawnya Vawnya has been great for that, but a more rockin’ fest—smaller, of course—would be amazing. Make it all ages but put it in a bar, just have wristbands for those who want to drink. I think it would be great. Adrian House


I would like to see more special projects, pop up festivals, and symposia that encourage collaboration between St. John’scultural organizations, artists of varying disciplines and expertise from both here and away. We have an amazing geography and sense of history, but where are we going? What are we adding to the larger national and international conversation about cultural production? Mary MacDonald

Illustration by Kelly Bastow


Tow the island 5000 kilometers to the south.

Move the dockyards up the Southern Shore. Fill up the space left with a park—a place to do shows in the summer and have a hockey rink in winter. Maybe a monument to the Beothuk. And an indoor farmers market with a multipurpose space attached, which has room for an art gallery, art studios, a music studio, music venue, etc.

Yes! Bring MUN’s Visual Arts and Theatre programs from Corner Brookto a new campus downtown. Or at least create a second campus here for these disciplines, giving students a choice. With thousands more students and actors and artists living and working in the downtown core, well, that is a scene, automatically, and new spaces and new events will grow from that. Tim Baker


Rent is high and vacancy is low in St. John’s. Here in Torontothere’s an urban residential nonprofit project called Artscape ( which only leases lofts to practicing and accomplished artists. There’s a screening process. So in short, do this. Put the building somewhere right downtown. Ian Penney


There’s already a Poet Laureate for the city, but it would be great to have a city artist-in-residence and writer-in-residence. Give people three or four months of time to work on a large project, give them a space to do it in, a little living allowance and possibly even have a little apartment where they could live. This would not be so necessary for the local artists and writers who would get residencies, but in phase two of my idea we would also do exchanges with other cities and bring their writers and artists here and send ours there… a girl can dream! Sara Tilley


We need a co-operative space for pooled resources of power tools and saws. This way, visual artists can cut their frames and supports, grassroots theatre kids can make their sets, and no one has to spend the big bucks. People can buy a membership, learn how to use the tools safely, book the machines, and then start making. The tools could be donated, the wood could be bought at a group discount. Add a few comfy couches, and there would be plenty of opportunity for interdisciplinary art chats and potential collaborations. Mireille Eagan


Increase the funding of the Arts Council by a factor of 10. Stop the government from ceaselessly crowing about Newfoundlandand Labrador’s culture and heritage while they insult professional artists by tossing pennies at their feet. Ed Riche


There are too many arts organizations struggling to operate their administrative functions independently. We each don’t need our own photocopier, fax machine, bookkeeper, reception, web support and board room — but that seems to be the only way   funding organizations know how to fund us (and God knows there isn’t enough to go around!) A co-operative space for arts administration supported by public funders which shares common resources would benefit the sector tremendously. Also, being nearby in a physical sense would lead to enhanced collaboration and knowledge sharing. Jenn Deon

Big Ideas for Local Art & Music: Submitted Ideas

3 responses so far

The Tropical Storm Leslie Drinking Game

Sep 11 2012 Published by under Features

With Tropical Storm Leslie headed right for us, set to make landfall tomorrow around the time we should be headed into work or school, there is a chance we could be stuck in the dark at home for a while. Last time this happened we got through Igor with the Igor Drinking Game.

Take a drink when…

…A tree falls onto your car.

…A boat lands on your car.

…Your basement floods.

…the harbour turns brown.

…You hear Ryan Snoddon’s voice.

…a new #LeslieNL tweet is posted.

…a whale knocks on your door asking to come inside.

…part of your roof blows off.

…your roommate fills the bathtub with emergency drinking water.

…your fence comes down.

…hurricane Igor is downgraded to a tropical storm.

…the Trans-Canada closes.

…your shed floats away.

…if your power goes out, down the bottle.

…a boil-order is issued for your area.

…your neighbour starts blasting “Riders on the Storm”.

…the power goes out before you can finish cooking dinner.

…the neighbour takes a chainsaw to his trees to prevent them falling on his house

…you decide to make cheese fondue for dinner. mmm…

Add your own in the comments below.

The Tropical Storm Leslie Drinking Game

2 responses so far

Dropping Science

Aug 29 2012 Published by under Features

Photo by Darrell Edwards

Tony Ingram is one of Newfoundland’s best b-boys, and has been one for eight years. As both a physical therapist and a dancer, it’s obvious he really digs human movement; finding ways to make the body do what the mind tells it to.

And if that means training, patience, and hard work, so be it.

His website, B-boy Science, is a place where his interests in dance and science collide, and where he gives advice to breakers and other dancers around the world.

Hustle To Get Here, happening from September 14-16, is Newfoundland’s one-on-one breaking and hip hop dance crew showcase. This September will mark its third year.

You grew up in Port Aux Basques—where did the interest in breaking come from?

I wasn’t big into team sports like hockey. Everybody played hockey back home, right? And I didn’t. I didn’t really care for it. I did play other sports in high school, like a lot of people do when they go through school, but I wasn’t passionate about any of them. I was on the volleyball team and the basketball team, but everybody is when you’re in a small town.

But when I saw breaking on TV, I was just like, “oh man, I want to do that!” I thought it was so cool. This was from music videos, before the internet got big.

One music video that stands out, definitely, is Run-D.M.C. with Jason Nevins’ “It’s Like That”

What was it about that video in particular?

It’s hard to explain exactly, but, you know, it was different. The dancing was creative and it didn’t seem as structured as a sport is.

For me it was the crazy spinning. They were doing things I didn’t think were possible. And I’m there, like, “oh my god that’s nuts!”

It was dynamic, impossible-looking. Almost superhuman. Everything about it was cool.

I remember being in Port Aux Basques wishing I lived in New York City, just dying to do that kind of thing. It was this burning thing. I remember talking to people about it too: “I’m going to learn how to do this when I move to a bigger city.”

And St. John’s was that bigger city for me.

I came here and found that there were only two guys breaking, and it even took two years for me to track them down.

Where were you looking?

I joined a bunch of martial arts just to see if I could meet people at first. I looked through the Yellow Pages, I called dance studios. Nothing. Gymnastics, they were like, “what?”

The way I found the first guy was there used to be a dance studio in the basement under the MUN Feild House. I was just walking by when I saw someone spinning upside down and at first I kept walking, but then I was like, “no way!” So I turned around and came in as he was practicing and said, “…hey. I want to learn this stuff.” [laugh]

Yeah, it was really awkward. But we danced together for a while and brought together a bunch of guys and made a crew—the East Rock Crew.

Later, when I was going to physio school in Halifax, one of my proudest accomplishments was to help start a dance company [called Concrete Roots] for young people there. We got government grants to teach and make new crews in schools, to build the scene, and that really went well. We did it because the group of people I met in Halifax, they had a similar story. There was no one doing it when they started, and they had to teach themselves. So eventually we said, “let’s be the entity that brings this to kids.”

That was a big thing for me. That felt great.

How did you get into physiotherapy?

You know, I probably got into physiotherapy because of my interest in dancing, because I had to figure a lot of the moves out on my own, mostly. You take tips from people, but for the most part you just have to experiment and find out how your body moves, what you can do. What’s realistic and not realistic. What your limits are. How to progress.

I did a Neuroscience degree at MUN, which is still kind of related, and I was thinking about Med school, but after I learned about the program, it didn’t really appeal to me. So I was like, “What am I going to do with a Neuroscience degree?” Then I learned more about Physiotherapy. It ended up being a great combination of my interests, because I’m interested in excercise and training and movement.

But my interest in dance came before all that.

One of the things I learned about physiotherapy—and this is true at the Miller Centre, where I work—is that it includes rehab for people who’ve had strokes, or brain or spinal cord injuries. So those are neurological conditions that I’m rehabbing. At first I thought physio was just sports injuries, but then I found out about this area of practice. And say, with teaching people how to walk again, well, I teach dance…

Learning to do really awkward things with my body really helped me find ways to help people with a disabilty. Actually, there is a really cool group called Ill Abilities. They’re an international group of disabled b-boys. Their main guy is from Montreal. Lazy Legs is his name, two of his legs basically have no muscle, they’re very small and thin and he walks around with crutches. But the things he can do as a B-boy, nobody else in the world can do, because of his bodyweight distribution and the way he’s figured out how to dance. And it’s incredible.

Why did you start the site B-boy Science?

Now that I am a physiotherapist, I’m trying to bring what I’m learning from that to the dancing world because I definitely don’t want to stop dancing. I want to be involved in dancing, and in the wider dance community.

My goal is to help dancers of all kinds. Maybe make injury rehab guides. Do talks. At Hustle this year I’m doing a workshop and a talk about preventing injuries.

Breaking is a worldwide community and the internet makes it easier to bring it all together. It’s very community oriented. If you go to another city it’s easy to make connections. But as I started to learn more about it, I was like “wow, a lot of these guys don’t know what they’re talking about when it comes to the body.” I try to stay up on the research and, of course, with that you find out about things that are not true. There’s a lot of garbage information going around in the fitness world. A lot of magazine science. Stuff that’s not quite right. Like, for instance, that doing a lot of sit-ups will give you abs. But it really won’t; you have to lose the fat first, and you can’t spot-reduce fat. There are a lot of common myths like that.

Breakers, they become amazing athletes because they train really hard, and probably any way they train would help, but there’s certainly a lot of things about injuries, about pain, how their body works… a lot information that would be really useful to them as dancers.

Like what?

Like how stretching works. Stretching makes you flexible, but it doesn’t necessarily prevent injuries. That doesn’t mean don’t stretch, because you need to be flexible to do things, but if you have an injury, a lot of people think they need to stretch the hell out of it to make the injury go away. Actually you shouldn’t stretch a pulled muscle very much. Very lightly.

So to me this is a more constructive way to participate in the scene. I like to think I’ll continue to get better and be able to compete on an international level—that’d be awesome, of course—but I’m realistic about that. I’ve won competitions this year, and I’m going to try to win Hustle as best as I can, but I’m pretty realistic about me ever being able to, say, go to France and compete. But I feel like I can still contribute to the b-boy world through my expertise as a physiotherapist.

Photo by Darrell Edwards

You can find Ingram’s website at Hustle To Get Here happens September 14th, 15th, 16th. For more information visit or the Facebook page “Hustle to Get Here”.

Dropping Science

3 responses so far

St. John’s Women, What Are We?

Aug 29 2012 Published by under Features,On Stage

Photo by Jared Reid

“I started out with an idea to interview a St. John’s woman in her 60s who had been through feminism and the Catholic church,” says dancer and documentarian Louise Moyes. “I wanted to have her talk about all of the changes that have come over those years for women here. But then a colleague suggested talking to the three women, one from each generation. And that was a really interesting idea.”

The result is St. John’s Women, a collaboration between dance and documentary film that will be presented and danced by Moyes at the LSPU Hall from September 19-22.

The piece centers around interviews with three women: Kay Haynes, a woman in her 60s; Ashley Kapoor, a woman in her 20s; and Moyes herself, a woman in her 40s.

Moyes asked each of them the same questions about feminism, religion, children, and life, and their responses were captured on video and will play on screen, interspersed with Moyse’s own responses, which are both spoken and danced. She also performs a dance for each woman, capturing their spirit with music and movement.

So what did she learn about St. John’s women?

“We are all very much of our generation,” she says.

Haynes, now a real estate agent, grew up on Barnes Road in the 1940s and 1950s. At 15, Kay had to pay rent, and so went to on Water Street to work in a bank.

“She loved it,” says Moyes. “She had people from all over the world coming off the ships and coming in to exchange money. Then she got married. And back then, when you got married, you stopped working, that was it. You stayed home with the children.”

In the film Haynes talks about growing up in a household with a widowed father and learning from the woman who eventually become her stepmother­, who was born in the 1920s and worked her whole life, and helped other women of her generation to have the courage to do the same.

“Kay says she isn’t militant, but that she is a feminist,” says Moyes. “And it’s wonderful, because she helps dispel all the stereotypes of feminism: the women in battle, hating men, and not looking for equality but to be better than men. She is so gentle about it.”

Moyes herself also identifies as a feminist.

“For me, it means recognizing that things aren’t equal yet,” she says. “There has been great progress, for lack of a better word, but there’s still a glass ceiling. And those battles are hard won. Those rights can be taken away pretty quickly. We don’t have to look far beyond our borders to see other cultures where women are very clearly oppressed. It keeps me vigilant.”

Kapoor, the third subject of the documentary, has worked with the local chapter of Oxfam dealing specifically with women’s issues in developing countries.

“And yet she doesn’t consider herself a feminist,” says Moyse. “I worked with Ashley for a time in the same office, and I was fascinated by her and the other women her age that I worked with: they were smart, independent, gorgeous, and they had a confidence that our generation of women just didn’t have. And though they recognized that these struggles came before them, they did not call themselves feminists.”

Moyes has mixed feelings about their reluctance to use the word to describe themselves.

“In some ways I find it exciting that she doesn’t feel that there’s a need. It means there has been progress,” she says. “But it does make me nervous that a ball may be dropped, that we could go backwards.”

“I wonder, does feminism need another name? Is it a dirty word?”

When it comes to having children and building the families, Moyes says the women she spoke to are all, again, products of their time.

“For Kay, well, you just got married and had children,” says Moyes. “That was it.”

Moyes’ generation, on the other hand, were encouraged to focus on their careers and have children when it was convenient for them.

“We were almost an experiment,” says Moyes. “Most of us had our children quite late, and we had every intervention possible: in vitro, borrowing eggs… You name it and we’ve been through it. It turns out not to be true, you can’t wait forever.”

Kapoor doesn’t have children, and hasn’t yet decided when she would like to have them.

What does unite the women, though, is that they all consider themselves to be St. John’s women. It’s an interesting idea in Newfoundland, where the sense is takes a few generations before one can honestly call themselves a Newfoundlander.

“Kay is a multi-generational Newfoundlander,” says Moyes. “So she is a Newfoundland woman. But she is a St. John’s woman, through and through.”

Moyes’ parents moved here from England in 1964.

“They came here and they integrated,” says Moyes. “But I don’t think they will ever feel like full Newfoundlanders. But I am a St. John’s woman. What else would I be?”

Kapoor’s mother is a Newfoundlander, but her father is from India. She spent the first part of her life living in Toronto.

“Ashley came here when she was 11 or 12,” says Moyes. “She often says that when people ask her where she’s from, she forgets, because she’s brown, they’re expecting her to say something other than St. John’s. But St. John’s is where she is from.”

Louise will be digging deeper into these ideas on the show’s opening night, which is doubling as a fundraiser for Oxfam. The performance will be followed by a panel discussion with three immigrant women discussing how they identify as St. John’s women: Zainab Jerret, the Coordinator of the International Food and Craft Fair for the Multicultural Women’s Organization of Newfoundland and Labrador; Mimi Sheriff, who works for Oxfam; and Yamuna Kutty, president of the Multicultural Women’s Organization of Newfoundland and Labrador.

St. John’s Women and My Secret Pig run at the LSPU Hall from Sept 19-Sept 22. For more info see our listings on page 24. For ticket info visit the LSPU Hall’s website.

St. John’s Women, What Are We?

8 responses so far

Obscure Eats: 2012

Aug 29 2012 Published by under Features

You know St. John’s food.

You know where to send your CFA relatives for fish and chips. You know which way to stumble when you’re on George Street and you want a decent slice of pizza. You’ve got the city’s burgers, sushi, and veggie options mapped out. But is St. John’s a city without culinary surprises? We took to the streets to find and sample some hidden food in the capital city.

Photos and writing by Mark Jerrett, Jen Squires and Lauren Power.

Kimchi & Sushi

Atlantic Place

749-8078/749-8080. 10am to 8pm daily.

Holy Asian variety! Atlantic Place’s newest addition has a wide assortment that exceeds expectations for a food court lunch counter. Bibimbap, kimchi, sushi, sashimi, bulgogi, and more besides. Craziness! The spring rolls are substantial, held together in fried flour wrappers, rather than crispy rice paper. The cucumber kimchi is sour and a little spicy (with take-home jars available for $9 each). Our advice? Avoid the noodle bowls unless you’re feeling nostalgic for ramen and get sushi! Big and tasty, with far more options than a typical supermarket sushi bar. Bonus: complimentary little bowls of miso with your meal! LP

Mohamad Ali’s

364 Duckworth Street

Friday and Saturday, 11pm – 4am.

Mohamad Ali’s has set up in The Sprout after hours—like the Peach Pit After Dark in 90210 but for Middle Eastern cuisine—and that means late-night eats don’t have to be limited to irradiated pizza and questionable street meat. The wraps (falafel, kebab, hummus) are tasty, but the hidden highlight is the combo platter. The combo platter (falafels, buns, spinach pastry, hummus, baba ganoush, tabouli, and a soft drink for $10) is big enough for two, and balances warm and cold, fried and fresh. The spinach pastry gives you your starch fix­—it’s savoury, warm, and chewy. Picky eaters may shy away, but even the mildly adventurous will be rewarded with a slew of tasty Mediterranean snacks. One note: There’s no seating inside, so you might want to grab it while you’re on way home to watch crazy YouTube videos. LP

Inn of Olde

67 Quidi Vidi Village Road

576-2223. Monday – Friday, 12pm-6pm.

Walking into the Inn of Olde is like walking into Pop’s shed—every flat surface is covered with old license plates, badges, jugs, souvenir spoons, a few sewing machines, hockey sticks, oars and other ancient sports memorabilia, all illuminated under Christmas lights. It’s not a manicured nouveau foodie destination. The Inn of Olde is legit. On the daily menu is your choice of chili, turkey soup, or chowder. The chowder’s hearty and seasoned, with chunks of salmon, cod, clams, and potato. The cook is adamant that no flour be used to thicken it up. Served with a buttered bun (plus a beer), all for $12.25. Finish up and go for a stroll around the docks at Quidi Vidi, or up over Cuckhold’s Cove trail, and end up at Signal Hill. LP

Taste East

62 Allandale Road

579-7366. 10am – 9pm daily.

62 Allandale Road is a mysterious place. It’s been a hair salon, a movie rental spot, some strange food things, and we haven’t set foot inside since we were underage jokers buying beer from Allandale Convenience. Once we braced ourselves and opened the door, we were pleasantly surprised by the small grocery store and take-out joint set up on the inside. It smells amazing as soon as you walk in, and they have just about every spice and dry good you would ever want in order to try and recreate the tasty food that they make in store. Serving up Middle Eastern Cuisine, such as samosas, pakoras, curries and desserts, at decent prices, this would be a great place to hit up after an afternoon at the Breezeway when a crusty bun from Mrs. Vanelli’s just isn’t going to cut it. We went around closing time (9pm), and unfortunately some of the items we wanted to try were no longer available for the day, so we went with a falafel wrap ($4.99) with a bag of Teekha Tadka Chulbule chips on the side. The falafel wrap was pretty good, substantial snack, but surprise best treat were the chips! At $1.99, these were sort of like a big bag of spicy and delicious corn twists. SO GOOD! If you decide to try them out, make sure to buy yourself a tin of pop to go with them, you are gonna need it. JS


7 Queen Street

722-3100. Monday – Saturday 6pm – close.

Every once in awhile we all like to spruce ourselves up a bit and go somewhere glamorous for a beer and a fancy treat, right? The downstairs bar area of Chinched is the perfect place for this. They have a light and nicely priced bar menu, serve Quidi Vidi beer, and have an extensive wine list, making this an awesome choice for a casual date, or to go with a small group of friends before you turn yourself into a hot mess on the streets of St. John’s. You can order groups of items off the bar menu and priced at two for $12, three for $17 and four for $22 you really can’t go wrong. Our favourites were the Tomato Frito with Basil Mayo and the Calamari with Chimmichurri. We perched at the bar, had a few beer, and ate some of the best food in St. John’s. Chinched is open at 6 p.m. Monday to Saturday, and we would recommend making a reservation as the place was booked up about 10 seconds after we walked through the door. JS


183 Duckworth Street
576-7797. Mon & Tue 7am-7pm, Wed-Fri 7am-9pm, Sat 8am-6pm, Sun 9am-5pm.

Tucked away in one of the most idyllic corners of the downtown core, Fixed offers coffee-shop charm with a little extra kick. Though coffee and baked treats may appear at first glance to be the M.O. here—and they certainly excel in that regard—the tapas and beers are what drew us. While sipping our Belgian white and triple-style golden ales, we shared an assorted spread of sourdough bread, vegetables, hummus, olives, and prosciutto-wrapped figs, as well as a delightful caper dip that paired perfectly with smoked salmon and bread. A jar of sweet nuts was just the thing to top it all off, a little dessert that accented the flavour of the beer. Fixed is an ideal place for a mid-day coffee break, but it’s also a great place for sharing early-evening drinks, snacks and conversation with friends. MJ


Churchill Square

579-7000, 4:30pm-10pm daily.

Arribas used to be our go-to spot after a hard day of classes, and it continued to be our go-to spot after a hard day’s work. With their happy hour prices and FREE! NACHO! BAR!, it was honestly the highlight of an otherwise dreary work week. We were excited about returning to our old haunt, hoping to relive our glory days and gorge ourselves on a nacho feast. However! When we arrived the nacho bar was nowhere to be seen, as it was the first day of their Nacho Bar Menu. They have replaced the bar with a mid-priced, smaller portioned menu, with items like tacos, chili fries, poquitas and nachos, and the Quintanas menu is available at the bar too. Available all evening, items are grouped on the menu as being $3, $4 and $6. We were the first to try their new menu, and, while it is *sniff* no nacho bar, the fish taco ($6) and poquitas were pretty delicious. It’s a festive, low-key place to go for cheap margaritas/Corona and split some nachos when hanging out around Churchill Square. Happy hour runs weekdays from 4:30 to 6:00, after which you should wash it all down with a jug at Big Ben’s. JS

Formosa Tea House

15 Lemarchant Road

579-8973. Most days 12pm-7pm, Wednesday 12pm-5pm, Saturday 3pm-8pm.

When roaming around the fish and chips district of St. John’s and in absolutely no mood for fish and chips, Formosa Tea House is the perfect spot to stop in and have a quick, cheap snack. Newly relocated from Prince Edward Island, this Taiwanese tea house offers items such as dumplings, sushi, buns and rice, all served fresh daily as well as a fancy selection of tea, tea accessories and oriental crafts. You can literally order everything on the menu—along with four items from their ginormous drink menu—for around $40. Eat in or take out, everything is vegan. The eat in location has huge windows facing LeMarchant Road, so it’s fun to order yourself a BBQ bun or two ($1.80), have a delicious lemonade, and watch the world go by. It’s SHOCKINGLY cheap, the owners and staff are lovely, and this is quickly becoming one of our favourite places to eat. Perfect for lunch. Oh, and check out their interesting, to say the least, origin story on their website. MJ

Know some other bastion of hidden local deliciousness? Leave a comment below.

Obscure Eats: 2012

9 responses so far

Mr. Plow

Mar 28 2012 Published by under Features

City of St. John's snow plow operator Terry Bennett.

A small blue car slides across the buried centre line and into the oncoming lane as it passes Terry Bennett’s giant green City of St. John’s snow plow.

“What’s your hurry?” Bennett says to the car as it sloshes through brown slush on Kenmount Road. A glob of brown slush splatters against the windshield.

“I don’t get people. I’d rather be behind the plow.”

In Bennett’s plow, where the rubber of the city’s complex snow clearing program meets the road, there is a disconnection between snow plowing as it is often perceived—as a big, abstract technical and political problem—and the day-to-day work that Bennett does.

The Streets Division is responsible for clearing St. John’s average annual dump of 322 cm of snow off roughly 1250 km of streets and 133 km of sidewalks. It’s a huge undertaking, tackled by more than 180 operators like Bennett. They scrape, plow, blow snow and spread about 30,000 tonnes of salt each year.

Snow clearing will cost the city over $15 million in 2012, which makes it the third largest budget line after debenture debt charges (almost $28 million) and fire protection (almost $20 million). It also accounts for more than half the Streets Division’s entire budget.

Because it’s such a big task, it makes sense that it’s also a big deal. Perhaps more than anywhere else, snow clearing is a major political issue in St. John’s. In 2001, during our snowiest winter of all-time, people were throwing themselves in front of plows to protect their freshly shoveled driveways. They threw beer bottles at plow drivers as they went by, and one even threw punches at a worker who was on foot, spotting for a city snowblower. Lately though, with the more typical winters we’ve had since, a lack of sidewalk clearing has caused the most commotion. With so much snow, sidewalks are often buried by city plows, leaving pedestrians to walk on the streets. In November 2011 the sidewalks issue dominated city pre-budget consultations, and in December the Essential Transit Association advocacy group organized a public rally on the issue. The city responded by doubling the sidewalk snow clearing budget.

In the truck, Bennett is most definitely aware that snow clearing is a sensitive issue here. He says he tries his best to finesse the giant piles of snow pushed by his giant truck away from freshly shoveled driveways—nevertheless, he’s often on the receiving end of glares from people out shoveling as he goes by.

But, all things considered, here in the truck he isn’t concerned with the bigger systemic or political issues that surround snow clearing, he’s concerned with getting snow off the street. He’s concerned with maneuvering through St. John’s traffic in a truck 10-times the size of anything else on the road. He’s concerned that the salt spreader might be jammed. Or he’s content to just go about his business, plowing, and salting.

Like the Streets Division managers I met with a few weeks earlier, Bennett talks about the looming labour shortage, and how stressful, thankless, and dangerous the work can be.

But from where he sits there is more of an immediate and palpable upside to it. As an operator, there is satisfaction in doing a job safely and well, and in the camaraderie: the nicknames—“Tub” loaded “Jocko’s” truck with salt so he could go salt the route “Sweat” was plowing—and jokes over the radio.

The view from the cockpit.

“I’ve done everything,” Bennett says.

It’s been 35 years since he got his start working for the city. He began as a seasonal worker, and now he is one of the city’s most senior heavy equipment operators and driving some of the biggest, loudest, roughest, and most complicated machines in the city’s fleet. He’s also on the executive of the union, and last municipal election he ran for Ward Three councillor.

“I lost to Bruce Tilley,” he says. “It went really well though, I got 1,866 votes on my first try.”

A few months later Bennett had a stroke.

“I’m doing great now though,” he says, and promises to run for office again in two years—around the time he figures he’ll want to retire.

Bennett drives one of the city’s two biggest plow trucks: a $375,000 “tandem-tandem”—two axles in the front, two axles in the back. It has brine tanks and sprayer, a salt hopper and spreader, a front blade, and a wing blade on the passenger side. It’s covered with what looks like more gauges, switches, knobs, buttons, and levers than a NASA lunar module cockpit. There are two joysticks, one for the front blade, one for the wing blade, that Bennett plays like Pac-Man. There’s a video monitor connected to cameras on the back and on passenger side, and there is another monitor that monitors most everything else, including salt or brine loads. But even with all these do-dads, Bennett still finds the most reliable way to know the salt spreader is working is to roll down his window and listen for the twinkling of the salt on the passing cars.

The truck is big, loud, and bumpy like any big rig. Between the roar of the engine, the constant beeps, buzzes, and squeals of different warning systems, and the constant garble of other plow operators on the radio, Bennett and I have to shout back and forth at one another.

Then there are the bumps—both the ordinary hit-your-head-on-the-padded-ceiling pothole variety, and curbs. Curbs are the worst enemy of snow plow drivers, and have a tendency of hiding under snow banks. They can jump up when you least expect them, Bennett says. When they grab the plow blade, they can bring things to an abrupt, jarring, halt.

The tandem-tandem, one of the city’s biggest plow trucks.

A few weeks earlier I sat in a city depot boardroom across a long table, tribunal-style, from three managers, the big boss of the Streets and Parks, and two operations assistants—the general and two colonials in the city’s war on snow. All three speak in a sort of jargon-laced managerial officialese: a blizzard becomes a “snow event,” which is responded to with an “operation” of “heavy equipment” performing “ice control measures,” “cutting,” “widening,” and “blowing back” the “wide-back” to the curb of “high-service, multi-lane, high-speed” “priority one” “routes” in order to provide sufficient “snow storage” for the next “snow event.”

It’s all I can do to keep up.

Through this unique technical language, and the kind of snow clearing management common sense that goes with it, the practical problem of pushing snow off the streets and sidewalks so people can get around becomes abstract and complex.

This keeps the managers at a safe distance from both external political pressure and the practical messiness of plowing snow, which keeps their work focused on their particular role in this complex system, but it also means that significant changes to the way things are done—to sidewalk clearing for instance—won’t come from a city depot board room.

The way things are done is the way they’ve been designed to be done, according to the system.

Up in his truck Bennett is also kept at a safe distance from the tangly business of coordinating snow clearing and dealing with the public backlash. He gets the glares first hand, but, at the end of the day none of it is really about snow or streets or sidewalks at all.

“It’s a job,” he says. “Work. Go home. Hope the Leafs win the Cup.”


Mr. Plow

6 responses so far

Big Ideas 2011

Nov 03 2011 Published by under City,Features

Make downtown St. John’s a cultural mecca by making it more pedestrian-friendly

Snook: NTV Personality

I’d like the city to start making the downtown a cultural mecca by returning as much of it as possible to pedestrians. Cultural activity has the best correlation to a dynamic, thriving city economy (read Richard Florida).

Bring back street cars for Duckworth and Water Street, and close off as much of Water Street as possible to other vehicular traffic. The harbour front should be the subject of an international design competition. We need a globally recognizable landmark, along the lines of an Eiffel Tower or Sydney Opera House. Perhaps a pedestrian arch over the narrows?

Start a Fort Amherst Water Taxi

Sara Tilley: Writer

Imagine this: water taxis that ferry you across the harbour to Fort Amherst… I got this idea when visiting Vancouver, hopping on one of the False Creek Ferries that go across to Granville Island. Small boats, doing short trips, for a very reasonable fee (let’s say a toonie). They could operate on a regular schedule, and would allow for more exploration of Fort Amherst and the other underused areas on the other side of the harbour. First comes the water taxi, next thing you know there’ll be an arts centre on the Southside Hills (my big idea for next year)!

Build a University campus downtown

Jim Case: Architect

If we are a truly forward thinking City, we would have long ago established a satellite university campus in the heart of our downtown. There are so many good arguments for this… Youth presence in the downtown will fertilize (much needed) new ideas in urban planning. Edward Glaeser writes: “Human capital, far more than physical infrastructure, explains why cities succeed. “Our port should be an intellectual gateway as well as an economic and aesthetic one.” Architecture critic Rhys Phillips points out the “positive synergy between emerging knowledge-based economy and post secondary institutions.”

Finally, imagine the impetus that this could have for some kind of dedicated north-south transit line to complement the one desperately needed east-west downtown.

Create indoor public spaces

Nancy Mercer

In a city and province that experiences 8-10 months of early darkness and less than desirable weather, there should be more places where people can go out into a community area. As of now, the only places to go are the malls, coffee shops, and pool halls. There should be a place where people can go to study, relax, watch TV or a movie, play pool, play a board game, read, debate, play cards, surf the web, enjoy a fireplace, curl up with friends or significant others, craft, practise yoga—anything really. A place to just go and relax and not necessarily have a purpose for being there—just the enjoyment of being there and seeing others there for the same reason. Too often we are limited to our own homes. It would be nice if a place existed where we could just go out and “be.”

Set up a community garden at The Rooms

Andreae Callanan: Writer

I love The Rooms, but it has the most dreadfully boring landscaping imaginable. The few slim tracts of shrubbery are lame, and while the grass is great for running around on, we could make better use of the space. I would turn the whole thing into an edible landscaping project. The area does get quite windy, so we would need to take that into account, but it’s one of the few green spaces in the downtown that gets full sunlight. I know that hiring landscaping staff with that kind of expertise would be difficult, but the garden could probably be overseen by two full-time staff (which could likely be paid for in part by wellness grants or some such). I’m sure that the local food security organizations could scare up adequate volunteer power. The harvest would be divided among the local food sharing groups, either as fresh or frozen produce, or as food made available at community feast events, with a reasonable share given to the volunteers. The benefit to the community is obvious: nutritious local food would be available to those who need it, and the neighbourhood would be strengthened by volunteer activity. It would also raise the profile of The Rooms nationally, even internationally, as an inspiring example of the best possible use of urban space, nourishing the minds, souls, and bodies of the city’s residents.

Build a culture mall

Morgan Murray

Who says you can’t make everyone happy? Artists have long been clamouring for more space to work and perform. So much so the city has recently set aside a pile of money to look into building a multi-purpose arts centre. Meanwhile, across town, MUN is currently pondering how they can better engage with the community, and visa-versa. The president, Dr. Gary Kachanoski, often talks about the need for MUN to have a downtown presence. Mix that with a lot of ordinary Townies’ wish for some sort of downtown public space where they can loiter without having to drink, shop, and/or stand in the rain and you’ve got an idea.

Something like this might be nice to have now, but it may soon become necessary. When the rash of planned downtown mega-condos, super-hotels, and office towers are built there will be a lot more people downtown looking for kicks.

Some work—or at least talk­—is already underway. The biggest hurdle would be to get those talking—government, the University, and other stakeholders—to work together. If that can be sorted, then all it will take is money. Money is always hard to find, but with initial interest from government, and MUN, it’s not impossible.

If the money can be raised the next step is finding the space. This could be a new space, re-jigging an old space, or finding an interim space until a permanent space was found.

Fine people for being assholes

Stephen Lethbridge: OZ-FM Radio Host

My big idea is to outlaw being an asshole. It’s simple, there would be asshole police in public areas, such as MUN, Bowring Park, and the mall, that would ticket people who act like assholes. Littering, cutting someone off in traffic (RNC could patrol on the city’s roads), not picking up your dog’s shit, and having a loud muffler on your car would be some ticketable offenses. Also, fines would increase incrementally as an asshole accumulates more offenses. Watch society become more awesome.

Use food to solve problems

Kristie Jameson: Executive Director of the Food Security Network NL

Instead of considering food as another issue that needs to be address, think creatively about ways that food production, consumption, and disposal can be used to address existing challenges. For example, to address growing concerns of waste, start a city-wide composting program and have the compost distributed to or available for community gardens or local farms. Another example, use gardens and farms to grow food for institutions, like schools, hospitals, and jails that are tended by the students, patients, and inmates. This gives them not only healthier, fresher food to eat, but also can improve their education, treatment, and physical activity and job training respectively.

Lower the voting age to 16

David Cochrane: Provincial Affairs Reporter, CBC News

This is an idea that goes beyond the city and affects the province. If a person is old enough to work and pay taxes they should have a voice in who governs them. It would also allow Elections NL to set up polling stations in high schools during elections and make civic engagement part of the curriculum. The earlier we can get people engaged the better.

Build a floating parking lot on the South side of the Harbour

John Devereaux: Creative Director of Perfect Day Canada

It could have a footprint five times bigger than Atlantic Place parking lot and still hardly take up any space over there. There would be a small ferry going back and forth all day to carry people from the floating lot. People could go to work, go shopping, go out for dinner and have no trouble finding parking and get a free boat ride out of it. Done. I should be mayor.

Put a moratorium on new franchises

Zita Cobb: President, Shorefast Foundation

Introduce an indefinite moratorium on new franchises in St. John’s in the interest of halting the cultural flattening and dilution of Newfoundland’s culture.

Open Studio High Schools

Elling Lien

For many students, school is like prison. The food and lighting is the same, and ideally you slide your way through doing as little work as possible, biding your time until graduation when real life begins. Despite all the best efforts of teachers, the majority of students are left disengaged and bored.

How do you keep students engaged? For many students, the solution could be to root their learning in the real world. Studio Schools are an experiment popping up across England where students learn by doing—they work together in small teams on real-life projects commissioned by NGOs, businesses and others in the community.

It’s not a new idea, and similar things do already happen in high schools (like Co-op Education), but with the Studio Schools, it’s a primary focus. 80 per cent of the curriculum is done this way. According to Geoff Mulgan, former executive director of the Young Foundation, the group that developed the school, it helps students learn the important “non-cognitive” skills that are important for successful life and work—stuff like motivation, resilience, dependability, and self-discipline. Students love it. Employers love it. We can do it here.

The model has exploded across England—from two schools to 35 schools in the past few years. In a recent TED talk where Mulgan introduced the idea, he says it was done in the public system and at no extra cost, and all the schools teach the national curriculum and offer the same academic qualifications as traditional schools. Sounds pretty good to me.

Put the additional materials from council minutes online

Andrew Harvey

Here’s an easy one.

If you’ve ever gone to a council meeting in the flesh, you’ll have seen bound council minutes strewn around the gallery for the hordes (hordes!) of adoring fans who come to take in the meeting. In this digital age you can only shake your head and wonder if it is really necessary to kill a small forest every week so Andrew Harvey can get his agenda.

The problem is that if you don’t show up to get one of these hard-copy minutes, then you miss out on a ton of useful stuff. We’re talking committee reports, architectural renderings, consultants reports and other relevant documents. Currently, the only parts which go online are the agenda and the formal minutes recorded at the meetings, which leave out all juicy bits people really want to see, like what exactly the proposed pedway looks like or where the land on Topsail Road they are talking about rezoning is.

What will it actually take for this to happen? Not much. Council is in the process of going paper-free and have a new website in the works.

Someone already has to print off and copy all of this stuff. It should be as simple as clicking File… Save As… to make a PDF then send it along to the person who uploads the slim version of the minutes anyways. If council is serious about trying to get more people, especially young people, aware of and involved in important issues which affect the future of our city, I can think of no better place to start than here. Sure, ya knows the kids are all on the internets anyways.

Make a sandy beach in the City

Bryhanna Greenough

This idea is not as crazy as it sounds. Last August our neighbours in Halifax did it, shipping in 2,000 tons of sand to a Salter Street parking lot. The result was an acre of beach containing six outdoor volleyball courts erected as part of an international competition that drew in over 15,000 spectators over a five day period. Now this was a big time, corporate-sponsored event with stadium seating and beer tents. What I have in mind for our fair city is more Parisian style.

Parisians traditionally go to the seaside once the city gets hot and blocked with tourists. The mayor wanted to make the city more enjoyable for people who didn’t have the luxury of leaving town, so in 2002 the first temporary, artificial beach was launched. It’s become so popular the city now creates multiple beaches, each with a particular theme. Now many head to the banks of the river Seine to stretch out on chaises lounges in the shade of palm trees and beach umbrellas. Open 8am to midnight, the Paris-Plages are places where everything from tai chi to electro soirees and free rock shows happen.

A sandy plot in St. John’s could begin as a spot to catch up on your summer reading on a lazy day off, take the kids to make sandcastles, and meet with friends for some after work downtime. In my mind, Long Pond and Harbourside Park would be good spots to consider, but even a vacant city lot nowhere near water has potential.

And maybe the best part? When we’re done with it, we can sand the roads in winter.

Check out previous ideas: 2008, 2010 – Your Ideas, Our Ideas

Big Ideas 2011

7 responses so far

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