Steel City Stories

Sunday, 2 February 2014
How did you spend your Saturday night? I spent mine listening to stories in a dimly lit Cathedral built in the mid-1800s. 

As children, our days are filled with stories. We sit crossed legged on carpets while teachers tell us fairy tales. We wrap ourselves in blankets, sharing scary stories around campfires. We spin tall tales to get ourselves out of  trouble. And before bed, we ask for just one more book. Yet in adulthood, it's a rare occasion when people gather to tell stories.

The third installment of Steel City Stories brought Hamiltonians out of the sleet, welcoming us into Christ's Church Cathedral where five storytellers shared narratives about their roots.

"If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten."
— Rudyard Kipling, The Collected Works

Matthew Green, a city council candidate for Ward 3, connected his past to the present through ancestors who escaped slavery by following the North Star. Anne Cumby, co-owner of The Cannon, reminded us that despite our greatest efforts, we all start to act like our parents. Storyteller Mary Love bookended her tale with song, telling us of a birth mother she never knew. Musician Lori Yates took us to a seedy apartment on Queen Street West where her musical roots began to grow. And dub poet Klyde Broox shared Canada through the eyes of someone with an accent and dark skin. 

It takes courage to get up before a crowd of peers and strangers to share a story. As someone who jots down phone numbers and prompts on a piece of paper before I make a simple phone call, public speaking is among my greatest fears. But as a listener, there's something organic, something special, about being the recipient of a story — especially a personal one.

"We tell ourselves stories in order to live."
— Joan Didion

The stories that some people share are what propel us forward, so I can't write about stories without talking about Pete Seeger, whom I was lucky enough to see and write about in 2009. I grew up on folk music. I grew up on banjos and sing alongs. I grew up on grassy hills and acoustic guitars. And I grew up on the stories and songs of Pete Seeger. He may have graced the Earth for nearly a century, but somehow, it doesn't seem long enough because there will always be injustices to fight and stories to tell.

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