Summer Festivals

July 26, 2014

I heard a young up-and-coming musician talk about dub poet Lillian Allen on CBC Radio the other day as being iconic. Well, I remember Lillian Allen when she was establishing herself as that icon and, let me tell you, she has always been an amazing performer whose dub poetry somehow makes working for equal rights a very cool thing to be doing.

Besides that I remember her commenting on stage once about how when she was in labour birthing her child what kept her going was billions of women had done this before her.
She had a dub poem to go with this statement. When I was in labour three years later with my son, Luke, whose 27th birthday is tomorrow, I recalled Lillian Allen’s words.

I think I heard Lillian Allen’s statement about birthing at the women’s festival that I wrote about in the following article. I know this festival introduced me to the absolute power and ecstatic joy of Inuit throat singing. And at this same festival, I remember when Lorraine Segato (sorry if I spelled her last name incorrectly) of Parachute Club fame walked onto stage and frowned, with hands on her hips, when women in the audience whistled at her. I was impressed that she would not allow objectification from women as she would not from men.

I was in my 20’s in those days and these are some examples of how women coming together in music ( or as we did in many different contexts in those days) made important, strong impressions on me that has continued to help men ,over the years, to appreciate the strong contributions that women make when we are empowered to speak our truth.

Those women on stage helped me go forward and to, hopefully, empower other women over the years. This is a profound, spiritual thing.

The article follows:

June/July 1984
Summer Festivals
by Tanya Lester
I’m comin’ to Winnipeg
on a music wave
of women song
and women brave
Gonna dance me a war dance
for peace
Equal Rights & Justice tice tice tice

— Lillian Allen

If I could add the dimension of sound to this page, you could appreciate the rhythm as well as the fine lyrics of Jamaican Canadian dub poet Lillian Allen.

But you will have a chance to experience Lillian Allen and a host of other women who will be sharing their contributions to our culture this summer. Lillian was inspired to write this poem when she received a message about the Our Time is Now women’s cultural festival to be held in Winnipeg<s Kildonan Park on Saturday, September 1 and Sunday, September 2.

"We<re celebrating women's culture and women like any other 'minority' have their own culture," was the message I got from the organizers Joan Miller, Kris Anderson, and Rachel Rocco when I visited them at the Westminster Church, where they have been working on the festival since last September.

Women, they said, have their own language which overlaps racial, geographical and other boundaries. It is expressed in books, magazines, and through many other mediums.

So, whose idea was this women's festival, anyway^ It can be credited to SDB Manitoba Inc. Sound like a foreboding corporation? Not at all. SDB stands for the Same Damn Bunch of women. The board of directors includes Bev Suek, Chris Lane, Terry Gray, Ilene Johnson, and Shirley Walker. Most of these women have been involved in the feminist community over a number of years.

The women's cultural festival will not only feature folk artists. Women musicians will also be expressing themselves through jazz, blues, country, rock'n' roll, new wave and reggae. There will be dance, theatre, poetry and displays of women visual artists who work with a variety of tools and matericals. And, (of course, children will be remembered) there will be a special stage area set up for children's entertainment. Other workshops besides the main performances to be held in the Kildonan Park's Rainbow Stage theatre are also slated. It is hoped that it will be an empowering, energizing experience.

Although many entertainers have not yet been confirmed, Canadian women representing the North, East, West and South regions of the country will be among the 20 acts that could total up to 40 performers. Some will be well known to the audience. Others will be new.

And just to whet our appetite, they talked about one possible act that will feature throat singers. Based on Inuit custom, this women's spiritual communication sounds like yodelling or keening. Two women stand with mouths close together and sort of play off each other's throats. (If only this page had that other dimension).

Word about the festival is spreading fast. Certainly, it is spreading through government offices. Joan has applied to seven provincial and federal government departments for funding and is now approaching corporations and individuals. Kris send a 200-letter-mailing to women's groups across the country and Manitoba musicians, like Heather Bishop, have been spreading the word.

But just because the festival won't be coming until the end of the summer, doesn't mean that you won't have many chances to prime up for it before September 1 and 2. For one thing, the women's festival will be touring three of its performers through eight Manitoba communities, two of which will be remote fly-in areas, during July and August. The concerts will feature children's programming in the afternoons and adult programming in the evenings…
To read earlier posts on this blog go to
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Confessions of a Tea Leaf Reader by Tanya Lester can be purchased from the author or read the first pages & buy by going to the title and author name at


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