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Coming to a TV near you: new series on North End

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THIS COULD BE TRICKY... The North End is about to get the fictional dramatic treatment, not that there isn't enough drama of the real kind.

A Toronto-based television production company is creating a TV series on the storied Winnipeg neighbourhood called -- what else? -- The North End.

They're still in the early stages of the pilot on "the 'hood," that is, of course, much more complex than its reputation for crime and poverty would suggest. It could be tricky for the producers to strike the appropriate balance, but if anyone can do that it's probably Big Soul Productions.

Big Soul is an aboriginal-owned and -operated company whose last series was the Gemini-nominated Moccasin Flats, which ran for three years on the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network and Showcase.

The North End is being created for APTN again by Laura J. Milliken.

Milliken and co-executive producer Penny Gummerson will be in Winnipeg April 10-14 conducting interviews and research for the pilot.

They're doing that "to ensure accuracy and appropriateness of representation of the community and those within the community," according to Big Soul production co-ordinator Nyla Innuksuk.

"Producers will also be seeking inspiration for characters and stories, ideas for the locations and potential talent, as well as historical and landmark events that have shaped Winnipeg's North End neighbourhood," Nyla wrote in an email.

"It is very important to the producer that they are ensuring that the community is being treated respectfully and in full consultation throughout this process."

And, of course, they'll look for local talent, including emerging actors from the real North End. Big Soul will also be conducting an open call for actors in late June.

Oh yeah, and Big Soul is looking for something else. A corporate sponsor to help with a community barbecue and the official announcement about the series.

Anyone interested in getting involved in any way can contact Nyla Innuksuk at


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THIS COULD BE FUN... Kelvin High School's most famous former student is Neil Young, but he's far from the only celebrated son or daughter of the school, which celebrates its 100th anniversary with a three-day reunion next month.

What other celebrated Kelvin grads might you recognize?

There's Fred Penner, the children's troubadour who was at Kelvin at the same time as Young; Gail Asper, the philanthropist and community leader; Gerry James, the former Winnipeg Blue Bomber and Toronto Maple Leaf and Gerry Schwartz, the co-founder of Canwest Global Communications and CEO of Onex Corp.

Journalist Andrew Coyne, who's seen regularly on The National, is a grad as are the CBC pair of Danny and Ken Finkleman and my pal Jack Farr, (a.k.a. Joe Fan), who spent years as host of The Radio Show.

To name but a few, as they say.

There will be a few more -- 4,000 more -- involved during the three-day reunion that starts Friday, May 25 at the Winnipeg Convention Centre.

There's another celebrated name I should drop right about here.

Richard Bracken is co-chairing the reunion committee with Jim Pappas.

Bracken is the grandson of former Manitoba premier John Bracken, but he's also the guy who every other guy who grew up around here in the 1960s wishes they could have been.

With the possible exception of his classmate, Neil Young.

Today, Bracken is president of Royal Canadian Securities, a private investment fund, and chairman of the Winnipeg Foundation. But at Kelvin, he was a star student and athlete, as a well as handsome and a heck of a nice guy.

He attended Princeton University after Kelvin, and then on to the Harvard School of Business. But it was at Princeton where he was part of a great Winnipeg trivia question-and-answer.

I'll just give you the answer.

Richard Bracken was the captain of the Princeton football team at the same time as his Winnipeg cousin Bill Ramsay was captain of the Princeton hockey team. The Kelvin and Princeton connection doesn't end there, though.

While he was at Kelvin a student named Shirley Caldwell asked Richard to help her run for school president.

She lost.

But Shirley Caldwell, who became better known as Shirley M. Tilghman, went on to become what she is today.

President of Princeton University.


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THE LAST LAUGH... There are many Kelvin grads who won't make it to the reunion for the most regretful of reasons.

They've passed on.

One of them is Maryon Moody, who became Maryon Pearson when she married the future prime minister, Lester B. Pearson. Maryon, who was known to be bright and outspoken, is credited with the following quote of note:

"Behind every successful man, there stands a surprised woman."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 3, 2012 B1

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