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This article was published 20/8/2017 (791 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
In the five years Matt Thordarson had lived in North Point Douglas, he’d never seen an event take place in the amphitheater at Joe Zuken Heritage Park.
He decided that needed to change.
"Why not have a concert, make it family-oriented," he reasoned. "Just the idea to bring the community together. What better way than music?"
So Thordarson decided, in a moment of inspiration, to reach out to some musician friends with a request: would they like to perform in a free concert of all Indigenous bands with the theme, "Communities Building Communities"?
"They got on board right away," said Thordarson, a member of the Point Douglas residents committee. "They loved the idea. They said, ‘Sign me up’".
On Saturday night, that inspiration became reality, as the concert kicked off at 5 p.m. The acts included JC Campbell, Hellnback, Lisa Muswagon, Barry Choken and Jersey Siebrecht, all performing for an honorarium.
After all, Thordarson didn’t have much to work with financially: $1,000 provided by the North Point Douglas seniors committee and local councilor Ross Eadie.
"We could have used a little bit more," Thordarson allowed, "but we’re going to make it work."
Although the concert was free, a collection bucket was passed around for the North Point Douglas Women’s Centre, which recently lost several thousand dollars in provincial funding.
Said Thordarson: "They’re trying to keep their heads above water so we’re just trying to help them out a little bit."
The main goal, however, was not money, but building trust. Word was spread through social media and flyers posted around the inner city neighbourhood.
"I think it’s huge," he said. "It’s done what it’s intended to do, which is bring a small community even closer. You can go out, you can meet your neighbours, interact with them. We’ve got so many people of different backgrounds and ethnicities. It’s good to get out and see who lives down the street from you.
"Once you get to know the people around, it gives you a sense of safety," he added. "They’ll look out for you, you’ll look out for them. Maybe say, ‘Hi’ when you run into each other at Neechi Commons. It’s all about building familiarity."
Point Douglas NDP MLA Bernadette Smith was on hand, too, doling out Freezees and water to children.
"It’s really about coming together to support one another," Smith said. "This is a great way to do that. We need to get to know each other to help make this a safer community."
A couple of recent incidents — a murder in North Point Douglas in July and an arson that claimed two lives in a rooming house fire — only underlined the need for the neighbourhood to become more unified, Smith said.
If all goes well, Thordarson hopes the concert could become a summer staple.
"We’re going to use this as a measuring stick," he said. "We might turn it into an annual thing."
Randy Turner spent much of his journalistic career on the road. A lot of roads. Dirt roads, snow-packed roads, U.S. interstates and foreign highways. In other words, he got a lot of kilometres on the odometer, if you know what we mean.
Updated on Sunday, August 20, 2017 at 9:27 AM CDT: Fixes last name to Thordarson.