Saturday, August 29, 2015

Keeping Writers Out of Nanaimo District: Directors See a Problem with Gathering

Nanaimo Regional District Tries to Banish Writers

by Kim Goldberg

Thistledown Farm - Just two days before our Sharing the Fire gathering of writers is scheduled to begin at Thistledown Farm B&B in Cedar, BC, bureaucrats from the Regional District of Nanaimo have threatened to shut it down.

The event involves about a dozen writers and artists gathering for three days (August 28-30) to discuss creative approaches to ecological and societal problems.

Five of us have been planning this event for a year. Some participants are travelling from as far away as Whitehorse, Toronto, and the United States to participate.

Regional District employees seem to think that a dozen writers getting together for a creative think-tank on private property is illegal. They have threatened to seek an injunction to bar the pre-registered guests from gathering this weekend at Thistledown Farm.

What will these bureaucrats next decide is illegal, dinner parties in one’s own home?

The gathering will, of course, proceed. It is not illegal for writers to meet in Canada. Perhaps the RDN bureaucrats are thinking they exist in some other era or some other country. If the RDN bureaucrats wish to dress up as jack-booted fascists and come kick the door down and haul away a dozen authors, perhaps they should wait until Halloween so we can give them some candy and send them on their way.

Kim Goldberg
August 26, 2015

The following media release was issued today by the owners of Thistledown Farm B&B, Laurie Gourlay and Jackie Moad:

For Immediate Release: August 26, 2015

Writers & Artists Not Welcome, says Region - ‘Fahrenheit 451’ alive and well in the RDN

CEDAR, BC – Threatening to seek an injunction, and to prevent future gatherings, lawyers for the Regional District of Nanaimo couriered Cedar farm owners today, giving them until 4pm to shutdown a planned writers and artisans retreat for this weekend.

Just under the deadline the owners replied, denying they were breaching any rules, and questioning the RDN’s selective application of vague and dated by-laws to stop a dozen writers, poets and artisans from coming to Nanaimo. Since Monday RDN emails have repeatedly stated that rules against “public assembly” and camping on private property are sufficient reason to prevent the visiting writers from spending a quiet weekend on the farm – but the property owners don’t understand what the problem is.

“If the RDN wants to claim North America’s ‘Fahrenheit 451’ reputation then this is the way to do it,” said Laurie Gourlay, one of the farm’s owners. 

“Chasing away writers, from across Canada and the US, who just want to get together to discuss literature and the arts? I don’t get it.”

Thistledown Farm is a 20-acre working farm and registered B&B, with membership in the Ladysmith & Area Accommodations Association. The farm advertises through the Nanaimo Economic Development Commission’s Tourism Nanaimo brochure, and supports efforts by Tourism VI to build interest in the area as a destination for ‘super, natural BC’ vacations.

“We like to share the property with people who care about nature and local agriculture,” says Jackie Moad, who divides her time between being an RN and being a farmer.

“As well as running a B&B we volunteer with community groups, and we know how hard it is to get enough money for projects and planning. So we make the farm available for free to six non-profit groups and charities every year. This is the first time there’s ever been a problem.”

The couple’s letter challenged the RDN over the refusal to allow a few of the writers to camp on their farm, noting the contradiction with approval previously given “by the RDN for camping on private property for a UN student workshop in the past. The RDN appears to be insisting that past precedence should be ignored.”

Moad and Gourlay have also taken issue with the RDN’s use of the rule against “public assembly” to try and stop the writer’s gathering, suggesting “that a dinner party, or meeting of a community group, could just as well be subject to the rather intolerant interpretation you have applied to the upcoming weekend gathering of writers that we expect to host.”

The couple end their letter by noting that the RDN has acted “in a demanding and insensitive manner – without attempting to first gain a full understanding of the circumstances. It is apparent that there has been little consideration for the writers who are coming, or the repercussions to the economy and Nanaimo’s reputation.”

Moad and Gourlay state they are prepared to discuss the matter further, or to challenge the RDN’s assertions in Court if necessary. But, they would prefer an amicable resolution that’s fair to one and all. “Respect and due process is a right in a democracy,” says Gourlay. “We won’t be burning any bridges or any books on the farm this weekend.”

Contact: Jackie Moad and Laurie Gourlay
Thistledown Farm
2689 Cedar Road
Cedar BC, V9X 1K3

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