Anita Best was born on the island of Merasheen in Placentia Bay on Newfoundland’s south coast the year before Newfoundland joined Canada. When she was a child, television had not yet taken over as the primary source of entertainment for homes on the island, and singing, dancing and storytelling were the main forms of recreation. When nights grew longer after the fishing season was over, people would gather in each others homes and keep heart in one another with tunes, songs and stories. Anita performs the traditional songs and stories from her childhood, as well as ones she learned later from people in Bonavista Bay, Cape St. Georges and the communities around Gros Morne National Park. Anita has received several honours for her work in collecting and disseminating Newfoundland folksongs, including the Marius Barbeau award from the Folklore Studies Association of Canada, an Honourary Degree from Memorial University, and the Order of Canada. She currently works with the Community-University Research for Recovery (CURRA) project in Gros Morne National Park.
Chris Brookes (host) is an independent radio producer whose documentaries have been broadcast around the world and received awards including the Peabody and Prix Italia. He has produced documentaries for network television, is a published author and playwright, and has told stories at Winterset, Trails, Tails & Tunes, the Cape St. Marys Performance Series and the Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Festival. He is obsessed with narrative, which makes him keep telling stories in hopes of one day getting them right.
The grandson of Newfoundland prime minister Michael Cashin and nephew of Peter Cashin, Richard Cashin is one of Newfoundland’s most passionate and accomplished orators. He has had a distinguished career in politics, having been elected Member of Parliament in 1962 and representing the district of St. John’s West until 1968. In 1970, together with Father Desmond McGrath, he organized fishers to form the Newfoundland Fish,Food & Allied Workers Union and was elected its first president. In 1989 he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada, and was sworn into the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada in 1992.
As a journalist, Ryan Cleary covered most of the major events in Newfoundland and Labrador over the past two decades, and has won numerous journalism awards and accolades throughout his career. He was the editor-in-chief of The Independent newspaper, which made its mark with an exhaustive six-part cost-benefit analysis of Confederation and was nominated for the Mitchener Award. He hosted the Nightline program on VOCM and also worked for The Newfoundland Herald, NTV, and Time Magazine. Two months after the JackCycle event, in May 2011 he was elected Member of Parliament for the district of St. John’s South-Mount Pearl.
Mark Cormier was born at Cape St. George on the Port-au-Port Peninsula, Newfoundland. He comes from a family of fifteen children, ten girls and five boys. Mark grew up in a home environment where accordion music and story telling were commonplace, and language was predominantly French. His love for traditional music and story telling was instilled in him at a very young age and it was not until later in his life that he realized his passion for the two. He went to Memorial University of Newfoundland for four years and then returned home to teach. Teaching and story telling went hand in hand in his class room. He taught for thirty-one years and retired in June 2010. Mark started telling stories in public about five years ago.
Marjorie Doyle is an award-winning essayist and author of Reels, Rock and Rosaries: Confessions of a Newfoundland Musician.
She has been a columnist with the Globe and Mail and the St. John’s Evening Telegram. Her publication credits include Descant, Geist, Queen’s Quarterly, The Fiddlehead, Antigonish Review, Ottawa Citizen, This Magazine, National Post, and The Independent. As a broadcaster, she hosted the national CBC Radio program That Time of the Night, and was heard frequently on Stereo Morning, The Arts Tonight, Gabereau and Morningside. She co-hosted the award-winning Doyle Bulletin with her brother John. She has lived in Canada, the U.S., Switzerland and Spain, and now makes her home in her native St. John’s.
Mary Fearon has been performing professionally since 1997. During that time, she has performed and run workshops at a variety of festivals, schools and other events both here in Newfoundland & Labrador and in Australia. Her interest in traditional Newfoundland material inspired her to co-develop the book, Over The Big Fat Waves; A Collection Of Newfoundland & Labrador Rhymes, Songs and Language Games.
John Fitzgerald is well-known for his research on Newfoundland’s 19th and 20th century political history. Much of his work has concerned the history of Newfoundland’s union with Canada, and with aspects of federal-provincial relations. He has been author and editor of numerous works including A Gift of Heritage and Newfoundland at the Crossroads: Documents on Confederation with Canada. Dr. Fitzgerald served as the province’s representative in the Newfoundland and Labrador Office of Federal-Provincial Relations in Ottawa from 2006-2010. He is currently Special Advisor to the provincial government.
Andy Jones is one of Newfoundland’s finest performers. He has been a professional writer and actor for over thirty years, and has been active in storytelling programs in the schools of Newfoundland and Labrador. Besides performing for three consecutive years at the St. John’s Storytelling Festival, he has also told stories at the Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Festival and has toured Newfoundland schools with dramatizations of a number of Newfoundland tales including Jack Meets the Cat, Peg Bearskin, Jack and The Three Giants and Little Jack The Little Fisherman (both from Freeman Bennett of St. Paul’s, Great Northern Peninsula). Andy recently worked with illustrator and puppeteer Darka Erdelji, producing The Queen Of Paradise’s Garden and Jack in the Manger.
The JackCycle began from an idea by Marnie Parsons and Chris Brookes, and was developed for performance by Mary Fearon and Chris Brookes.
The St. John’s Storytelling Festival and Newfoundland & Labrador Arts Council generously assisted the project.
Video and audio recording and editing by Martin Connelly and Jiri Slavicinsky.
Intro music to the videos by Daniel Payne from his CD Chain.
Storyteller Ford Elms, scheduled to participate in the Cycle, was unfortunately unable to be present due to a family emergency.