Merrickville is featured in a new project showcasing fun and interesting stories from small towns across Eastern Ontario. The Small Halls Stories project was spearheaded by the Festival of Small Halls, which has been bringing concerts to small communities in Eastern Ontario for the past 6 years. Marketing Manager, Rosanne Lake, says that they have learned a lot about each of the small towns that host the festival and realized that each of them has unique stories to tell. “Small Halls Stories is something we’ve been thinking about – and wishing to do – for quite some time,” she says.
Small Halls reached out to the various communities that usually host the festival and asked them to help facilitate the recording of authentic tales of past events, historical or recent, a defining moment, occasion, or notable person. “Our wonderful hosts have such a strong understanding by now of what we try to accomplish at the community level, that some of them jumped right in,” Rosanne says. “About a dozen of the Small Halls communities submitted story ideas and connected us with the perfect storytellers.”
In Merrickville, they worked with Nick Previsich of the Merrickville Organization for Culture and the Arts, who has been their contact for their Fall and holiday shows in Merrickville. Nick wrote the story of Harry McLean, Merrickville’s eccentric millionaire, and it was read by Omar Simonyi from Theatre Night in Merrickville. The 8-minute story is now up on the Festival of Small Halls website, along with 10 other Small Halls Stories.
“The stories are absolutely fascinating!” Rosanne says. “We’re talking discovering whale bones deep beneath the earth in Pakenham, a larger-than-life character in Merrickville, Gaelic ghosts in Dunvegan, secret stones in Elgin, a canoe fit for a queen in Seeley’s Bay, and much more.”
The Small Halls Stories launched on August 27, and Rosanne says the response has been great so far. They had hundreds of listens on Spotify in the first few days, and people have been sharing the individual stories in their online communities. There seems to be something about listening to a podcast without a visual component that makes the experience more personal and leaves room for the imagination to wander. “Our audience seems to be responding to that connection.”
Rosanne believes the project was particularly important because of the COVID-19 pandemic. With so many people isolating and staying home, it seemed like a good way to highlight some of the amazing small towns around Eastern Ontario and connect further with Festival of Small Halls communities. “Small places can harbour big stories!” Rosanne adds.
To listen to all of the Small Halls Stories visit the Festival of Small Halls website: www.thefestivalofsmallhalls.com. They can also be found on Spotify under Small Halls Stories.