Newmarket "Stage of Hope" for New Messages, Music, and Productions

I wrote a blog already covering the poverty and politics side of the recent Riverwalk Commons held International Day for The Eradication of Poverty event held in Newmarket, Ontario, Canada. It touched on the arts side of the York Region version of the Internationally marked day, but did not dwell enough perhaps on the arts side was my thought so I've put this one together.

Each year, as the event has evolved, we have slowly added more arts to the days planned itinerary and to that end for 2014 we emphasized youth and added more hip hop and spoken word to the mix which all melded to the theme in a very cool package, acting as the nights end with various acts taking to the stage in succession, highlighted by a song from Maurice Weeks and Justin Harris / AFM Fam JustFlow's track Politics. Very fitting, and really added another notch vibe to an already vibe engorged outdoor event. Some mainstream media coverage was welcome as well.

With Opening acts ranging from a Richmond Hill youth group's stage version of Stone Soup, that included a man returning from Afghanistan with post stress syndrome, to a 40 minute set by the unbelievable The Yappers (anybody seen their stage sign? Lol ) who kicked out some rockin' slash country at times slash always reggae based tunes to the delight of some attendees who felt suddenly inspired to dance and sway to their dynamic original sound. Leader / Composer Ray Yap from Aurora, fronting wacky Bassist Stew Sparks, and Drum sensation, Laney V, slashed out a mid-song solo, after jumping into the crowd, his wireless guitar seemingly leading him to reach his intense crescendo before returning to the stage in time to end the song with his mates. Small things, but stage time has obviously worked well with the band and I think they played with inflamed passion as well, without which, there is no "music' to me.

The Yappers perform at Riverwalk Commons Stage
The Open Stage also heard a touch of Elvis, helped on by yours truly, with an enthusiastic, but not too sure of the words accomplice, who wanted to sing - but hey like anyone he was welcome to give what he could and in that way, it too was an entertaining moment.

" I'm wea-ring Black, Because their's nothing Dar-ker" The Yappers
Maurice Weeks
The last part of the Int day event was reserved for Hip Hop Performers and Spoken Word Artists. If you look at the history of the roots of hip hop music you don't have to look too far to find a connection to poverty in some way...or the results of it...and our life choices we make...and that all comes out in hip hop something I discovered over the past number of years whilst having been immersed in the entertainment industry. The 1st inkling I got was when I saw seniors up and dancing to hip hop - then I knew it was a market and some. Looking further, one discovers that the real top hop if you will, is rooted in personal experiences, or perceptions of those experiences, and then relayed out through the spoken word on stage or in some cases as with the Arthur Jr Music Family and JustFlow are prone to do, crossed with R&B music to add a whole other dimension - such as the perfectly themed and slickly performed at the event, Politics.

JustFlow's Justin Harris
Maurice and Justin thrust out the beats with more vigour than I've seen from them in some time, which seemed to draw the remaining and enthusiastic crowd closer in, almost as if to get some of that music magic dust to rub off on them. The guys brought them to threshold before relenting the stage to some of the walk-on talent which too was splashed with intense participation, from the unique mind bending antics of Spence, a local Newmarket talent who stood out, as well as up and coming talents including a female MC / Hip Hop Artist - Dean Wild of Stay Blessed Productions.

With a few pumpkin smashed being the only casualties of the evening's events, and the seemingly unanimous vibe by all attendees including the earlier-set folk, that this was an inspiring event to make music and noise at, and a great fit to showcase ideas, talent, and new work. And I look forward to next years event for which Oct 17 falls on a Saturday, and to perhaps expand the music and arts portion of the event should there be enough interest to.

The event often inspires ideas, and one of which that seems to be grabbing hold of life was an idea of a type of march to draw attention to the lives of those with disabilities and on low income in York Region to be called Walk & Roll which would roll out sometime in the spring of 2015 and would encompass having a march from York Region headquarters, to the Aurora / Newmarket M.P.P. Chris Ballard's office at
Yonge and St John's Side Rd, and could include walkers, wheelchair and scooter users, bike riders, skate boarders - however people get around without transit - and include music, amplified mics and opportunities to sing or rap out as we travel the route. At our destination we would meet with the M.P.P. and ask him to support a motion in parliament to give to raise disability support rates and stop putting the onus on them to find alternative income supports.

" 1%. What do they expect us to do with that? That's $12 to me. 3 bus rides." Dan Philion

The Walk & Roll idea was inspired by Dan Philion, PACC's Vice-Chair and community volunteer award winner, who himself is confined to a wheelchair and has increasingly limited use of his hands. Tired of living in constant worry of having enough food without begging and having to live in isolation without being able to afford to go out, Dan asked was there not something we can do?

Walk & Roll!? Stay Tuned!

Until next time..TPE Out!

The Last Video Store - David Vs Goliath Main St Clock Inc

.....And then there was one...!

The Last Video Store on Main St in Newmarket, Ontario, Canada, likely had no idea how ironic the name would become when they opened. Owner Matt couldn't possibly have expected he would be told to pack up shop and leave, when they were paying rent on time and running a thriving respectable Main St business. And they couldn't possibly have predicted they'd be the very last in that block to be tossed. But that's how it should be, not how it is.

All these businesses gone now save one...
You see, The Last Video Store is actually the last store or tenant of any type for that matter in the block since upstairs, live-in tenants, presumably also lived there at one time as well. The developer's group got rid of them by using the old standby "unlivable conditions' ruse no doubt. Too bad no one championed that before those tenants - likely lower income families - were turfed, presumably after prolonged, neglected maintenance such as I noticed on the ceiling below floors in the units above T.L.V.S..

The at-hands-length from developers group, Main Street Clock Inc, which now clutches the 4 unit block of units and the attached Main St., Newmarket's, clock tower, appears to simply acquire properties and then 'condition" them to be suitable to make applications for whatever they see fit. Such as condos. And when a town or municipality does not go along with their "plans", they use the municipalities' own laws / bylaws to force their hands - such as boarding up buildings  which is actually encouraged in town bylaws for 'vacant' properties. The idea being the unsightliness and non use of the Main St buildings will force towns to act as they wish them to.

For example, they obviously can't plan a condo where seniors live, but if they move them, it would be deemed ok, no more than a sidebar, despite those seniors not wanting to - losing community ties, familiarities, amenities, friends etc. And after the seniors and apartment residents were gone, it allowed for conditions needed in order to make an application for planning / building something else, like condos. Existing businesses that may take up areas deemed part of those plans then become fair prey for the "sub-developer" to be moved out, in this case for the Main St Clock tower project.

The Last Video Store is literally the last store in that block!
So next up for them then was creating the conditions for asking the tenants to leave, most easily accomplished by allowing building maintenance to lag and buildings to fall into disarray. This puts the onus on the tenants - often short on funds or knowledge of their rights - to fight or simply buckle to the asks of these landlords whose admitted goals are to be rid of them! Sure, this group made noise after having lost the 1st round to have the clock tower turned into 7 stories of condos, by putting it up for sale, but with offers to sell reportedly refused recently, who can believe them?

Certainly Main St.'s real peoples' needs are not a priority for this group, just bricks and mortar rights.

 Block bought by group just to board up for now
As I stood inside The Last Video Store, I could visibly see water damage leaking down where it had likely made its way from the apartments or units above to his store merchandise. Oh, there was even "talk of 3 months compensation" at one point when all this began I heard - likely as a move to prepare them to leave in a nice orderly fashion - but it never came up again in any more of the developer groups info meetings. What a twisted system we have woven ourselves here!

To recap, we reward groups for destroying businesses and removing people's affordable places to live, by granting them automatic rights to apply for (re)development and zoning should certain ' conditions' be in place - with no penalty or compensation or financial assistance paid to those affected businesses and tenants by either the landlord or town.

Newmarket's own need create a Main st Champion of Justice!
As in the case of Newmarket's The Last Video Store, there is no fine or punishment for allowing these conditions to come to be either - and since no tenants presumably fought or complained of being turfed, except for the LAST VIDEO STORE, they alas, are fighting them alone.

This is like a real movie actually - one hand a video rental store, already considered a possible 'dinosaur', yet thriving, providing the service of DVD sales and rentals in a world consumed by more and more online media. A David if you will, already fighting a Goliath, and now adding to his foe another Goliath, a corporate one, one steeped in a win at all costs philosophy and weighted with heavy pockets in which to bombard him with. Nay..this is more like a Batman or Super Heroes movie when the hero is about to get crushed and there seems no way out!

This Main St business & apartment is for sale..will they gut these too?
Matt stands brave at the 11th hour, told he should be out by today! 15th of the month of October 2014, with no good reason really, and with the landlords having no plan in place for development even. For now Matt is standing pat but for for how long? 

He's having a BLOW OUT SALE meantime so go see him!

What will they do next? Will he lose more stock in the future bedlam sure to arise? 

Will Gotham be saved!!!? Stay Tuned!! 

Same Bat Channel! Pow! Bam!

Around Main St. Newmarket - The Last Video Store

Timothy St off Main St. Newmarket, Ontario, Canada
Fairy Lake Falls by Main
Main St has become a pawn of the candidates of the local elections, containing such sensitive balancing acts as shopping, housing, construction and historic sites - to events to parking - the latter always being a sore point with any concerned it seems.

Even the Town Clock Tower, once declared a great example of how we could use historic buildings and maintain their integrity whilst usefully using them was deemed semi-expendable for a time. Little did we know the ultimate goal was to develop condos there and move seniors from their homes!

And not just residents, with the same Markham based development group having bought the town clock block of 4 buildings, forcing all store owners and residents out, save one, ironically called "The Last Video Store" which was given until Oct 15 2014 to also be out! They plan to stay beyond that date, with no where to go, and a development staging company ready, willing, and apparently able, to board up those stores and leave them boarded until the town agrees to their development conditions, while meantime displaced business owners and turfed residents are left in their wake.

I know Matt the video store owner has felt alone though this process, and I'm sure not too thrilled when,  at the same time he's being told to leave, up the street, the Mayor meantime was posing for pics with a Magna CEO and pushing " Life Is Good T-shirts - reading " Life is Good Newmarket". Not for this business owner it isn't. Still another Main St business is suing the town for allowing "illegal construction" and obstructing their businesses access while doing said work. Oh boy.

Another lawsuit against town, owner, & conservation authorities
Of course,  these are things that are not really in control of Councillors - Mayors perhaps more so, but when they run into landlord and tenant issues law for example, or the push for development, these businesses need some protections. And I don't mean by adding another layer of power to " bylaws" departments. I mean both the Heritage Act and the Planning Act need amending.

And how much development would be deemed too much? Everyone it seems has an opinion, but one thing remains - no real growth plan for Main St. And where's the B.I.A. in this?

Right now, as we sit, I feel Newmarket actually already has the most picturesque, yet functional, Main St. in York Region - outdistancing Unionville by far in my opinion, with the additional outing option of nearby Fairy Lake Park / Trails, and sometimes events at Riverwalk Commons Square as well - such as the weekly Farmer's Market.

She is a thing of picturesque beauty Main St., Newmarket, Ontario is, yet she has some holes that need filling.

View to Town Clock Tower, now empty
Most observers will agree that Main St, at least the main vein of her, which would be the stretch from Roadhouse & Rose Funeral Home, south to Water St., has had some interesting new stores, services and shops open up in the past few years but where some turnover has also occurred - sometimes not having the right mix - like too many coffee shops!

Riverwalk Commons & Stadium opened during current council
Restaurants in the area have really taken on a life in the past few years with the success of Cachet, and later Made in Mexico spurring that growth on. Rawlicious, Brewhops Pub, Suchi, and The Goulash House joined the existing fast food Pizzeria and Chinese Food restaurants and soon to come fish & chip shop and Italian restaurant as well as 2 new locations featuring baked goods, round out the "in the near future" bill. Toss in some "lunch only" locations, upscale coffee, baked goods and tea-houses, and Main has hospitality pretty well covered!

Replaced old arena
This being said, there are some holes to fill, and you don't fill them by opening similar businesses to compete against each other unless there's a demand for that, via having a bad existing similar product / service, which I don't see. What we could use are offices filled with people, or doctor's offices, health services etc. such as in the same building the food bank is now located, and also the unit that was formerly a children's day care, now sitting empty. I believe Anne Martin, running for council in the ward, owned the business once called Teddy Bear's Picnic. An elect her sign now sits in the window instead.

A challenger, John Heckbert thinks he has the answers and has studied other top downtown communities to bring that to his vision. He's new and brings new ideas but would they do justice to her history?

Vs Wildlife behind Main
Of course also running in the ward is the incumbent Joe Sponga who's in hung tough through a pretty tough job to juggle town construction woes vs plans for Main, along with business and tenant concerns, in a part time job. Joe has a big heart and means well, and is living proof why Newmarket Councilors' jobs should be full time. This town is getting too large and indeed it's downtown and heritage too important, for us to have councilors concerned with it all only part time. Joe has his fans and share of detractors, but, like any incumbent, will be tough to beat I think regardless.

But that doesn't mean side bars such as a disgruntled Main St store owner suing for having their property access tampered with - illegally as far as they are concerned - can't come out to play. We'll have to wait for this one to come out though...after the election! Stay Tuned for...(insert cheesy soap opera theme music here).. The Edge.. of Newmarket!
Building Owner slash Candidate

At any rate, Main Street needs a plan of attack for sustained growth, and to that end, I would suggest a plan to target types of businesses Main St wants, not gets. Take stock of what is there now, and actively pursue businesses from a wish list created, and offer a rebate incentive to give them a shot at survival. Beats having units empty.


The General Store - A hardware store / printers / souvenirs store - Perhaps these days a full out  hardware store cannot be feasible on Main, but a good old fashioned " General Store", modernized, would be cool - complete with old coke machine for drinks. As well, no more Printers for photo-copying seem to exist on Main St so they could also offer that service from a copier machine.. and souvenirs are a given with all the movies now shot here, as well as Canada stuff!

Really? They should create one for them here behind Main!
A New Market - Whatever happened to selling fresh fruit and vegetables? Add some garden plants and flowers to the mix. With the farmer's market connection this should be a given. Add groceries too with competitive prices and you have a workable grocer's type business.

Butcher Shop - Classic Main St staple - emphasizing fresh, offer organic options

Record Stores - They have the cool factor. Vinyl records are at a 40 year high in sales and with Newmarket's boomer population new & used records would fly, and attract people to Main St! Recently, which is Main's last manufacturer, featured some in-house promo of records and print art, and sales were very good!
Thriving Main St business being forced out by developers

Printing Shop - Hard copy printing specialist could survive - approach an existing one!

Thrift Shop - Trade-in used goods, furniture, clothing, and books - always a draw

Arts - Visual - A number of art galleries would add balance and create ambiance

Antiques - Always an attraction

High Tech Internet Cafe - I'm surprised there's not one already. Big screen gaming too.

Rental Housing: The Town Clock is already set up for housing since seniors were housed there recently...just saying...
Nooks & Crannies

Preservation work

One of the new Restaurants at Newmarket's Main St
Still In Style after all these years! Long time success story on Main St...Oh, and did I mention it's for sale?!

Coming Soon

Sing for Their Supper - International Day Open Stage

International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, York Region

Winter shelters closed now. Men in Y.R. use 26 beds in a pop of 1,000,000
Oct 17 is International Day for The Eradication of Poverty. Join us for York Region's representative 2014  event at Newmarket's Riverwalk Commons, 200 Duncan St. outside The Lions Hall, simultaneously being held alongside  events around the world to draw attention to those in poverty at home and abroad.

The Newmarket Day will feature an
"Open Mic", offering opportunities to those with performance messages about poverty to share them. The first part of the 7-10 pm running evening, will include some personal stories from lived experience or those who have witnessed it, with some focus also on world poverty.

Speakers and performance artists wishing to participate can contact us here and join the event on Facebook.

Fri Oct 17 support an end to poverty - Award winning one minute video
David L Rogers at a spot he once sat homeless
In addition to Open Stage performers who come out, sound and Hip Hop performances will be enhanced at the event by JUST FLOW and the AJM FAM while Reggae-country- rock sensations, The Yappers, are slated in as well. With a number of politicians and concerned residents attending, it should make for an eclectic, stimulating, yet rockin' evening, with time in between for a mix and exchange of knowledge, information and ideas related to poverty issues and maybe create some new music or productions.

Booked in is Poet, David Rogers, who will be available for signings / sales of his book of poems, "The Dark Road", which acts as a type of therapy for those fighting addictions / mental health issues, including depression. David's true to life experiences are replicated through his poetry, resonating and cutting through to many so afflicted. Signed Books are $15. 50% sales to PACC. For the future, David would like to see his poems transferred to the stage or screen, in order to reach out more.

Also for 2014, in memory of a PACC member, community volunteer and community worker with C.M.H.A., Annette Brown, who died unexpectedly recently, we will be giving out pumpkins at the event - courtesy of The Newmarket Food Pantry to keep her spirit alive and make sure all kids get a pumpkin! Take one for yourself or someone in need!

The Int Day has been marked in Newmarket over 12 years now, and was originally designed 23 years ago, when launched in Paris France in front of the U.N. building, by a man of cloth who came from poverty and who wanted to make a difference, culminating with millions standing at once setting a world record for doing so in 2011! He has made a difference. You can too!

AFTER PARTY - after 10 pm event attendees enjoy free entry to nearby Tequila 185 Nightclub, downstairs @Made In Mexico Restaurant!

Come out and lend an ear or voice or talent on Oct 17 2014!