Ten Page Henry bicycle scavenger hunt looks to enlighten festival attendees about where Calgary’s now-thriving scene had its beginnings.
Sled Island kicks off on Wednesday, and no doubt everyone has been scouring the festival’s schedule to plan out their week and decide what shows to attend.
This year, amidst the bands, film and comedy up on offer, festivalgoers can hop on their bikes to take part in a fun and informative scavenger hunt — and learn a bit about the history of Calgary’s early, underground music scene in the process.
Ten Page Henry is the creation of the Humble Wonder Collective — a group of like-minded artists who have been working together for the past couple of years to create experimental performative works. Participants in the scavenger hunt, which runs throughout the festival, will be introduced to “Henry,” a Calgary icon from the early music scene, who will guide them in solving puzzles at each designated location in order to collect a page of a zine and put the pieces of this part of Calgary’s rich history together.
Each location will have some “scenester” connection, and, once completed, the participant will have had a tour of some of the scene’s pivotal locations, as well as some insight as to how it all began.
Tyler Longmire has been heavily influenced by Calgary’s music scene, and spoke with theYYSCENE about the Humble Wonder Collective and the inspiration behind this interactive performance.
Q: Tell me a bit about the Humble Wonder Collective and how the idea for this scavenger hunt came about?
A: We’re a collective of like-minded artists from different disciplines who have been working together for the last couple of years just to create experimental performative works … that fall between or outside of traditional performance venues and presentation format. (Ten Page Henry) is sort of an extension of that — it’s an experiment that we have been chipping away at over the past couple of years, trying to make a play that you experience while you’re on your bicycle, and over the last year or two it kind of turned into this scavenger hunt game.
The core of the project was to create something that could be a performative experience. The nature of the performance is a lot different because if you’re on the bicycle you’re an active participant as opposed to in a theatre where you’re captive. We want people riding around on their bikes with their friends having fun, and that’s what people do during Sled, so it’s kind of a perfect pairing. We want people to get on their bikes and experience it and see the city in a different way.
Q: What was it that made you want to unearth the history behind Calgary’s early underground music scene and make it the focus of the hunt?
A: I pretty much grew up in downtown Calgary and East Village, so the places like the King Eddy, the St. Louis, the Cecil were all a big part of my growing up, and once I became of age I started going out to see shows.
There’s a certain kind of process of gentrification happening in the city right now that all seems to be taking a certain kind of similar form, where the old Cecil Hotel sign goes into the old St. Louis Hotel, the Lido Café sign is slapped onto condos … gentrification of what I feel was Calgary’s underground scene. It was sort of brought to a head, in my thinking, when the new Ten Foot Henry restaurant opened up, (and) when they adopted the Ten Foot Henry logo that was part of the original Ten Foot Foot Henry’s nightclub in the ’80s. (The sign) was at the Night Gallery, then it was at OYR’s Big Secret Theatre for a long time, and now (the logo is) the mascot for a family-friendly vegetarian restaurant, and there’s something I find really strange about that. So this game in particular, we developed it on my interest in these old scene locations, like old bars, old places where people used to party, but now it’s a crossfit gym or it’s a restaurant or it’s a condo. The scene still exists, of course, but it’s always moving and shifting and changing depending on where it’s been moved outwards from or to.
Q: Did you have to do a lot of digging around to find a lot of information about the old scene in order to put this together?
A: The Calgary Cassette Preservation Society was instrumental in this and played a huge part — that website is amazing! I would go through all the old CJSW Vox magazines and old zines that they had scanned and posted and kind of figured out what the venues were in 1985, because I wasn’t alive back then … So just through a lot of research going through The Calgary Cassette Preservation Society, talking to my family, going down to the library, just seeing where people hung out.
I’ve been doing a bunch of research on the history of Calgary’s art scene and I found that the ’80s were a really transformational time — people were really starting to build the institutions that are keystones of what we think of in terms of Calgary’s alternative culture scene now. Like CJSW, most of the non for profits, the Olympics poured a ton of money in, that’s when a lot of the bars and venues started getting going. We need to know whose shoulders we stand on.
Q: So when people arrive at a location for the scavenger hunt, they’re supposed to solve a puzzle in order to piece together the zine.
A: The puzzles — some of them are textual based, like word jumbles and crosswords that are on the page themselves. Some of them are location based, so if you go to a location there might be clues like signs or bricks or local landmarks and you’ve got to figure it out onsite how to solve the puzzle on the page. Some of the others are more textual clues like old show listings or an old band flyer.
I’m kind of interested to see who phones me and tells me I got it all wrong. (Laughs) There’s something I find really appealing about memory sharing. And because it’s kind of our first go-around at this one, I am definitely interested to see what comes out of it.
Sled Island runs from Wednesday, July 21 to Sunday, July 25 at various locations around Calgary. Participants of Ten Page Henry can get the pages when they pick up their festival passes and can take as much time as they like to complete the game, as long as they finish before the end of Sled Island. Visit sledisland.ca for passes and tickets.
Kari Watson is a writer and former Listings Editor of FFWD Weekly, and has continued to bring event listings to Calgary through theYYSCENE and her website, The Culture Cycle. Contact her at email@example.com.