Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Paparazzi advice on how to get a picture of Machel Montano (and avoid a selfie stick up the butt).

Machel Montano about to be mobbed by media

It is a paparazzi thing I picked up by observation in Beverly Hills. When I need an uncluttered shot of a superstar without other photographers elbowing me out of the way, get the celeb just as he or she steps out of the car BEFORE the waiting throng smell celebrity blood.

Fresh. The smile is genuine and if I am lucky I might get a quote before I get jabbed out of the way by selfie sticks and deafened by blown-out lungs yelling "Machel. Machel. Please. Please. Look this way?"
Such was the case earlier this week when I attended the gala launch party for the 12th annual CaribbeanTales International Film Festival (CTFF) in downtown Toronto. Standing around the organizers with my big ears on alert I heard the Walkie Talkie crackle that The King of Soca, Trinidad's Machel Montano was in an Uber on College Street and would soon be here! Tonight 'here' was a closed sidestreet near the Royal Theatre, home of CTFF. The fete was in full party mode with Mas models in skimpy costumes, steel drums drumming and a hundred Caribbean Canadian celebs and media with cameras and phones raised high.
Machel and I have met several times. When I helped him out of the Uber I reminded him of our history. He pretended that he remembered and agreed to pose for a single picture, which instantly tells the night's story.

Here is a happy confident guy who has performed for millions, including Obama, and knows there is nothing he can't handle at the CTFF premier of his feature length film; Machel Montano: Journey of A Soca King.

Pstt - Theatre is across the street Machel!
If you have never heard of the Trinidad singer Machel Montano, it means you most likely aren't from the Caribbean. You probably have never jumped up to his Soca classics like Party Done, One Wine and Shake Yuh Bum, or wined and palanced (don't ask if you don't know) to his song It's Carnival at Toronto's Caribana.
For me tonight, he is a Soca hurricane, steps from making landfall. As we talk I see him mentally preparing for his entrance. No one in Little Italy knows him but, once in front of the waiting Caribbean community it's Bacchanalia time.
Never mind that TIFF activities were taking place a few blocks away. For anyone living the diaspora, holding a ticket to the Montano flick is akin to finding Willy Wonka's Golden Ticket.
The demand was so large that an extra screening was quickly arranged for the next night at a Malvern cinema (A Caribbean Canadian neighbourhood in Northeast Toronto). No one seemed to care about what the movie was actually about, what matters is that Machel is in the house.

"Journey of a Soca King chronicles his rise from a child star competing on Star Search, to his reign as a Soca Monarch in Trinidad. The film utilizes never before seen vintage footage to tell the phenomenal story of the "Michael Jackson of the Caribbean", while giving viewers a backstage pass to his 15 high energy, nonstop, live performances during the last 5 days before Carnival Monday 2015 in Trinidad."                IMBD

The film has a strong launch but I want to know what the star thinks about the state of the Caribbean homegrown film business.
"It is exploding, not just in T&T (Trinidad and Tobago) but Jamaica, Grenada and Cuba too. Look at the number of films in this year's festival."
He was right. CaribbeanTales has been trying to introduce to North America's movie industry to feature length films, shorts and TV pilots created with a Caribbean connection. In 2017 there are 17 features and 30 shorts being shown in Toronto between now and September 21st.

St. Lucia's Joseph Marcell and friends at the Gala.
You know him as the Butler on Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
photo by Anthony Berot
"There will be more if we can overcome one problem," said Machel. "Money. We need Caribbean investors to believe in us."
Last year Montano's Trini/Bollywood musical feature Bazodee opened CTFF to a huge critical acclaim. The movie then toured the world, selling-out theatres where ever Soca fans are. But, and this a biggie but, the distributor found huge tracts in Canada and US where Soca isn't understood.

Bajan Soca Queen Alison Hinds attended the opening!

"It took us 10 years to make that movie because of a lack of investors. I put my own money into it and I still haven't broken even. We are hoping that a NetFlicks deal will save the day!" Machel told the audience at a talk-back following the film.
" I want to do more movies to get the world turned onto Soca and this could be the movie and the city to do it in."
Organizers of the film festival couldn't agree more. Their mantra? "TIFF shows THE movies but at CTFF we show OUR oeuvre."

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Canadian Jamaican Courtney Betty’s Timeless Herbal Care signs significant with Jamaica re: medical marijuana

Canadian Jamaican Courtney Betty’s Timeless Herbal Care

Government oks restoration of Jamaica’s Bauxite mine lands for cultivation of medical marijuana

For Immediate Release

Toronto, Canada. September 12, 2017 …Timeless Herbal Care (Timeless) a leading Jamaican Nutraceutical /Pharmaceutical company has signed a historical agreement with the Government of Jamaica to grow herbal plants including medical marijuana on previously mined bauxite lands.  The agreement paves the way for Timeless and the Jamaica Bauxite Institute to restore the mined out territory to the benefit of the local community.

The signing late last week in Kingston Jamaica, was hailed by the Minister of Mines, the Honourable Mike Henry, as the fulfillment of his vision to restore the productivity of these lands to the benefit of grassroots communities who now have a chance to control their own destiny. “Timeless Herbal Care has established itself as a company committed to create value added products from Jamaican herbs including our very valuable Jamaican ganja,” said Minister Henry. “Jamaica is positioned to be a leader in medical marijuana and this is a major step in a true public private partnership!”

Minister Henry noted that the farmers will be taught new skills, so that they can produce the plants to internationally accepted standards. The plants to be cultivated are guinea hen weed, moringa, black castor bean, and medical cannabis.

Also speaking the signing ceremony was the Minister of Culture Olivia Babsy Grange who highlighted how Jamaican culture and branding will play a key role in bringing medical marijuana products to  the world. According to Minister Grange “our musical icons such as Bob Marley and Peter Tosh were visionaries of the healing power of the herb and we are committed to make their vision a reality bringing health and wellness to the world.”

Timeless President and CEO Courtney Betty expressed his joy at reaching this significant agreement with the Government of Jamaica.  According to Mr. Betty; “four years ago Timeless began with a dream of establishing a legal and regulatory framework to make Jamaica the medical marijuana hub of the world.  Having already established the only certified facility for growing medical marijuana in the Caribbean we look forward to bringing our years of experience and knowledge to transform local communities.’”

Timeless also unveiled its partnership with Jamaica’s University of Technology.  The university has created a research unit headed by Dr. Lawrence Williams who was recently awarded a United States patent related to medical marijuana. Timeless is committed to developing true medical products with  proven safety and efficacy based on international medical and pharmaceutical standards.


Timeless Herbal Care is an industry leader in the provision of health and wellness related services though the research and development of medical marijuana products. With operations in Jamaica, Israel, Canada and the United States; world-class experts and years of experience, we are uniquely equipped to supply the overwhelming international demand for medical marijuana products.

Timeless has established strategic partnerships with the University of the West Indies, the Jamaican Ganja Growers & Producers Association, the University of Technology, and Open Vape, a world leader in the development of vaporizers. For further information consult the company’s website at: http://www.timelessherbalcare.com/index.php


Timeless Herbal Care
Courtney Betty
In Jamaica
In US/Canada:
Phone: 416-907-0973
For interviews and pictures
Stephen Weir



Tuesday, 8 August 2017

First Nations artist James Simon Mishibinijima’s Residential School Paintings

·     .
Important Stories Being Told at PAMA as part of Peel 150

James Simon Mishibinijima
As part of the Peel Art Gallery, Museum and Archives (PAMA) Peel 150: Stories of Canada exhibition, First Nations artist James Simon Mishibinijima’s work is woven through the timeline showcasing two powerful series: his Residential School Paintings and Seven Grandfather Teachings. PAMA is offering free admission all summer (until Aug. 31) in celebration of Peel and Canada 150.

Born in 1954 in on Manitoulin Island, James Simon Mishibinijima grew up in Wikwemikong, one of the few Unceded Territories in Canada. Never the subject of a treaty, Wikwemikong has been able to preserve some of its pre-Columbian First Nations characteristics. 
Mishibinijima means “Birchbark Silver Shield.” As a boy, Mishibinijima was given the name James Alexander Simon by missionaries who found his name difficult to pronounce. His path as an artist was set early on as he was growing up in Wikwemikong. In some ways he feels that his destiny in art found him, pulling him in an unexpected direction away from an inclination to become an RCMP officer and toward a life as a professional artist.
Among his early teachers was Francis Kagige, an artist and neighbour, and recognized as one of the important pioneers of Wikwemikong art. Kagige had one of the few painting studios in the community. Mishibinijima would frequently visit his elder there where he was given his earliest instructions in painting and some lessons about style. Kagige also shared teachings about their Ojibwe culture and told the young artist his stories. The community’s elders and Mishibinijima’s relatives also imparted oral histories and described the myths and legends that are part of his cultural heritage.
Over the course of his career, he developed two signature styles. One is known as his “mountain paintings.” A dominant characteristic of these paintings is the blending of the land and the human elements to create images of energies that the land generously provides to all who seek it as sustenance.
A second personal style adapts the style of ancient pictographic paintings. Just as the painted petroglyphs make use of mysterious visual symbolism referencing human forms and translating radiant energies in pictorial terms, so Mishibinijima found in their spare human-like symbols potent signs with which to set down his, his family’s, and his community’s stories.
The paintings comprising the current exhibition at PAMA entitled “Indian Residential School Paintings” tell – illustrate – Mishibinijima’s mother’s stories as she gave them to him and as they revealed themselves to him in dreams. Her stories are depicted as pictographs.
 They recount her experiences when, as a young Ojibwe woman, she was a student in the middle years of the twentieth century at the Spanish Indian Residential School situated on the northern banks of Georgian Bay.
Mishibinijima’s mother passed on her stories to him later in her adult life, over the course of perhaps a decade and a half. By giving her stories to her son, she exhorted him to “paint them.”i By sharing such shocking details from her life as a young adult, it was her hope that the truths of “what happened” would live on into the future, beyond her own life. 
The paintings’ deceptively simple style provides the maximum opportunities for someone experiencing his paintings, particularly children and young adults, to reflect on this tragic chapter in our nation’s history and to understand the pain and trauma that people their own age experienced. His paintings are intended to open dialogues about personal and community values, and about the need to confront the truth.

PAMA is a place to explore and learn about Peel Region’s culture and heritage, as well as use conversation, questions and stories to help make new and fascinating connections to the surrounding community. Throughout the year, PAMA offers a variety of workshops and programs for all ages, families and adults. With so many different programs to choose from, PAMA has something for everyone. Operated by the Region of Peel, PAMA is located at 9 Wellington St. E. in Brampton. Visit pama.peelregion.ca to learn more.

Contact: Erin Fernandes 
Marketing Co-ordinator 
Peel Art Gallery, Museum and
Tel: 905-791-4055, ext. 7596 
Cell: 416-312-3425 
Twitter: @visitpama 

Stephen Weir 
Stephen Weir and Associates 
Tel: 416-489-5868 | cell: 416-801-3101 
www.stephenweir.com twitter:


Thursday, 3 August 2017

New Free Exhibition in Brampton Has An Arrow In It!

Peel 150 exhibition at PAMA, FREE this July & August
The Canadian AVRO ARROW is 
an integral part of Peel County’s history

Inline image
(Brampton – August 3, 2017) This summer, an underwater search for Avro Arrow artifacts in Lake Ontario is now underway by a Canada 150 collaborative research and recovery project spearheaded by the OEX Recovery Group. There is a growing interest in learning more about the famed Canadian Air Force fighter jet program - and aviation buffs don’t have to get wet to find out more about the historic made-in-Peel jet.
All summer visitors are invited to visit the Peel Art Gallery, Museum and Archives (PAMA) in downtown Brampton where you can explore artifacts from the Avro Arrow project including a shell of the mock-up of the cockpit of the production version of the jet created by Avro Canada engineers in the 1950s, as well as images, and digitized video footage. The piece is part of PAMA’s extensive permanent collection of artifacts that help tell the story of the community.
Meanwhile in Toronto, as part of Canada 150 celebrations, a search has begun for Avro Arrow artifacts.  A team of researchers from the Canada 150 collaborative research and recovery project spearheaded by the OEX Recovery Group have begun looking for nine Avro Arrow free flight models launched over Lake Ontario in a series of tests occurring from 1954 – 1957 that were submerged in Lake Ontario when the project was cancelled.  The models are one-eighth scale replicas of the famed flying jet and were part of the final flight design test work done prior to the production of the CF-105 Arrow.
The Avro CF-105 Arrow was a supersonic jet developed to intercept enemy bombers from the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Malton-based A.V. Roe of Canada employed 50,000 workers at the peak of work on the Arrow during the late 1950s, making Peel a centre of the aerospace industry. There were doubts as to whether bomber interceptors would be irrelevant before it was even built. On February 20, 1959, Prime Minister Diefenbaker announced to the House of Commons that the Arrow project was terminated. In Malton, layoffs were announced immediately. All eight prototype planes were destroyed. Over 13,000 people lost their jobs.
“We were in shock. I could see it in their eyes – many of the boys had got themselves into debt – it really got to me. I tried to get them all jobs.”
– Burt Scott, Avro Test Engineer, Memoir, PAMA Archives
The Arrow display is part of an exciting exhibition that includes selected pieces from PAMA’s art collection, among them historical landscapes of the Peel Region, an incredible sketchbook from artist Tom Thomson, sculptures, large abstract paintings and small format prints and drawings. As well as enjoying the hundreds of artifacts, documents, images, and artwork, this exhibition will provide visitors with touchscreens where they can dig deep to learn more, hands-on activities for kids and adults, and a chance to have their say about their wishes for the future. In celebration of Peel and Canada (and not to mention the 150th anniversary of the Peel County Jail and Courthouse in which PAMA is housed) they are also offering FREE admission for July and August.
PAMA is a place to explore and learn about Peel Region’s culture and heritage, as well as use conversation, questions and stories to help make new and fascinating connections to the surrounding community. Throughout the year, PAMA offers a variety of workshops and programs for all ages, families and adults. With so many different programs to choose from, PAMA has something for everyone. Operated by the Region of Peel, PAMA is located at 9 Wellington St. E. in Brampton. Visit pama.peelregion.ca to learn more.  -     
Contact: Erin Fernandes
Marketing Co-ordinator
Peel Art Gallery, Museum and Archives
Tel: 905-791-4055, ext. 7596
Cell: 416-312-3425
Twitter: @visitpama
Stephen Weir
Stephen Weir and Associates
Tel: 416-489-5868 | cell: 416-801-3101
www.stephenweir.com twitter: sweirsweir

Monday, 31 July 2017

Ride That Train - Mayor and Federal MP have climbed on board

Member of Parliament, Whitby will be attending the Freedom Train Ride event on Monday evening - sweir
Drummers on the 2016 Train Ride

Emancipation Day
Fifth Annual Freedom Train Ride to Downsview
10.45 pm Start
Zanana Akande honourary conductor

Underground Freedom Train Monday July 31st Toronto
Please join the community on Monday, July 31st at 10:45pm at Toronto’s Union subway station as we celebrate Emancipation Day. We will be boarding the Underground Freedom Train at 11:30pm and travelling straight to Sheppard West subway station (previously Downsview station), arriving there at 12:15am on August 1st, which is internationally acclaimed as Emancipation Day. 
This year’s fifth annual Freedom Train ride will be an incredible journey and experience about the Underground Railroad and the history of Emancipation Day as Canada celebrates 150 years since independence. Opening ceremonies will begin at 10:45pm at Union subway station. People will gather by the Brookfield Rotunda TTC entrance on the main floor. Opening ceremonies will be completed by 11:15pm and we will then prepare to start boarding the Freedom Train which will depart Union Station at 11:45pm.
The train ride will include a moment of silence as we board the train, drumming, spoken word and songs, along with a tribute to the resilience of the many who travelled along the Underground Railway, seeking freedom in Canada.
Zanana Akande, community matriarch and advocate, who was the first Black woman elected to the Ontario legislative assembly and also serve as a cabinet minister in Canada, will be honoured as this year’s train conductor. Also featured this year, will be Meridian Ashamock, a young Cree high school student and visual artist, Baro Dununba and Friends African drumming ensemble and the Ubuntu drumming and dance ensemble. 
We will also be unveiling a commemorative plaque that will recognize the work of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters that will be mounted at Union Station, once the renovations are completed. The plaque is being sponsored by the Coalition of Black Trade Unions that has been a leading supporter of the Underground Freedom Train Ride series, since inception.
Everyone is welcome to join us on this Underground Freedom Train Ride to celebrate Emancipation Day. People will need a TTC ticket/token/transfer for admission and come prepared for quite the ride. Fifth annual Underground Freedom Train Ride t-shirts are available for purchase at A Different Booklist store, prior to the ride. Further information - available at A Different Booklist 416-538-0889 or by following us on twitter @FreedomTrainTOR.
photo - drummers on the train, 2016
 For further info Media contact
Organizer Itah Sadu
 A Different Booklist
or me at: 

Stephen Weir & Associates | stephen@stephenweir.com 
109 Castlefield Avenue, Toronto, ON
Tel: 416-489-5868 | cell: 416-801-3101 
www.stephenweir.com twitter: sweirsweir