Festival of the Arts Oct 24-26, Northumberland County, Spirit of the Hills, Uncategorized

Making Art in the Beautiful County

Northumberland County, east of Toronto, is rich in outstanding natural beauty. That may be one reason why it’s attracted such a large population of artists of all kinds. Gwynn Scheltema is one of them.

A writer and poet who lives on Lake Seymour, Gwynn  runs writers’ retreats through Writescape.ca and is the co-host of Word on the Hills on 89.7 FM.

Blog Photo - FOTA Gwynn at Artist Retreat
Gwynn, seated centre-left

We interviewed her about Spirit of the Hills, the Festival of the Arts, and the future of Northumberland county as a vibrant centre for the arts in Canada.

Q: How does it make you feel to realize that Spirit of the Hills is celebrating its 20th anniversary  – and has thrived and grown over those years?


It’s amazing! I remember sitting with (writer) Beth Rhind at a Northumberland Arts Conference in Baltimore years ago and Beth asking me if there were any writers that I knew in the area. That led to an open house in Warkworth to discuss the need or desire for a writers group in the area.

Now the writers group is a vibrant gathering of amazing literary talent that not only supports its members with learning more about the craft and the industry, but also helps promote each other and gives back to the community with hundreds of volunteer hours at festivals, community radio shows and as members of the board.

Blog Photo - FOTA Gwynn CU

Q: Northumberland is said to be (somewhat quietly) on its way to becoming an arts capital of Ontario. What’s your vision of SOTH’s significance in the region and the country?

I make at least one trip every year to Stratford, Ontario and am always blown away by how much the arts there have shaped that little town into a destination for people from all over the world, and how the arts have been a catalyst for growth in all areas from retail to hospitality to education and artisan industries. I hope the same happens here.

Blog Photo - FOTA Gwynn Street Pennants Photo by Reva Nelson
Photo by Reva Nelson

Q: What do you hope the Festival of the Arts will do for artists in the region and for the community?

Blog Photo - FOTA Gwynn - Town Hall Photo by Reva Nelson
Cobourg Town hall Photo by Reva Nelson

I hope that it will become an anchor for continued growth in the arts in the region and continued co-operation between the different artistic disciplines. Together we grow, divided we stagnate.

I hope too that other artisan talents will become part of the mix. I’m thinking cheese makers, jewelry, textiles, and such. If other areas of the community can get on board, such as B&Bs  and local restaurants offering FOTA packages, it could become a gateway to growth for all of us.

Q: What are you most looking forward to at FOTA?

Seeing the wealth of talent from this region all in one place.

Thanks, Gwynn!


Festival of the Arts Oct 24-26, Spirit of the Hills, Taking risks, Workshops at FOTA

Taking Risk: A FOTA Workshop

“Positive Risk-taking for Positive Results” is the title of this FOTA workshop on October 26. 

Does this sound like there’s a guarantee? There isn’t! If taking a chance came with a guarantee, it wouldn’t be called a risk. 

Blog Photo - FOTA Reva - Taking Risk 1

However, in Reva Nelson’s workshop, there IS a guarantee of getting a new perspective on what a ‘risk enabler’ is and how a ‘risk inhibitor’ can actually help.  There will be new insights and some laughs too!

Blog Photo - FOTA Reva Nelson

Reva shared seminars and keynote speeches on this topic for over 20 years, with government, corporate and individual clients.  When she, herself, returned to the theatre, she realized that artists and actors needed some help understanding how to take positive risks too, and developed a course to help them move beyond self-limitations. 

Reva was not a born risk-taker; she says she was a “born chicken”.  Come to this workshop on risk-taking and find out how you can be even better at going beyond your comfort zone and expressing yourself more fully.  You might even learn how to get your son/daughter/partner off the couch to search out new experiences and adventures.

To Register: https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/festival-of-the-arts-2019-tickets-66677208325

Bonus offer:  Everyone coming to this workshop will receive a free copy of Reva’s book, “Risk It!” 


Drama at Festival of the Arts, Festival of the Arts Oct 24-26, Uncategorized

Interview with Marie-Lynn Hammond

Marie-Lynn Hammond is best known as one of Canada’s most-loved singer-songwriters.

She is also a writer, editor and successful playwright, who has written both full-length and short plays.  

Blog Photo - FOTA marie-lynn-hammond2

At the 2017 Festival of the Arts, Marie-Lynn produced and performed in a staged reading of her critically applauded musical play Beaux Gestes and Beautiful Deeds.

Blog Photo - FOTA MLHammond - BD - credit to J. Bogart
Credit: J. Bogart

Last winter, she gave a workshop that inspired many Spirit of the Hills writers to try their hands at writing a 10 minute play. Her own play, Mouse, is one of four that will be staged at the Festival of the Arts in Cobourg on October 24 and 25.

Q: Mouse was first performed at Theatre Calgary’s Festival of Short Plays. Have you written many short plays and submitted them to competitions?

Actually, no. I’ve only written three, though I’ve also written full-length plays and one one-acter. I submitted one to CBC radio when they used to have a drama department, but the producer there felt the play should be expanded to 40 minutes, that it was too intense for a 10-minute play. Not long after, the drama department was eliminated, so I never pursued that.

Q: Why do you enjoy short plays?

I think I’m comfortable with the form because I’m a songwriter whose songs often tell stories, so I’m used to compression, to having to get across plot and character and setting in very few lines and very few minutes.

Blog Photo - FOTA MLHammond +Tom-MAX-
Musician Tom Leighton with Marie-Lynn

Q: What qualities are most important in writing a successful 10 minute play?

I think one has to be able to see the potential for drama and conflict—every play, however miniaturized, needs conflict, whether comic or tragic or a mix of both—in what might look like a limited situation, such as two men just sitting on a park bench.

“To see a world in a grain of sand,” as William Blake put it. Also, the writer needs a knack for creating telling phrases, gestures, or details that can speak volumes, since he or she has only 10 minutes to get an entire story down. Penning distinctive voices for the characters helps too.

Blog Photo - FOTA MLH at Shane book launch

Q: Tell us a little about the characters in Mouse.

Vince is 17 or 18, a hard-scrabble, inner-city kid who presents as aggressive and tough, and clearly has had a difficult childhood. Ida appears to be in many ways his opposite, a timid woman in her early 30s with a boring job, whose life has been constrained by circumstance and her own personality. This might suggest the play is serious in nature, but while Mouse contains undercurrents of weightier themes, it plays much more as a comedy.

Q: What inspired you to write this play?

The character of the teenaged punk, Vince, was inspired by a young woman I saw on the Toronto subway (I changed her to male for dramatic reasons). She wore black leather and sported many piercings; she glared at everyone and clearly wanted to come across as tough—mean, even. And yet there was one striking thing about her that suggested otherwise. I won’t give it away here, but it’s key to my play.

Click here for tickets


Marie-Lynn was interviewed by Felicity Sidnell Reid, chair of the Festival of the Arts. Author of Alone: A Winter in the Woods, Felicity also co-hosts Word on the Hills, on 89.7 FM.


Festival of the Arts Oct 24-26, Northumberland County, Photography, Photography Competition, Uncategorized

Photo Competition Adult Finalists

We are happy to announce the finalists in the Adult Category of the Festival of the Arts Photo Competition!

A big THANK YOU to everyone who entered.  The judges had well over a hundred entries to choose from and competition was strong.

Now, CONGRATULATIONS to those whose photos are finalists  in the Adult Category.  In a few cases, more than one image that made it to the finals were taken by the same photographer.

Here, in random order, are the finalists’ photos:

Blog Photo - FOTA Photo Comp Gabriela Surerus with Aerial Silks - Oona
Gabriela Surerus with  Aerial Silks – Oona
Blog Photo - FOTA Photo Comp Doug Johnson with Grace and Speed
Doug Johnson with Grace and Speed
Blog Photo - FOTA Photo Comp Carol Anne Bell-Smith with Beauty at the Beach
Carol Anne Bell-Smith with Beauty at the Beach
Blog Photo - FOTA Photo comp Gerry Atkinson with Cape Buffalo
Gerry Atkinson with Cape Buffalo
Blog Photo - FOTA Photo Comp Gabriela Surerus with Child in floating villages - Tonle Sap Lake
Gabriela Surerus with Child in floating villages – Tonle Sap Lake
Blog Photo - FOTA Photo Comp Sheila Herrington with Stain Glassed
Sheila Herrington with Stain Glass Water
Blog Photo - FOTA Photo Comp Gerry Atkinson with Safe Haven
Gerry Atkinson with Safe Haven
Blog Photo - FOTA Photo Comp Susan Dubois with Cobourg Gran Prix
Susan Dubois with Cobourg Gran Prix
Blog Photo - FOTA Photo Comp Valda O'Kane with Breakfast time
Valda O’Kane with Breakfast Time
Blog Photo - FOTA Photo Comp Gerry Atkinson with Wildebeest Water Fun
Gerry Atkinson with Wildebeest Water Fun
Blog Photo - FOTA Photo Comp Susan Dubois with Reflections
Susan Dubois with Reflections 

NOTE: These images are the sole property of the photographers, and may not be used without their written consent.