A Pageant with a Purpose

New Glasgow’s River Clyde buoyed by support of creatives, chefs, newcomers, and community

Following a successful inaugural year in 2016, it was hard for co-creators Ker Wells and Megan Stewart to imagine not doing the River Clyde Pageant again this year. The outdoor travelling performance provides an entertaining and educational tour along the banks of the River Clyde in New Glasgow and ends with a meal shared by all—audience, volunteers, and performers—behind The Mill Restaurant. This year the pageant is adding another food element, with chef Emily Wells, owner of The Mill and sister to Ker Wells, offering a food preparation workshop for newcomers to PEI.

“This show is meant to bring people together,” said Ker Wells.

After months of preparations that include week-long workshops on stilt-walking, writing, singing, and puppeteering, the audience is treated to a fantastical production. Along the travelling show, one learns how the River Clyde has gone from a once healthy, thriving river with fish to one that seems to have struggled in recent years. These changes are brought on by increased pesticide use, topsoil runoff, a higher number of anoxic events from global warming, and more human activity along the river, which has contributed to bank erosion and litter in the waterway.

Youth are involved in all aspects of the River Clyde Pageant//Photo Credit: Robert van Waarden (vanwaardenphoto.com)

Besides introducing audiences to issues around the health of PEI’s waterways, the pageant will also introduce a handful of Island newcomers (specifically, refugees) to local food growers and producers in the area through the food preparation workshop chef Wells is offering. “Ideally, we will work together, creating some of their traditional meals, but perhaps adapting them slightly, so they can use locally-grown food in their meal preparations.”

For chef Wells, working with newcomers comes naturally as she remembers her family moving to the Island years ago and the struggles they went through while trying to familiarize themselves with their new surroundings. Now that she has been on the Island for several years, Wells wants to help others. “Creating food with people is an easy thing for me to do” said Wells, “and this gives me a chance to introduce newcomers to farmers, and help them see how they can use local Island food in their traditional family recipes.”

A community dinner is served to all pageant participants and guests behind The Mill at the conclusion of the show.// Photo Credit: Robert van Waarden (vanwaardenphoto.com)

Ker Wells and Stewart see this addition to their pageant as a perfect fit. Along with participating in the week-long meal preparation workshop, the newcomers will also assist in the preparations of the pageant meal for the audience during three of the shows. The newcomers who prepare the food will be able to share their meal with the audience and, in doing so, connect with even more of the Island community.

“It is the essence of artistic creativity,” said chef Wells. “Processed foods have separated people from farms, but buying local helps us reconnect with our farms and farmers. This show is doing the same thing – we have a sick river and the show helps people learn about it.”

The River Clyde Pageant runs July 29 to 30 and August 4 to 6 with shows starting at 6:30 each evening.
For more information visit riverclydepageant.com

About Grace Kimpinski

Grace's passion to be creative combined with her drive to get things done make her an invaluable member of the Salty team. As the sole-support parent to a teenaged... bottomless-pit... er... son, she strives to be a 'smart' food shopper. Although she's not keen on writing about herself, she is very keen on eating a great BBQ'd meal in summer and a hearty stew in winter.

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