OpenBookOntario Profile

I was recently asked by Ottawa writer and editor rob mclennan to answer a few questions about what I’m up to now as Barrie’s second Poet Laureate, and where I’ve been hiding (in plain sight). His profile and my answers can now be found here on OpenBookOntario.

OpenBookOntario and their sister site, OpenBookToronto, are great literary resources. I encourage all Barrie writers and literary event organizers to harness this site.

Poet Laureate, City of Barrie

To mark my presentation to Barrie City Council as the city’s second Poet Laureate, and to mark the Charlie Hebdo massacre, I produced 100 numbered and signed copies printed on mylar. A few copies are still available upon request.the cycle of charlie

Spirit Catcher Sold for Scrap Metal

Now if that headline were true, a very small minority in Barrie would approve or not care, but the overwhelming majority of Barrie residents would be alarmed and speak out in protest.

The Spirit Catcher by Ron Baird has graced our shoreline since 1987, and it is the quintessential icon of our city. Most of our residents never knew Barrie without it.

Weighing twenty tonnes and standing 25 meters tall, Barrie residents identify with, and are identified by, this dynamic and kinetic sculpture. Then valued at $230 000, it was gifted to the Barrie Gallery Project, placing our city squarely on the cultural map. Ultimately, it lead to our leading and renowned cultural institution, the MacLaren Art Centre.

Today, the City of Barrie routinely declines donations of artwork because our city has no strategy for selecting and maintaining these works. Without a concrete plan and stable funding, our city has been right to reject these investments.

And Canadian art is a sound investment, with a rate of return from 18-39% in recent years, according to the Globe and Mail (

Public art isn’t going “to dip into Barrie’s public purse.” Rather, we are investing in improved quality of life, making it easier to attract healthcare and other professionals, and business investment.  When the spirit is catching, we all benefit. 

More than a financial investment, local art in public spaces is an investment in our community. Public art beautifies our city, and makes it unique. Local art tells our stories. Our Spirit Catcher is synonymous with our city, and is probably the most enduring image visitors take away. 

Public art is our brand.

The Public Art Policy before City Council has been carefully crafted by our community, for our community. It puts forward a framework for acquiring art for our public spaces, and provides a sound financial model to ensure ongoing maintenance and preservation. Like in so many other cities across the country using this well-tested model, it will be self-sustaining.

Barrie has made great strides forward in supporting local arts and culture, but we still lag behind the national average for a city of our size and regional importance. 

This Public Art Policy is an essential piece missing from our economic development plan. This Policy is overdue, and deserves the support of every resident who appreciates our Spirit Catcher.

After all, art inspires: it catches all our spirits and soars us to new heights.

damian lopes
 damian lopes <>


Celebrate Poetry Month Tonight

Join local poets downtown tonight to celebrate National Poetry Month at the Barrie Public Library from 7–8. Barrie’s poet laureate, Bruce Meyer, and I will read before we open the floor to other local poets. All are welcome. Come out tonight to listen, share and celebrate our own poetic city.

Celebrate Local Canadian Poets
Tuesday, 10 April, 7-8 pm
Angus Ross Room, Barrie Public Library (Downtown), 60 Worsley St, Barrie


Holiday Reading 20 December, 9 pm

Please join me on Tuesday 20 December at 9 pm, downtown at The Second Cup (74 Dunlop St E), to hear some of my new poetry and fiction at the Society of the Spoken Word’s monthly literary reading. Drop the shopping bags, grab a warm beverage and a comfortable chair, and share in some storytelling and poetry.

I’ll be sharing work from a recently completed book of poetry, alphabets without vowels, and new poems about Barrie, hockey and travel from a work in-progress entitled Home and Away. In the spirit of the holidays, I’ll be reading an excerpt from my recently completed first novel, The Mango Stone, set during Christmas 1947 in East Africa.

An open mic is the hallmark of the Society of the Spoken Word, and I very much hope to hear many readers share their work. Please join in yourself, or come out and support the diversity of Barrie’s burgeoning literary scene.

My thanks to Jonathan Eskedjian and the Society of the Spoken Word, and to their sponsor, The Second Cup. Find the SotSW on Facebook at

Happy Holidays!

Poets and Historians Remember

This Remembrance Week, I’m honoured to participate in our traditional partnership between Canada’s artists and military. Through poetry, paintings, photographs, films and other art forms, Canadian artists, both in and out of uniform, have worked to document and express the realities of service not captured by facts and their analysis.

Recognizing the importance of both perspectives, the Grey & Simcoe Foresters Museum (36 Mulcaster St, Barrie) is hosting a series of War Literary Readings that brings together both poets and historians to mark Remembrance Week:

Tuesday 8 November, 1–2 pm, damian lopes presents ‘Lest we forget: Researching Surgeon Lt Bruce Campbell: a poetic look at the Battle of the Atlantic through a doctor’s eyes.’

Wednesday 9 November, 1–2 pm, Major John Fisher presents ‘The First Iraq War – The Mesopotamian Campaign 1914–17.’

Thursday 10 November, 1–2 pm, Barrie’s Poet Laureate Bruce Meyer presents ‘Frank Prewett: A Canadian War Poet and the Missing Link in Our Literature.’

Friday 11 November, 1–2 pm, Bruce Meyer presents ‘Our Lost Trench Literature: The voices of the Great War and how they were retrieved from oblivion,’ accompanied by a Grey & Simcoe Forester Piper.

This program of readings is part of the Museum’s recently launched partnership with Georgian College and the University Partnership Centre (UPC) to serve the people of Barrie by preserving the heritage and advancing the cultural awareness of this historically significant city and its surrounding area.

Invitation to Participate in THE BIG BARRIE READING, Saturday, October 1


If you are an aspiring writer, published or unpublished, and would like to test your work on a live audience, come out for the BIG BARRIE READING.

The BIG BARRIE READING is sponsored by the City of Barrie Department of Culture as part of the pan-provincial Culture Days Celebration, and by the Maclaren Art Centre as part of its annual Carnegie Days festival.

The BIG BARRIE READING is open to all authors who wish to share their work at an open mic reading for ten minute sets with a live audience.

The BIG BARRIE READING will be held on Saturday, October 1 from 10:30 am to 4:00 pm at the Simcoe Foresters Museum on Mulcaster Street just opposite the Maclaren Art Centre.

Readers should come out with their work, read for a maximum 10 minutes, bring their friends, family (and their own audience) and sign up with Dr. Bruce Meyer at least 15 minutes before they wish to share their work.

Don’t be afraid. Let your voice be heard! This event is open to all members of the public and is your chance to launch your career as a writer on a real stage in front of a live audience! For more information contact Dr. Bruce Meyer at

Please pass this message along to Barrie area authors that you may know. It would be great to have everyone out to the Museum for this historic event!


Bruce Meyer, Poet Laureate, City of Barrie

Secure Footing in a Changing Literary Landscape

Professional Development Symposium for writers in all phases of their careers

Sponsored by the Writers’ Union of Canada and Canadian Heritage

This full-day event is designed to address the creative and financial questions that arise as writers navigate print-based and digital literary landscapes. Writers – unpublished, emerging, or established – will gain an insight into their role in the digitalization of the literary industry.

The symposium also explores the importance of community and the need for writers to develop their own writing community.

Authors Betsy Warland and Ross Laird will illuminate the new landscape of digital literature and publishing and will discuss its impact on traditional modes of creation and publishing. A particular emphasis will be placed on emerging modes of creativity, innovation, economics, and community. Kelly Duffin, the Union’s executive director, will discuss authors’ contracts in the digital age.

Betsy, Ross, and Kelly will assist participants to define and develop their personal and professional strategies to encounter (and enjoy!) the dynamic environments of contemporary writing.

Registraion Forms Are Available Here

Events will be held across the country

  • Toronto (February 4, 2011) Textile Museum of Canada, 55 Centre Avenue
  • Toronto (February 5, 2011) Textile Museum of Canada, 55 Centre Avenue
  • St. John’s (February 7, 2011) Memorial University of Newfoundland,
    Junior Common Room, Main Dining Hall, Irwin Road
  • Montreal (February 9. 2011) Concordia University,
    1455 de Maisonneuve West, Room H763
  • Ottawa (February 10, 2011) Carleton University, Leeds House, Room 124,
    1125 Colonel By Drive
  • Regina (March 7, 2011) University of Regina, Education Building, Room 114, 3737 Wascana Parkway
  • Calgary (March 9, 2011) University of Calgary, Olympic Volunteer Center,
    1833 Crowchild Trail NW
  • Vancouver (March 10, 2011) Simon Fraser University,
    Earl & Jennie Lohn Policy Room, Rm 7000, 515 West Hastings Street
  • Victoria (March 11, 2011) Ambrosia Conference & Event Centre, Powell Room, 638 Fisgard Street

Ross Laird, Ph. D. teaches creativity, psychology, creative writing,
counseling, and leadership at various educational institutions across
North America. He is an award-winning poet and scholar, a clinical
supervisor to social service agencies in the field of addiction, a
corporate consultant in the psychology of leadership, and best-selling
author of Grain of Truth: The Ancient Lessons of Craft. A new book on
addictions will be released in 2011. Please visit for
more information.

Betsy Warland is the author of eleven books of creative nonfiction and poetry. Her thirteen-year project, Breathing the Page – Reading the Act of Writing, is a collection of twenty-four essays about writing that was published by Cormorant Books in 2010. A creative writing teacher and manuscript consultant for authors and emerging writers, she is the Director of The Writer’s Studio at Simon Fraser University and of Vancouver Manuscript Intensive. Please visit

Kelly Duffin is the Executive Director of The Writers’ Union of Canada. As the association represents 2,000 Canadian book authors she is deeply involved in issues affecting the creators of Canadian content and actively engaged on evolutions in policy and publishing. Earlier in her career she worked at a literary agency, a reading series, a literary prize, a bookseller, and publishing companies. More recently she has been the CEO of national non-profit organizations.

At the Writers’ Union of Canada, we support the country’s authors by advocating for their rights, freedoms, and economic well-being.

We act collectively to address government and industry about public lending rights, tax reform, copyright legislation, freedom of expression and other industry issues.

We provide publications, professional development programs, contract advice, grievance assistance, group health benefits, funding for public and school readings, and numerous opportunities for communication and networking within the industry.

The Writers’ Union of Canada helps professional authors to stand together while they work alone.

Arts Investment No Dilemma

Re: Theatre Dilemma No Act, The Barrie Examiner

81% of Ontarians agree that governments should invest public money in the arts, according to survey results recently released by the Ontario Arts Council.

The survey, conducted by Environics Research Group, found that nearly all Ontarians (95%) believe the arts enrich our quality of life, and that the success of Canadian singers, writers, actors, painters and other artists give us all a sense of national pride.

Similar numbers are found in a study done for the Department of Canadian Heritage. 9 in 10 Canadians (or more) agree that arts and culture are important to our community, and that cultural infrastructure, like libraries and theatres, contribute significantly to our quality of life. We believe our artists hold their own internationally. And 88% said governments should make sure that “there are enough arts and cultural facilities to serve the public.”

Arts and culture are not frills. They are more than a vital part of our community. They are integral to our success in the new creative economy.

The Conference Board of Canada “estimates that the economic footprint of Canada’s culture sector was $84.6 billion in 2007, or 7.4 per cent of Canada’s total real GDP, including direct, indirect, and induced contributions. Culture sector employment exceeded 1.1 million jobs in 2007.” So it is not surprising that all levels of government, including our own, have identified arts and culture as an important economic driver.

New research from Hill Strategies pegs consumer spending on cultural goods and services at three times the cultural spending of all levels of government combined. In other words, every dollar our city invests in the arts will stimulate $3 of spending in our city.

A recent local study concluded that each ticket to the downtown theatre will infuse an additional $38 (on top of ticket price) into our downtown economy. The theatre will have a direct and immediate impact on job creation in the restaurant, hotel and service industries. That economic stimulus means our city can rely less on the residential tax base.

If we fail to invest in arts and culture now, or if we fail to support our growing arts community, we will lose more than our talent and a few shows. We will lose professionals, like doctors, whose families are more concerned with live theatre than operating theatres. Without the necessary infrastructure, we will hinder our own growth and fall behind in the creative economy.

No other city our size – let alone the size we are mandated by the province to reach rather soon – is without a professional performing arts centre. Our new arts centre at Five Points will attract diverse professionals and new businesses to our city. It will increase tourism as travellers select destinations for culture as well as recreation.

More than that, it will be an open and friendly cultural hub at the heart of our city. It will be a place for individuals and families to explore imagination and dreams, to spark and nourish the creativity upon which our economy increasingly depends.

damian lopes
Barrie Arts & Culture Council

IFOA in Barrie

On Wednesday 3 November, the International Festival of Authors (IFOA) returns to Barrie.

A Master Class, open to the public, will take place in the Georgian Theatre at 2 pm. Admission is free.

At 7:30 pm, also in the Georgian Theatre, novelists Caroline Adderson, Alissa York, Michael Winter and Brando Skyhorse will read from their works. Admission is $10.

Tickets are available at the Barrie Public Library, the Georgian College Bookstore and at the door. The IFOA in Barrie is sponsored by the University Partnership Centre at Georgian College and the Barrie Public Library.