In this continuing series on Prince Edward Island again given its small population and the number of fishing and farming communities you would not think that there are lots of art, theatre, music, culture or Festivals during the year on the Island.
What I noticed on arrival is the number of art galleries in Charlottetown but also elsewhere in smaller communities. Painting appears to be an important activities and no it is not just seagulls. The other big activity are concerts by different professional ensemble who fly in from all over. Professional theatre is also present. Horse racing, dressage and other Equine competitions are very big on the Island. Races take place everyday in Charlottetown and the Gold Cup Week in August is a big event. The horses we saw were impressive. I was expecting more the small community amateur stuff here and there, quaint and often led by social clubs, this is not the case. The number of excellent restaurants everywhere on the Island is a pleasure, quality, good chefs, local ingredients, innovative cuisine is the hallmark. The Islanders obviously have a business vision of what they have and how to best present it.
We attended a concert at the Indian River Festival which is about 40 minutes outside of Charlottetown. The concerts are held in an old Church set in a field surrounded by cows and a beach. The Church St-Mary’s was a Roman Catholic parish church, built in 1902 by W.C. Harris in French Gothic Style, it is large and incongruous, you expect more a simple little country church, this building is better suited for a large town. Acoustically it was wonderful, beautiful wood everywhere inside. The church is preserve as it was when it is a functioning church. Given that it was built for the farming community in the surrounding countryside and no village is attached directly to it, we learned that 26 families provided all the necessary support to see it built. The Indian River Festival is in its 20th year and has an army of volunteers and supporters who recently built a beautiful new reception hall next to the Church.
St-Mary’s is a big building, look simply at the Apostles in the tower, the statues are live size. For some reason this church’s architecture reminded me of similar buildings in Southern Germany.
In Charlottetown and in many other communities you also have Festivals, either Jazz, contemporary, classical etc. Music is a very big part of the Island life and so are Choirs, there is music and musicians everywhere, not all of them in a concert setting. Many on street corners simply performing for the pleasure of it.
Charlottetown also has the Confederation Centre for the Arts opened in 1964 and the Art Gallery, both are located next to Province House surrounded by massive stone and brick building of banks and other companies who once graced the main arteries of the City. The architecture of Charlottetown tells you of the wealth of the city, once a shipbuilding centre for North America until 1880 when steam and coal powered ships replaced the great sail ships.
Strange to think that the powers that be in London UK, had all manners of colonial ideas for PEI. Before the island changed its name from St-Jean to PEI an enterprising governor thought of calling the Island New Ireland to attract Irish migrants in the same way Scotts had been attracted to Cape Breton in Nova Scotia. It was all part of a cheap labour movement and to settle the troublesome Irish away from the Emerald Isle. London was quick to remind this governor that naming territories was none of his business.
Anne (with an e) of Green Gables with friend.
One other tradition in PEI is something I thought so very civilized. You will notice on chosen streets a wood and glass box, inside are books. You are invited to open the box and take a book to read or leave a book you read. The book box are usually located near a park where you can sit to read and enjoy the day, how very nice and so PEI.