When I was 16 years old, I left home and moved to Guelph, Ontario with first and last months rent and an extra $200 bucks in my pocket. I convinced a landlord I was 20, rented an apartment and settled down in the city that had stolen my heart years prior. I lived in Guelph when I was a kid for 10 years and loved it fiercely; I was always a very active kid, and Guelph provided a rich array of activities for me to partake in. I took 2 kinds of dance, was in reading groups, piano lessons, a yearly drive for the food bank, and like every good Italian-Guelphite kid, I took Italian lessons at Sacred Heart on Saturday mornings.
I knew then that Guelph was a special city, and its diversity and acceptance were the sole reason that I plotted and eventually carried out my return. I’ve never regretted my decision since, and every time I step off an airplane or see the ‘Welcome to Wellington County’ sign when I come back from a trip I’m glad I chose this place to make my home. My feelings of love stem beyond its availability of community activities for children, it’s much deeper than that.
Yes, I love that Guelph loves the arts as much as I do, but also that it values them. Being a creative person in Guelph is something that is welcomed, revered and celebrated, and that is so very rare in a city this size. I love that live music is a priority for this city, that steps are taken to make sure that musicians come to our humble little abode and enjoy their time here. A response I hear so frequently from people when I mention a show in Guelph is ‘Really, they’re playing Guelph?!’ and I know that the answer is yes, yes they are playing here because we will come out and see you and buy your merch and tell you that Pierre’s is the best place to get a poutine after your show. We may even join you for it. I love the abundance of organic food, of people who care about what they put in their bodies and what impact we have as a city, as people and as humans have on our planet. I love that this city is big enough to be able to go out and not run into any one you know if you feel like being anonymous, but not so big that you run into every ex you’ve ever had.
But most of all, I love the people that care about this city as much as I do. I have lots of friends who have lived here all their lives and are always complaining about Guelph and wanting to leave. I get the desire to leave and find something new, I totally do, but I don’t think people realize how truly great this our little town is sometimes. This is a city that always wants to share what we’re passionate about. This is a city of people that care, whether it’s about food or the environment, or music, we care. Even right now, you’re reading this on a website that was started because two people cared about our music scene so much that they wanted to make it more accessible for people like you and me to get involved with.
This past weekend was (with the exception of its coinciding with frosh week) one of my favorite weekends in Guelph. The Jazz festival and Nuite Blanche are usually around this time and they always promise an amazing time. No, it’s not anywhere near the scale of Toronto’s massive art installations, but I still love it. This year we hit an incredible burlesque show, an intimate violin show, a jazz band and a performance from Birds of Paradox that included a tabla, alto saxophone, flute, bansuri, erhu and bass guitar. All for free, all night long, brought to you by a city that just wants you to experience it.
Guelph occasionally gets a bad rap for things like its refusal of big-box companies, the noise and destruction that can come with being a university town and our occasionally stagnant attitude towards change. But I think sometimes we seem so reluctant to take a cue from other cities because we know we have a good thing going. Today I was going to choose a song for you from one of the many bands that have formed here, but I had such a hard time choosing a second best after my favorite Guelph choice for Music Monday back in July. So instead you’re getting a song that sums up how I feel about my city. It’s hard to lose sight of how great you’ve got it sometimes, and if you live here, I hope I’ve reminded you of how wonderful the place you call home is. If you don’t live in the confines of the royal city, then I hope you plan to visit us. Keep your eye on the event listings here on Music Lives, come eat a poutine with me and check out a show, we’d love to have you.