Thursday, August 25, 2011

..and now for something ,completely different-----Griffintown (theatrically speaking)

        A new tour of Griffintown ?

MONTREAL - Ask 10 Montrealers where Griffintown is and chances are you’ll get 10 vastly different answers.

It’s an oft-forgotten place, though historians insist its rich past merits just as much attention as its far glitzier Old Montreal counterpart.

Now, a German theatre collective has made it its mission to introduce Montrealers to Canada’s first industrial district in a truly innovative way.

Forget about old-fashioned guided tours and stuffy museums, Turbo Pascal’s “Talking the walk in Griffintown” offers a decidedly different approach: a one-on-one theatrical journey, where six local actors take turns winding a spectator through streets, across parks and over ruins.

Claude Maufette stood on the corner of Ottawa and Queen Sts. Tuesday night, unsure of what to expect as he waited for a performer to usher him through an area he knew little about.

“Everyone is talking about Griffintown, I don’t really know what it is,” he said. “I don’t really know about the history. I’m excited to discover more.”

A mysterious young woman with piercing blue eyes and a short black wig soon appeared and whisked him away.

Fresh from her own exploration, Juliette Patterson, a local activist striving to preserve Griffintown’s heritage, beamed as she praised the masterminds behind the project.

“Even though I know the neighbourhood really well, I was just delighted by the experience of discovering the place anew, really as if I had never been there before,” said Patterson. “All of a sudden, I just saw the city in a different way.”

The tour sheds light on a once-bustling neighbourhood. Longtime residents like to tell stories of a time when O’Connells and Dowlings lived around the corner and everyone gathered at St. Ann’s parish for Sunday service.

The glorious greystone church has since been razed and a neighbourhood once home to more than 30,000 Irish immigrants is now inhabited by only a few hundred people. Vacant lots have become desolate relics of the area’s flourishing past.

“Ah, a parking lot, that must mean we’ve arrived,” an actress tells a participant. “Griffintown is mostly parking lots. Ten thousand spots in all.”

Another stop along the tour is the home of Judith Bauer, a woman hailed by many as Griffintown’s unofficial mayor.

“Before I started looking at the neighbourhood in the period leading up to when I moved here (in 2004), I didn’t have a lot of knowledge about the history,” she said.

She has since more than made up for it, fervently fighting to protect that history. She’s co-founded the Committee for the Sustainable Redevelopment of Griffintown, challenged politicians and developers at public consultations and organized events to introduce Montrealers to this unique neighbourhood.

“We spend so much of our time going from A to B and not really paying attention to what’s in between,” Bauer said. “I think anything that makes people have a closer look at where they live is wonderful.”

That’s precisely what Mechtild Manus, director of Montreal’s Goethe Institut, a German cultural centre, set out to achieve.

She discovered the avant-gardist Berlin-based Turbo Pascal two years ago and immediately dreamed of exporting their novel theatrical city tours to Montreal.

They chatted back and forth and finally met last February in a lively Berlin bar. Two hours and a few bottles of French wine later, “Talking the Walk in Griffintown” was born.

“I’m the one who suggested Griffintown,” Manus said. “I think it’s a real treasure Montreal has with all the history. History of the industrial past of Montreal, history of the various groups of immigrants who came to Canada.”

Eva Plischke, a member of Turbo Pascal, was instantly intrigued by this tiny neighbourhood where space and time intersect in the shadow of downtown skyscrapers.

“When walking around in Griffintown, you always have fragments of different times,” she said. “There are so many plans about the future and you can talk a lot about the past, but at the moment, it’s kind of in transition.”

She and her partner Veit Merkle didn’t get to see much of Montreal. They hopped off the plane and came straight to Griffintown, knocking on doors and chatting with residents, history buffs and condo developers to dig up anything they could about this unusual place.

“We did a lot of research, walked around, interviewed people,” Merkle said. “From this we developed the text, which is now showing Griffintown through different levels. By the stories (the actors) tell, the audience has a chance to get a new view of the city map, see places where they maybe haven’t been, hear stories they might not know.”

The result is a deeply intimate and reflective journey through history, corruption and emotions. As they discover Griffintown’s unpolished story and soul, participants are escorted through layers of tension, excitement and nostalgia.

“You learn to trust the process,” Patterson said. “It’s like going on a roller-coaster: you have to trust that the thing’s not going to break.”

If you’d like to go for a ride, call 438-998-0930 or purchase a ticket ($25) at Transit Kitchen on the Palais des Congrès main floor from 10 a.m. to noon, or at the Darling Foundry from 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.

The one-hour walk will be happening Thursday and Friday night from 5:50 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Make sure to bring comfortable shoes and an open mind.

............Oh well everyone has to make a buck, However my guess is you would have seen more 'character actors' in Griffintown many moons ago, well as some 'bad actors too'.....but nevertheless they were all 'real characters'  Anyway a walk thorugh the old Griff would be interesting I would think...........and there worse things than getting to see that gal in the pictures legs..................hahahahah         HF&RV


Les F said...

..Creating an interest in it's history is a smart thing,..............afterall we are all part of history (or will be)
-------- HF&RV

Les F said...

I would like to walk around there again,as I used to play & explore in the cobble stone streets all around that area,when my oldman's shop was on Smith St ( now deemed Wellington at the same spot) I believe my Mom also lived on Smith Street with the Hanley's as neighbours. Cheers ! HF&RV

Les F said...

1000 Units added to Griffintown Project: this is the heading for another story from this morning's Gazette ,The project was scaled back,but now it's full steam ahead again......

The partners behind the planned reconstruction of the Griffintown district say their project has grown back up to a mega redevelopment.

Representatives of Devimco, groupe Cholette and the Fonds immobilier de solidarite FTQ announced Thursday morning they are now planning to launch a second and third phase to the project which will add 768 and 277 condo units, respectively, to the 1,058 units already planned for the first phase.

The total investment is now planned to reach $736 million by the end of the third phase in 2014, the partners said at a news conference.

Devimco announced it was drastically scaling back its initial $1-billion project after the city agreed to rezone a large swath of the area, south of downtown, more than a year ago amid public outcry. the firm said the economy was forcing it to scale back at the time.

The new second and third phases call for 799 underground parking spaces, 117,000 square feet of office space, 328,000 square feet of commercial space and towers reaching as high as 14 floors. The first phase, which is now underway, will include a hotel.

The developers are calling the project "District Griffin" a play on Griffintown, the historic neighbourhood's name. Griffintown features some of Canada's earliest industrial buildings.

Devimco president Serge Goulet said in an interview the developers aren't trying to change history. Only the name of the project is District Griffin.

Deschamps called the enlarged Griffintown project evidence that Montreal's economy has turned around. As of March, Montreal had 162 construction sites representing $13.4 billion in investments. In August, 54 cranes dotted the Montreal skyline, Deschamps said. The city hasn't seen that since Expo '67, he said.

More details to follow


Guy Billard said...

Here is a map of Grtiffintown for those who are not familiar with the area:
It's borders are Notre Dame street, Guy, Ottawa down to the Lachine canal then east to McGill. My mother was born on Versaille street in 1905 below Notre Dame so I have an emotional attachment to Griffintown. She lived at no.108-1/2 but neither the house nor the number exhists today.