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Blog » Speakers Series - Glen Murray

Posted on 6/21/2007 by Sam Varteniuk

Speakers Series

Glen Murray

Politician, urban advocate, educator, consultant
Keynote Address: “Cultural Capital – Building the Future”


Date: June 6, 2007, 8pm
Location: Conference Theatre, 5 -142 MacEwan Centre - 105 Street Bldg.


Glen Murray is the former mayor of Winnipeg.  He is a talented and affable speaker.  The tech is a bit confused, but Glen is smooth through it all.


I’m here with my best friend T.  I brought him along because he’s sceptical of these sorts of things.  He’s naturally opposed to anything that seems optimistic or designed to inspire.  I’m not sure why – I’m even less sure why I decided to bring him along.  Maybe I, too, share his mistrust of anything ebullient.  But maybe I don’t trust my own ability to remain sceptical given that I’m being employed by the Edmonton Cultural Capital Project.  Maybe he’s my attempt to keep it real.


T is enjoying himself.  Somehow this makes me more sceptical.  Why am I always compelled to adopt whatever attitude not being represented?  In a room full of conservatives I’m the liberal, but if everyone starts talking about being free-form and organic I’m the one stamping my foot and demanding greater control.


For about twenty minutes I forget to take notes and just listen.  Glen is talking about cities with character, cities that were built for people to live in rather than as a furious attempt to subdue and dominate the countryside with residences and Wal-Marts.  He really gets my attention when he mentions Galt, which is only a short drive from where I grew up.  He holds it up as an example of a beautiful city.  Then he actually mentions the city where I grew up, and describes it similarly.  I feel my chest swell with pride.  I’ll see the same thing happen later to T when Glen talks about Cape Breton.


This is one of the things I’ve learned about audiences: they love to hear about themselves.  I can see Glen knows this, because at some point he mentions virtually every province and territory in Canada. 


A cell phone rings.  The disturbance caused by a cell phone is two-fold.  The first wave is the ring itself.  The second is the causal reverberation of everyone else in the room fishing in their purses and pockets, followed by a chorus of happy beeps, chirps, and chimes as they turn off their phones, not wanting to repeat the mistake of that first individual.


T laughs at something Glen says.  I miss it – too busy writing about cell phone fallout.  So I lean over and whisper, “What did he say?”


“I don’t know,” T replies.  “Other people were laughing and I wanted to be polite.”


First watch check occurs at 8:45 PM.  Pretty good considering the talk began at 8.


Here is what I take from the evening: 




Developing the arts is not just about funding or acquiring new capital.  This is a veneer.  We need to move outside of the conventional, blow the walls off our old institutions, turn the streets themselves into cultural institutions. 


Suddenly I want to design subway stations.  I dismiss the idea after a brief consideration of how much extra schooling this will necessitate, but I like the feeling all the same.  It’s a goal that seems tangible, do-able.


T leans over and says, “Do you mind if I write something down?  I didn’t bring any paper.”


“Sure,” I say, and surrender my weapons.


T scribbles something Glen has said: 


Hang out with people whom you are afraid of.


Glen starts to wrap it up around 9:30.  As soon as T gets the sense that things are winding down he whispers, “I’m going to take off duder.”


He gets up and leaves just as the audience begins to applaud.  I am disappointed.  There’s a good feel in the room, people are going to hang around and chat, eat, drink.  I had wanted to get T’s reflections on the talk, and now I begin to wonder if he really did enjoy himself.  Maybe I was hoping that, somehow, the energy of the evening would overcome his essential introvertedness.


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