Saturday, February 26, 2011

Winter in Barkerville, Dawson City, Wells, Hong Kong and Austria

Sun halo near Bowron Lake.
Photo c 2011 Richard Wright

Well, it's time for a little catch-up from our snowy home here in Wells near Barkerville and the Theatre Royal. This Cariboo winter seems to have raced by (though it is still not over) in a series of journeys.
The Tarahne, beached in Atlin B.C.
Photo c 2010 Richard Wright

In the fall Amy and I drove north through the gathering winter to visit Dawson City, a gold rush town of a later period, the 1890s. We drove up the Stewart Cassiar highway, a new route for Amy and a nostalgic one for me.  Years ago when I was filming CBC TV Klahanie shows, I made several trips up here to produce films on Bighorn Sheep, Atlin and a couple of others.  Photo assignments took me to Whitehorse. Then later I hung around the Haines, Haines Junction, Watson Lake and Whitehorse triangle while a whitewater guide on the Tatshenshini/Alsek and the Nahanni Rivers. Those were the days - summers on the rivers - living in shorts and T-shirt with oars in our hands.  So, it was a step back in time for me.
The Palace Grand, Dawson City, Yukon
Photo c 2010 Richard Wright

The interior of the 600 seat Palace Grand in Dawson City
Photo c2010 Richard Wright

In Dawson City we were given a tour of the Palace Grand Theatre by the National Parks folks, shown around town and fed.  What a theatre!  It was built by Arizona Charlie Meadows in 1898, a cohort of Capt. Jack Crawford, who looked like Crawford, Wild Bill Hickok and Buffalo Bill Cody combined.  Then over to Diamond Tooth Gertie's - a casino run by the Klondike Visitor's Association - which was reminiscent of our time at the Jack o' Clubs in Wells.
Amy, ready to move into an actor's apartment at the Palace Grand
Photo c2010 Richard Wright

We drove around the backcountry, visited museums, hiked to the Yukon River sternwheeler cemetery, thought about canoeing the Yukon and drove a couple of hours up the Dempster Highway. Fantastic county - raw, open, historic, natural. It would be great place to spend a few years exploring.  And, of course, the history and people gave us ideas for about 10 great shows.

Before we knew it we were back in B.C. Amy flew to California for a family emergency and then had to get on with her Christmas Revelers caroling, and I needed to finish up our TR bookkeeping and start next year's planning. Wading through stacks of receipts it came as no surprise that the 2010 season in Barkerville and the Theatre Royal was down in numbers, yet again, for the fourth year, and that declining theatre revenues drove us deeply into debt.

Amy had a great caroling season. I went down to the coast for a couple of weeks in November for auditions and meetings. We sat in on the Capilano University theatre auditions for three evenings and saw some great talent. Then back to Wells for some writing time, including a two week "eyes-to-the-screen" proposal-writing stint with Danette Boucher and Amy.

With Matt Quick and Marcello Sequeira, N&W produced a show for Barkerville's Old Fashioned Christmas, "Christmas on Humbug Creek", written by Matt and Marcello. We had several sold out houses and enhanced the Christmas weekend.

Christmas and New Years was spent with family and friends in Vancouver and on Salt Spring Island - the usual great time.  And then, for my Christmas gift from my son Richard, I was off to Hong Kong for three weeks to visit family and my new grandson, Richard Thomas Wright III.
Three Richard Thomas Wrights.  
Richard, Rich and Tom.
Photo c2011 Richard Wright and Richard Wright Jr.

Hong Kong harbour sunset.
Photo c2011 Richard Wright

Hong Kong should be it's own blog - or several.  For now suffice it to say that as any journey to other worlds can be, it was life changing.  The highlight was spending time with my family. The greatest joy was holding my new grandson and spending time with my oldest son just wandering through cultural sights and haunting camera stores and shooting together. It has been a long time since we were able to do that.  He had a plan and got me re-enthused about photography. Rich and I planned books and photographic expeditions together. I spent time with Olly at soccer games and with Annabelle wandering an off-shore island. Fi, my daughter-in-law, became my "fixer" - the person who assists a photographer with contacts, language and transportation. She is the consummate host.
Fi and family in the narrow streets outside her Uncle's home, where her father was born.
Photo c 2011 Richard Wright

Another cultural highlight was visiting Fi's ancestral village in Hong Kong where her uncle lives.  It is nestled in a small valley north of Kowloon, surrounded by high-rise estates.
A view from the Junk Peak trail above Clear Water Bay.
Photo c2011 Richard Wright

Hong Kong showed me I still had a few treks left in me.  I hiked 6-8 km a day, through streets and along ridge tops, for Hong Kong is far more than canyon-like, crowded city streets.  The region is laced with miles of country park trails leading to back country vistas, old villages, temples and war ruins.  The only downside is that Hong Kong and the Northern Territories are built on hilltops, so hiking means climbing stairs - many, many stairs.  The Junk Peak hike, for instance, begins with 500 stone stairs.
Here it was clear why immigrants to BC came from Guangdong.  Not only was their journey the result of a cultural shift but nearby Hong Kong was the main Pearl River delta port, an easy escape from famine and turmoil.  Hundreds of ships sheltered here before heading to North America. It was a financial port that gave the British entry into a huge market, then as now.
 It is a place I will return to soon to explore more completely.
Back in Wells the 20 feet of snow has to be removed, even by moonlight.
Photo c2011 Richard Wright

Today it is snowing light, large flakes, after a week of temperatures close to 30 below.
Amy hopes to drive up tomorrow. We will take a few days to travel over to Jasper for a wildlife photo shoot and then we will begin work on summer scripts and two papers, as we are off on another adventure.
We have been invited to present two papers on "Gold Rush Theatre as Cultural Tourism" at an international mining/tourism conference in Innsbruck, Austria in April.  The conference is focused on "Mining as Cultural Tourism" and will welcome presenters from 30 countries.  We are two of five from Canada.  It will be an important conference where we hope to spread word of the Cariboo gold rush, Barkerville and Theatre Royal, make new contacts and learn how other sites approach interpretation, education and tourism.  We are being supported in part by financial assistance from the Barkerville Heritage Trust, Friends of Barkerville, and Newman & Wright Theatre Company.  (Additional donations would be gratefully accepted.)
While in Germany and Austria we will research villages, museums, archives and libraries on the "Broom girls of Hesse", the so-called Hurdy Gurdy girls who came to Barkerville, as several came from the Hesse region.  We have some interviews set up with folks who willo assist with our continuing research, and the 2011 Theatre Royal book show about the women of Barkerville. This will continue the research we have done in England, Scotland, Wales, many U.S. sites, Canada and Hong Kong on the people of Barkerville. We will post more on this in the next few weeks.

At the same time I will be photographing and writing about a major new German archeological site for "Popular Archaeology." So, a busy two weeks.
Now, we are up to date.  More on these events and our upcoming season will be posted in the next couple of weeks. Stay tuned.

Richard Wright

The Wells Community Hall on a cold afternoon.
Photo c2011 Richard Wright

Copyright Richard T. Wright, 2011