Friday, March 12, 2010

Tradition Bearer officially recognized by NL Government

The Honourable Terry French, Minister of Tourism, Culture and Recreation, has announced designations under the newly-established Provincial Historic Commemorations Program, which recognizes and commemorates distinctive aspects of our province’s history, culture and heritage.

Importantly for the field of intangible cultural heritage, the Provincial Historic Commemorations Program includes a category for "Tradition Bearer."  This marks the first time that a bearer of a living tradition has been commemorated as a historic resource in the province.

"This program is unique to the country," said Minister French. "In addition to recognizing persons, places and events of provincial historical significance, the Provincial Historic Commemorations Program also acknowledges our customs, practices and traditions – the intangible cultural heritage that defines us as a people and makes us who we are."

Kelly Russell, well-known fiddler and tireless promoter of Newfoundland and Labrador’s traditional music, is the first Newfoundlander to be recognized under the category of Tradition Bearer.

Born in St. John’s, Kelly Russell has been a professional musician since 1974. An original member of such iconic Newfoundland and Labrador groups as Figgy Duff and The Wonderful Grand Band in the 1970s, and more recently The Plankerdown Band, he also spent 10 years working closely with the late, great fiddle masters, Rufus Guinchard and Emile Benoit. Recognizing a need to preserve the music of older performers in Newfoundland and Labrador, Mr. Russell founded Pigeon Inlet Productions in 1979. The label has since produced more than 30 full length recordings on LP, cassette and CD. 

With wife and partner Tonya Kearley, Mr. Russell also runs music and dance events in Trinity such as Dance Upand the popular dinner theatre show A Time in Pigeon Inlet in Bay Roberts. He has performed locally, nationally and internationally, bringing the unique music of Newfoundland and Labrador across Canada and around the world. Most recently, Mr. Russell performed in Vancouver, British Columbia, at BC Place on February 26 – during Newfoundland and Labrador Day at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games.

"This event is just the beginning for the Provincial Historic Commemorations Program," said Fran├žoise Enguehard, Chair of the Historic Commemorations Board. "We are hoping that people from all over Newfoundland and Labrador will take a close look at their community’s heritage and will nominate the people, places, events and living traditions that they value. The important thing to consider will be how these aspects of our heritage and culture demonstrate a broader provincial importance."

Administered by a board of six individuals, the Provincial Historic Commemorations Program is citizen-driven, in that residents of Newfoundland and Labrador can make nominations that they feel are provincially significant and worthy of commemoration.

Establishment of the Provincial Historic Commemorations Program was among the objectives outlined in the province’s cultural strategy, Creative Newfoundland and Labrador: The Blueprint for Development and Investment in Culture (2006).

For more information about the Provincial Historic Commemorations Program, including nomination criteria, please visit: or call the Commemorations Office at 709-729-6901.

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