WHAT'S BUGGING YOU
Updated: Dec 16, 2019
Photos and Interviews by: Matthew Springer
Edited by: Diana Fox
Written in 2018
This is the first instalment of What’s Bugging You? a long term documentary project centred on the theme of individual public concerns related to living in the city of Calgary. Throughout the news media there is a sense of a curated decision that is made when people are chosen to express their opinions about a specific topic. Those who are in control of production will decide who gets to speak as the “representative” for the people of that topic. This project is my attempt to remove those biases and give any individual the opportunity to rise up and let them say what they feel is important. There is no hierarchy when it comes to what people care about; we all come from different backgrounds and have our own unique experiences. It is important to be aware of how people are feeling in their communities, so our future steps should take that into consideration to better the city we live in.
For this instalment my approach to connect with people was pretty simple. I went to multiple areas of the city, putting up posters describing the project, along with some information they could take home with them. Everyone who participated contacted me via the informational posters, and we later met up at various locations that the participants felt comfortable in for a photoshoot and discuss what they value in their communities, and where they would like to see change. Anyone and everyone’s opinions matter. it is time to step up, let your voices be heard, and change the community for the better.
Nicole Hartley Bradford
Nicole Hartley Bradford: So, my name's Nicole Hartley Bradford, and I grew up in the East Kootenay’s. My parents are South African immigrants. And I grew up pretty upper middle class, with a well-educated kind of home, connected community, and church going people. When I was a young adult, I didn't know what I wanted to be when I grew up. I went to university on scholarships, but it didn't hold my interest. I ended up becoming a mom really young, and that's what I wanted to do. I wanted to be a mom above and beyond everything else. Unfortunately, I wasn't really set up to be a mom in a solid and secure kind of way. I ended up being a single mom of two little boys by two different dads by the time I was 25. We had to go to social service support because the dads didn't stick around, and they weren't able to provide and support for us. Pretty soon I realized what I really needed. To be the mom I always dreamed of being, I needed to heal. I noticed that I wasn't being the mom I wanted to be, and it was because of all the built-up stress. These behaviours would come out of me that I didn't want my kids to be subjected to. So, I started at really young age learning about recovery from trauma, big T and little t trauma. I had never really had big T traumas, but I had a lot of little t trauma's. Just conditioning right? And then poverty was traumatic. You're so limited by circumstances because you actually just don't have the money. And yet you're doing a full-time job while raising two little boys, doing it with all your heart and soul, being super resourceful, super smart, and yet still struggling to have basic needs met but also struggling to have higher needs met as well. I got marginalized, even though I'm not really the demographic that usually gets into trouble with poverty and mental health issues, but because of my circumstances and choosing to be a mom and keep the children kinda edged me off the road.
And that totally leads to What’s Bugging Me! Is this whole disparity in Calgary between, extremely high income abroad the city in contrast to the poverty that exists. Especially on a wider scale, speaking to Western culture where we have people like Elon Musk and Richard Branson who are putting millions and millions of dollars into space travel programs. While the people that live within nearby distances to them and their offices are in poverty. And not just people in poverty but also some of whom are suffering from mental health illnesses, disease, and addiction, along with poverty.
If you could pay all the people who are really good at holding space and giving that compassion and empathy to that project, but just keep them stable and take a break for a while. And then once that's established and that peace is in place, you could put the money into helping those in need. There's a lot of emotional healing that can be done. Also, to build resourcefulness and the savvy about for example; if you wanted to create your own business, or turn your art into something productive, just to provide a basic income. Not all of us need to be way above the poverty line, we just need to be on the other side of it right? Because I've lived that edge coming from a well to do family, I grew up travelling and lived an economically stable life, I also have some expensive taste, haha, but yeah, now I dumpster dive, and I live on very little. My idea of relief from that is going on social support for three months with a doctor’s note that says you get to have this privilege. Considering the fact to know having a social support system in my country is a privilege of its own. When there are so many people who've never had those kinds of opportunities. Maybe more out of luck than anything some people have ended up with good paying positions and are well healed. But some would look at somebody like me and accuse me of "abusing the system" or say "surely you could just get a job." I think the solution to those problems lies in the word ‘consideration’.
A well-considered perspective, instead of just jumping to assumptions about people and their circumstances. It's important to understand that when you see somebody doing something they're not necessarily doing it for the same reasons that it would take for you to be doing that same something. Try to apply that to this whole perspective I have on people like Richard Branson and Elon Musk. I'm like "okay well where are they coming from?" "Why are they choosing to put their money there?" And is it me who's not being considerate? But I just can't help but come back to this place where I say "Doesn't Earth and Earth's population whether it includes all the other specifies or not, is that not our priority to have that in good shape? Before we launch off into space and take whatever attitude, skills, and lack of skills with us?" You want to be like the TV show's "Star Trek" and not like "Firefly." As much as I love "Firefly." It's like a version of a space extended “Planet Earth” with humans coming from this foundation of waste, corruption, and power differentials. To me, that’s all rooted in this lack of consideration and compassion. A failure to put empathy into healing and collective wholeness first.
I'm all for the resources that are going into these extra things being diverted back into solving the pretty critical problems that we are currently facing. Like the whole Opioid Crisis. Do you realize how bad that is? Though fortunately, they are funding naloxone which is the anti-drug for overdoses, to be available for any human to walk into a pharmacy and get a prescription of it so that they can be armed out there in the world to save lives. Which is awesome and yet I know somebody who had their life saved during an accidental drug overdose, and they were just sent home after. With no follow-up, no resources, and no questioning into, "Hey how did this come about?" As grateful as I am that the emergency response is there, that’s all it is. And imagine if these things like all the space travel budget could be put into on the ground and social workers, at least doing some follow up calls.
It gets me thinking of how dangerous a lack of support in a community can get. And I know from my personal experience how dangerous it’s gotten for me. And how much I have had to dig deep for my own resources because I didn’t have the good fortune or environmental context that had the resources built into it. I had to figure out so much on my own and I'm so passionate about providing things for other people that weren't provided for me. Yet still, it's just a drop in the bucket because so much more is needed. It is frustrating that I as a person that lives in poverty feels so taxed and so spread thin when there’s a freaking space program going on. I'm thinking, "Could I just have your pocket change guys? Just a fraction of it? For humanities sake?" Then there's the part of me that's like “you know what, just build your spaceship and leave while we clean up the mess here.”
Matthew: It’s like being given a mop to clean up the mess that’s underneath your feet but trying to wipe the air.
Nicole: Yes! Absolutely!
Matthew: Could you repeat to me again what your motto was?
Nicole: Yeah sure, so my life credo is that I will so thoroughly and considerately process and learn from the adversity that comes my way such that, in the future I can apply what I have learned for my own well-being and for the well-being of others to thus become grateful. No matter how massively something hurt and sucked at the time… You know, to hit such a rock bottom that you come up with that idea is kind of sad but I'm ok with it, I can sleep at night, haha.
Lolai’rei Capes: My Name is Lolai’rei, I’m originally from Eastern Saskatchewan, but I've lived in Calgary for about three years. During the summer of 2016, I went out for a summer job to Vancouver, but then came back and moved into Kensington about a year and a half ago. So I was living in Saskatoon before I came up to Calgary; I am a musician but I've only been playing music for about as long as I've been out here so... three or four years. I've always been musical but I haven’t really gotten it into writing and playing gigs until I moved here.
So What’s Bugging Me is the factor of not being welcomed into the community. Like at the local coffee shop where your posters are being taken down right before a show that you’re promoting. It just hurts your feelings right? Because when you’re there regularly and talking to people and nobody will say who took them down, it’s just kind of ridiculous and immature. But still, it’s hurtful because you're trying to be a part of the community by putting your posters up in the neighbourhood to let people know about cool stuff going on. I feel like there’s a disconnect in the community of Kensington, I know it’s a sleepy community but, it’s a good community.
It would be great if we could somehow bring this community into a more eclectic positive place.
You've got to be the positive example as well, you've got to be able to take the good vibes. So, I still go to the Roasterie to for sure buy some coffee and hang out. It's just really disconcerting when some people say, "oh there's some people there that are acting arrogant." But it's really their issue, their problem, whatever it is, it makes you feel uncomfortable. There's also a lot of good people going there too. Even though some of the arrogant people in there are also still good there are lots of other good people out there, it just seems like there's some kind of issue. So, I'm trying to work it out and find a better way to bring people together.
Matthew: What do you think that would be?
Lolai’rei: To find a way to break through people's egos. Usually, arrogance is brought upon from an inner issue whatever that may be, perhaps an insecurity of some kind. But you've got to realize there's going to be that aspect, always. You can't do anything about it, It's a reality. There's always going to be someone who's acting like a jerk or will say something negative.
Matthew: So personally, you're experiencing an elitist sort of feeling within the community?
Lolai’rei: Yeah maybe that's what it is. Like I said I've gone for coffee there a few times and met some friends, like Lori Anne Fuhr goes there. She supports it all the time and is also aware of what happens to her posters. Again, though you just gotta be the example and not let things like that bother you, it's those people's problems. But you said the right word "elitist." So, I'm thinking more about trying to turn this community into a better more positive place. It's a bizarre kind of community but it's a really good community. I really like it, there’s lots of good here. For example, even just someone using social media and Instagram to post things about how much they love the Roasterie or Kensington in general, is a positive start. People like Haus of Skrastins, a visual artist who likes to represent the community in a positive sense, he's another amazing example. There are lots of great people. But it feels like "whoa". When you're living in the community and trying to be part of it, but there's this disconnection where you can't get through and people aren't really accepting you. I'm like "people just don't get me, what am I doing wrong?" but still there's so much good, there's a lot of really cool businesses such as the Vendome Cafe or like Higher Ground. It's a really great neighbourhood. The Roasterie's got great coffee, the staff is really good, I really like Patrice, she's a sweetheart. There's also been a lot of change in the last year, businesses and stores have closed down in the neighbourhood and I think that's what's affecting it like unfortunately, they put a Tim Hortons.
I think it would be really great if we could see more good in the community. There are some bad things you see sometimes too like brutal drugs, that’s in any area of Calgary really but it's important to try to keep the neighbourhood clean with better vibes towards supporting the community. But how can we bridge this disconnection in Kensington? It's really been bugging me for a while obviously because I've had my own experience. I'm trying to take the good parts and embrace the good as much as I can. There's a lot of families and college students that live in the neighbourhood and college kids as well.
Matthew: Yes, Kensington is a very diverse place to be.
Lolai’rei: Yeah there's definitely a great mix of people here. So yeah that's basically how I feel. I'm thinking how can we bridge this disconnection? Probably just by getting out there more and supporting the community and being the example. That's pretty much what you have to do. And if you're going to be accepted or not you just gotta inspire to be inspired by other people. Right, that's all I can really say.
Maureen Wagner: My name is Maureen Wagner, I am 76 years old and I'm a retired matchmaker. I was in business in this community for 28 years and I live in Bankview. What's Bugging Me is that I'm not very good at adapting to the changes that are going on in our community. People are building and tearing down our houses to put up high rises or new developments, and they want to change our community. And I'm struggling to adapt to that. I realize how close I am to the inner city, but I think some of the bylaws are being broken in order for them to do what they want in here. They seem to think that we're a bicycle community and that everybody that buys a condo here is going to have a bike. You can't live in Calgary with a bike, not in the inner city. Because you need a car to get anywhere in Calgary. So my grumble is that I'm not able to adapt to it but, I am working on it. Though our community association also tries to deal with those changes and attempts to cut down on the construction of high-rises or whatever they're building.
At one time they wanted to move that big brick building on 14th Street, I don't think it's a historical site, but they wanted to move it. Well, that is bizarre. To me, that is bizarre. They don't want to move far, they want to move it a few feet or something, I don't know all the information, but I think that they need to build around that kind of a building. But who am I? I'm just a resident that lives here, and so I'm working at adapting to the changes that are going on. Bankview is a fabulous community, where everybody knows everybody. We have 22 children just on our street, but they want to build a 58 suite apartment building just down the way and that's going to impact all these streets that have children. So I'm struggling with that. I think that sometimes our aldermen really are better friends with the builders than they are the community. But what are you going to do? How can you change that? So that’s where I'm struggling to adapt. I would say that I don't have a whole lot more to grumble about.
Tracey Nyholt: Hello, I’m Tracey Nyholt, I'm a forty-five-year-old single woman living in Calgary. Born and raised here, though I've lived abroad a few times. I work in IT security as a consultant, I've done a local community-based dojo that I run with a good friend of mine, and I'm an animal rights activist. That’s basically my contribution to the community; trying to make Calgary a better place for animals.
Matthew: So, what do you do in terms of Animal Activism?
Tracey: Primarily we protest against events like the Calgary Stampede where animals are being used in entertainment. And as you can see from those statistics* they are regularly killed.
*(Tracey had given me a form with all the recorded deaths of the animals throughout the years of 1986 to 2015. Averaging at about 3 deaths a year but sometimes much more.)
Matthew: Are the deaths always pretty regular?
Tracey: It’s been every year. When you look at the numbers it tells quite a story. At one point a good friend of mine went undercover at the rodeo and took pictures. The result of that getting published is the Stampede claimed they were having changes, but all they did was box off the calf roping area where the calf is initially held at the start of the rodeo that so that we couldn't see them torturing the calves to make them run out really quickly. They also started putting tarps up around the chuckwagon horses when they fell. So, prior to that, you used to be able to take a picture of the horses dying. Which they did quite regularly, they're very often drugged so they get overstimulated and have a heart attack. Or they tie the horses together, and then they take down each other, so you'll often have multiple horses with broken legs.
Matthew: Do you find that there's been any improvement over the last couple of years?
Tracey: None, same as same. I think there's a change in Calgary culture, more people seem aware of the issue, and more people are speaking out against it. When I started protesting against the rodeos there was maybe 3, 4, or 5 people tops and that was difficult to get out. Now we're getting around 30 people. There's also really fun events happening in Calgary like Veg Fest that took place. The first year ever which was just last year was almost wonderfully surprising to me because I didn't know so many people in Calgary were interested in vegetarianism and living a more compassionate lifestyle. Its super exciting.
Matthew: So, let's talk a bit about the act of protesting at the Calgary Stampede.
Tracey: Sure, so at beginning of the rodeo and at the end of the rodeo we do the Stampede protest, and as well there's often a candlelight vigil every time an animal dies.
Matthew: Where do they usually happen? Do you go directly to the grounds, or are they in the general area nearby?
Tracey: They’re close to the grounds. So, in order to have a legal protest you can't protest on private property, you have to protest on public property. So, we protest near the C-train station by the grounds but not on it. There’s a bit of grass near the parking lot right across the street from the C-train that we go to.
Matthew: Do you get a general positive vibe from people who are just walking by and going to the Stampede?
Tracey: It’s changed over the years. The first few years I protested people who were going to the Stampede were quite negative, although some people passed by were positive. More often now especially from the younger generation, I get, "oh I'm just going to the music part, I'm not going to the rodeo, I don’t support the rodeo." It's really evolved over the years which is nice. But you know prior to that I'd say people were pretty verbally abusive or they would throw things at us. Or the Stampede board would try to do something about it because they have so much power, they tried to send out bylaw enforcement when we were protesting on Scotsman Hill. We had a massive sign that you could see from the Stampede grounds saying, "Rodeo Kills". So, they tried to get this bylaw officer to intimidate us, but we have a lawyer with us so we knew what the laws were. It was a legal protest and he really could do nothing about it. He kept trying to convince us there was a bylaw against it. We're like, "No, there isn't, show it to us." And then he pulls out his big book and he's like "There!" Turned out that one was against tobogganing, not against protesting so that was kind of funny, hahaha.
Matthew: What’s the next step for more animal rights in the Stampede? If the board was more open to you guys being able to have your voices be heard, what would you like to see first?
Tracey: I think first eliminating the events where animals are frequently killed. For example, the chuckwagons, and the calf roping. But then eventually phase out of using animals for entertainment as a whole. There are other ways to celebrate. When we look at museums and things that we celebrate, or when we remember war we don't bring out a bunch of people and put them in the gas chamber. We just look at artifacts or pictures, so there's other ways to celebrate farm life without torturing animals, it just makes no sense.
Matthew: Is there anything else you'd like to add?
Tracey: I’m just hopeful that with the next generation Calgary becomes a more compassionate place, and I'd just like people to know that the Calgary Stampede does not represent a lot of Calgarians, including myself.
Do you have something that’s bugging you?
If you are interested in taking part in the project please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more details on being a part of future instalments.