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Neil, Al

  • Person
  • 1924-2017

Al Neil was born in Vancouver, BC in 1924. In 1941, he worked as a surveyor with the Department of Transport, helping to build the wartime airfield at Port Hardy, Vancouver Island. He served in Normandy during the Second World War. After the war Neil worked at a variety of jobs, including clothing salesman, postal clerk, roof tarrer, lighthouse keeper and jazz musician. Neil passed away in Vancouver on November 16, 2017

Al Neil co-founded Vancouver's Cellar Jazz Club in 1952 and performed with artists such as Art Pepper, Conte Candoli and Kenneth Patchen. He married Marguerite Sanders circa 1964; they separated in the early 1970s. During the 1960s and 1970s Neil became known for solo and ensemble performances which combined music with texts, art assemblages, slides and prepared tapes. He performed regularly at the Western Front in the early 1980s, and his collage works were exhibited in galleries such as the Vancouver Art Gallery, Coburg Gallery, and Atelier Gallery.

Neil lives in Vancouver, BC, with his partner and collaborator, Carole Itter. Their Dollarton beach cabin was the last remaining of a number of beach shacks in North Vancouver, and was removed from the waterfront in 2015. As of 2016, a collaboration of grunt gallery, Creative Cultural Collaborations (C3) and Other Sights is working to remediate and repurpose the cabin as a studio for a floating artist residency program.

Neil’s published writings include “West Coast Lokas” (Intermedia 1972), “Changes” (Coach House Press 1975; reprinted by Nightwood Editions in 1989), and “Slammer” (Pulp Press 1981). In 2003, Neil was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Letters from Emily Carr University of Art & Design. His work was the subject of a retrospective entitled The Al Neil Project, in 2005, organized in part by grunt gallery. Al Neil’s artwork was featured on the poster for the 2008 Vancouver International Jazz Festival, which included a concert called Homage Collage: Improv for Al Neil. In 2014, Neil received the Vancouver Mayor's Arts Award for Lifetime Achievement.

Twigg, Alan

  • Person
  • 1952-

Alan Twigg was born in North Vancouver, British Columbia in 1952. Since 1987, he has owned and published the newspaper, B.C. BookWorld, Canada’s largest circulation publication about books. In 1985, Twigg co-founded the B.C. Book Prizes, and he was its executive director and
chief fundraiser in the 1990s. He also created the Van City Women’s Book Prize, and coordinated it between 1992 and 2005. Twigg was a representative of the Writers Union of Canada, on the original Board of Directors for the Canadian Centre for Studies in Publishing at Simon Fraser University. He also served on the boards of the City of Vancouver’s Public Art Committee and the Vancouver Cultural Alliance. He is a founder of British Columbia’s annual Lifetime Achievement Award for an outstanding literary career in British Columbia, which he has also coordinated since 1995. In 1994, he organized events aiming to honor George Woodcock, who was British Columbia’s most prolific man of letters.

In the 1970s and 1980s, Alan Twigg worked as a freelance writer. From 1995 to 1998, he wrote a weekly editorial column for The Province newspaper. He has written for The Quill & Quire, BC Historical News, as a theatre critic for The Georgia Straight, Globe & Mail, Toronto Star, Ottawa Citizen, Maclean’s, Vancouver Sun, Step and Pacific Northwest Review of Books. Alan Twigg appears frequently as a guest on CBC Radio, and he has been the host of a CBC television series about B.C. authors.

bissett, bill

  • Person
  • 1939-

bill bissett (born William Frederick Bissett, November 23, 1939) is a Canadian poet known for his anti-conventional style. Born in Halifax, Nova Scotia, bissett (who deliberately does not capitalize his name) attended Dalhousie University (1956) and the University of British Columbia (1963-1965) but dropped out of both universities because of his desire to live as a free agent, writer and painter unencumbered by academic constraints. He did complete course requirements for his two majors in English and Philosophy. He moved to Vancouver, British Columbia in 1958. In 1963 he started the blew ointment magazine and later launched blewointment press, which has published volumes by Cathy Ford, Maxine Gadd, Michael Coutts, Hart Broudy, Rosemary Hollingshead, Beth Jankola, Carolyn Zonailo, bpNichol, Ken West, Lionel Kearns and D. A. Levy. bissett is based in Vancouver and Toronto, Ontario, alternating between the two cities. He is known for his use of a unique orthography and incorporating visual elements in his printed poetry, and his performance of "concrete sound" poetry, sound effects, chanting, and barefoot dancing during his poetry readings. He has also had large exhibits of his paintings and made audio recordings. He was the lyricist and vocalist in the Ontario band, Luddites. His work typically ranges from the mystical to the mundane, incorporating humour, a sense of wonder and sentimentality, and political commentary.

Emerson Wortis, Ruth

  • Person
  • 16 Mar. 1938 - 13 Sep. 2015

Ruth Emerson (Wortis) was a dancer, choreographer, dance educator, and a pioneer of postmodern dance. She was born in Palo Alto, California on March 16, 1938.
Ruth had her first exposure to dance under the inspiring mentorship of Mim Rosen at University High School in Urbana, Illinois. She was an undergraduate at Radcliffe College, where she spent all her spare time dancing and studied summers at the American Dance Festival in New London, Conneticut with Louis Horst and José Limon. She graduated from Radcliffe in 1958 with a BA in Mathematics. After college, she supported herself by writing school math texts while taking dance classes at the Martha Graham School, the Merce Cunningham Studio, and the Robert Joffrey School of Ballet in New York and performing with the Dancemakers in Boston. In New York she danced with the Pearl Lang Company. She was a founding member in 1962 of the Judson Dance Theatre, pioneers of the formal, minimalist movement style now known as Postmodern Dance.
In 1964, she married theoretical physicist, Michael Wortis, moving first to Berkeley, California, where she danced with Ann Halprin and then to Paris, France, where she performed and choreographed at the Theatre d’Essai de la Dance. From 1968 to 1973, she held a part-time faculty position in the Dance Department at the University of Illinois. She completed an MA in Dance at the University in 1973 under Margaret Erlanger and Jan Stockman Simonds. She founded a dance company, Somedancers, Inc., which performed in Champaign/Urbana from 1974 to 1978. From 1981 to 1987, she taught dance and choreographed musicals at University High School; during this time, she also held a residency at the Radcliffe Institute from 1986-1987.
In the fall of 1987, Ruth, Michael and their two daughters moved to Vancouver, B.C.. She helped to develop the first Provincial Dance Curriculum for B.C. schools under the Provincial Ministry of Education. As a Sessional Instructor at the Centre for the Arts and an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Education at Simon Fraser University, she developed and taught a program for student teachers. She also continued to perform and to choreograph locally, offering dance courses at local community centres. She served nationally on the grant selection committee of the Canada Council, Dance Section.
Ruth passed away on September 13, 2015.

Haley, Heather

  • Person

An editor and reviewer for the LA Weekly and publisher of the Edgewise Café, one of Canada’s first electronic literary magazines, Heather Haley’s writing has appeared in numerous print journals and anthologies. In addition to publishing Rattler, a critically acclaimed multimedia arts and literary journal, she is the author of the poetry collections Sideways (Anvil Press), Three Blocks West of Wonderland (Ekstasis Editions), and Skookum Raven (Ekstasis Editions) and the novel The Town Slut’s Daughter, set in Vancouver British Columbia's early underground punk rock scene. Haley has directed numerous videopoems (Dying for the Pleasure, Purple Lipstick and Bushwhack) and official selections at dozens of international film festivals. She also has released collections of spoken word song, Princess Nut, and Surfing Season, under the name AURAL Heather.

Haley was a member of one of Vancouver’s first all-female punk rock bands, the Zellots in the late 1970’s. Following their dissolution, she formed the ‘45s with Randy Rampage of DOA, Brad Kent of the Avengers, and Karla Duplantier of the Controllers and relocated to San Francisco. Later, she formed HHZ—Heather Haley & the Zellots—praised by music critic Craig Lee as one of "Ten Great LA Bands". She has played the Smilin' Buddha Cabaret, Mabuhay Gardens, and Geary Street Theatre (People's Temple) in San Francisco, the Hong Kong Cafe, the Palomino Club, Blackies, Club 88, Club Lingerie and the John Anson Ford Theatre in Los Angeles. Haley currently performs in the indie folk duo, The Pluviophiles, with Keir Nicoll.

McKinnon, Barry

  • Person
  • 1944-2023

Barry McKinnon was a B.C. poet and editor who founded and edited the Caledonia Writing Series, which was an independent forum for B.C. poets in the 1970s. His interviews with B.C. poets were published in the journal "Open Letter" in 1988.

McGrath, Rick

  • Person
  • 4 July 1946 -

Rick McGrath is a Canadian writer, editor, designer, and publisher. He was born in New Westminster, BC on July 4, 1946. McGrath was a charter student of Simon Fraser University, graduating with an Honours Bachelor of English, first class, in 1970. He stayed another two years at SFU working towards a Master's degree, which he ultimately did not complete. During his time at SFU, he was editor of The S.F. View in 1965, was the sports editor of The Peak from 1965-1966, and from 1968-1969 he edited Canadian University Press news releases, was an editorial page columnist, and music/book reviewer. He was elected both undergraduate (1969) and graduate (1970) student representative in the English Department. As an alumnus, he was the editor of Afterthoughts alumni magazine from 1975-1979.

McGrath's reporting career continued well past SFU. Concurrent to his academic career, McGrath was the entertainment editor and rock critic at The Georgia Straight from 1969-1972 and the Terminal City Express from 1972-1974. In September 1972, he became a reporter for the Richmond Review, then Canada’s largest twice weekly suburban newspaper, becoming assistant editor in 1974. From 1975-1977 he was the west coast correspondent for the Ottawa-based magazine, Science Forum. From 1977-1978 he wrote and hosted a bi-weekly satirical television show for Richmond community television (Cable 10). From 1975-1978 he contributed and performed short stories for DNA Magazine, an audio publication produced by Lawrence Russell of the University of Victoria.

In 1976 he met his life partner — and a fellow alumnus — Catherine Johnston, who was working as Assistant Curator of the SFU Art Gallery.

He left the Richmond Review in 1978 to begin his advertising career by co-founding McGrath Dunn Advertising, and over the next nine years became co-owner and/or partner in three Vancouver ad agencies, finally as the Creative Director for the western office of Grey Canada. In 1987 he left Grey and became the in-house creative resource for Pemberton Securities in Vancouver, which was purchased by RBC Dominion Securities in 1989. After the merger he moved to their head office in Toronto and was named VP, Creative Services. He retired on December 31, 1999.

McGrath continued his writing and publishing after his retirement, contributing to SFU's AQ Magazine as a columnist from 2000-2004. From 2000-2009 he contributed over 100 reviews to the Culture Court website, and from 2008-2012 he wrote 60 movie reviews for the subscription website Quiet Earth as their Toronto correspondent.

In 1976 he discovered the writings of the late British author, J.G. Ballard, and began acquiring his works, now generally regarded as the world’s largest private collection.

In 2013 he started his own publishing company, The Terminal Press, and has produced 17 books as of May 2024. Books McGrath authored include Straight Man: Rock Star Interviews, Reviews and Photos from Vancouver’s Underground Press, and The Disenchanted Forest. He has published 10 annual anthologies dedicated to the works of J.G. Ballard — the Deep Ends series — and one Ballard critical study — Grave New World. In 2023 he co-edited a collection of Ballardian stories for Titan Books of London called Reports From The Deep End, and in 2024 he published Unauthorised Departures, an anthology of short stories from writers around the world.

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