When we lived in France people would often ask us about the specialties of our region, back in Canada. In Provence they have tapenade and ratatouille and the best wine in the world. In Brittany they have cider and fish and crêpes.
We rarely knew what to say. We could talk, abstractly, about any city in Canada. Pretty! Nice! Friendly! Safe! Infrastructure! They would pay attention but they were rarely moved, or even curious, unless we started in on the northern lights, the mounties on horseback fighting off downtown marauders with nunchucks, and the savage grizzly bear attacks in our neighbourhood.
They wanted us to engage their senses with a story. That’s all anyone wants, as the neuroscientists are beginning to understand: take me on a journey to a place I have never been. A mysterious, delicious, colourful or not-at-all-colourful place. Weather was not a factor for the curious Europeans. The entire continent was obsessed with the north while we were there, thanks to the evocative crime novels coming out of Sweden, Norway, and Finland.
Even on an elemental level I didn’t know what to say. What is the cuisine of your city? What has been invented there? Art and books? What do they make in Edmonton?
You can’t put a price on a juicy, repeatable, emotional anecdote.
Imagine a place to celebrate all the things Edmontonians have built in a particularly Edmonton way — businesses, social initiatives, festivals and theatre companies, organizations and parties. This is educational and inspirational, for each other and for outsiders who might ask us, “Why Edmonton?” An Edmonton Made sort of place could be both online and glass-and-brick.
Tix on the Square is a place to buy Edmonton Made products and experiences. There might also be a place to hear and see anecdotes that make up the Edmonton Story. We might develop a sticker, a logo, a tag: Edmonton Made.
A Make Something Edmonton movement or campaign flows into Edmonton Made, a place to highlight and celebrate what people have created in this urban barn-building culture.
I have received several e-mails about potential Make Something Edmonton projects, asking for permission or advice. Can I do this? Can I use the #makesomethingyeg hashtag for that thing I am doing?
The answer is: you don’t need permission. Go make artisan soda out of beets and please use #makesomethingyeg or #yegmade. There are thousands of examples in this city that prove you can do it, whether it’s a business you want to start, a new festival, a not-for-profit or a charity. You want to put art up on a wall? Lights on a bridge? You want to start a city-wide tradition of longest-night parties?
I was terribly moved on Halloween night when I saw this on the Twitter machine, posted by Jeff Nachtigall of Highlands:
What does that have to do with a plan to light up bridges? And what does it have to do with our uniquely Edmonton businesses, large and small, our successful festivals? We’ll try to build a place you can go, to see and touch and smell and hear those examples — to feel Edmonton.
Beyond that, maybe mentorship is what you need. A network. The Edmonton question is: What are you making? and the second question is: How can I help?
Really, to take your idea to reality, to move you from talking about it to doing it, how can I — we, anybody — help?