In the 1970s a new in-migration began. Young people, coming mostly from central Canada and the U.S., came to the area looking for a place to settle. They found the local citizens welcoming and willing to share their talents and skills, so they moved into the abandoned homesteads. Some became fishermen’s helpers. Others planted trees. St. Ann’s Silviculture operated for over 15 years employing up to 50 people.
Some were drawn by the music, others by the chance to work a piece of land or to try their hand at a creative endeavour. Many of them remained to build a life and raise families here. Many found a place to express their art, whether it was theatre, music, writing, or visual arts and crafts. And were able through their art to reflect the natural beauty and history of St. Ann’s Bay.
One of them was Ron Caplan, an editor, who arrived on the North Shore in 1972 and upon seeing and experiencing the unique amazing Gaelic culture of his neighbours, began to produce Cape Breton’s Magazine to record the rapidly disappearing Gaelic culture through interviews with local residents for whom Gaelic was still their first language. He expanded to cover oral history all of the different history and cultures of the Island, the Acadian, Mi’kmaq, and of the varied ethnic groups who came to work in the coal and steel industries.
Ron has recently been appointed to the Order of Canada. All 74 issues of Cape Breton Magazine are currently archived and freely accessible at http://capebretonsmagazine.com/. Ron continues to encourage local writers and publish their works in a wide range of books. The catalogue can be seen at http://capebretonbooks.com/products.
The St. Ann’s Bay Players
Founded in 1980 by director and playwright Bev Brett, this group performed and developed over 50 Canadian and “Celtic” scripts that reflect the background and history of the community, is the oldest theatre company in Cape Breton and draws it’s talent from all areas of the community, including musicians, artists, clothing designers and photographers. A trademark of the company is it’s actors’ abilities to authentically portray the local humour and dialect. “Down North” created from the material in Cape Breton’s Magazine had about 100 performances. Over 70 people have participated over 37 years.
Cabot Trail Writers Festival
St. Ann’s Bay is also the home of the Cabot Trail Writers Festival, an annual celebration of reading and writing in the heart of Cape Breton Island. Held each fall, it is an opportunity to meet with fellow book-lovers for an event-packed weekend of laughter and up-close conversation with your favourite authors. One such local author is Bill Connell, winner of the 2014 Stephen Leacock Award for Humour. See more at http://cabottrailwritersfestival.com/
A lighthousekeeper with a huge love of Cape Breton style fiddling came here to learn it, researching and collecting tunes of Cape Breton’s great fiddlers. These tunes and recordings can be found in Cranford Publications.
Otis is one of three people in the community who build instruments. In 2011 Otis wrote a book about the Fiddle Tree, a giant sugar maple near his home from which he created a family of instruments and was showcased in Celtic Colours. (Please check www.youtubeTheFiddleTree for the story.)
Arrived in 1971 and became a Master Craftsman in leather, producing a wide range of quality purses, aprons, belts and other products. The shop in Indian Brook is now owned and operated by Jolene. Her work can be seen as you drive through Indian Brook on the Cabot trail.
Gordon and Carol Kennedy arrived in 1982. Carol, an award-winning photographer and Gordon a painter and sculptor, they opened Iron Art and Photography on the Cabot Trail in Tarbot. His work can be seen at the forge and studio on the Cabot Trail in North River / Tarbot.
St. Ann’s Bay has seen a number of fine potters over the years, Carole MacDonald, Deanie Cox, Sarah Beck, and Jitka Zgola. See more of Sarah’s work at http://wildfirettery.ca//
Jitka’s functional pottery is sold through various craft stores and galleries throughout Cape Breton or by special order from http://singingpebbles.ca.
Glass, Wood & Pewter
Glass, wood and pewter are also mediums for St. Ann’s Bay artists. Wendy Smith offers “expressions in glass”. She makes stained glass and collects a fabulous array of glass works from around the province. She also sponsors glass blowers to come and work in the studio at the furnace while visitors watch The selection can be seen at https://www.glassartisans.ca/
Bob Evans harvests and selects his own fine woods whfrom which he crafts both functional and decorative pieces at Woodsmiths Studio. . View Bob’s work at http://www.woodsmithstudio.com/
Donna and Harold Frizzell design and produce Celtic-influenced jewelry and gifts at Piper Pewter. They can be seen at http://www.piperpewter.com/
Hat Making & Photography
Barb Longva has been sewing since early childhood and has turned her passion into her business, designing and creating hats, garments and period costumes a her shop, Sew Inclined. Her work is seen at http://www.sewinclined.ca/.
Jim Steele has a large following for his sunrise photographs; taken every morning from his home high above the Bay. The are e-mailed to a growing list of viewers from around the world. http://www.photographybyjimsteele.net/home
The Colouratura Gallery
The Colouratura Art Gallery in Indian Brook, owned and operated by Penny Steele and Ian Greene exhibits the works of local and regional artists. The gallery also presents an annual program of “Classics for the Cabot Trail.” See more at http://www.cabottrailart.com/