By Elisabeth Faure
Canadian book-lovers are in for a treat this coming Wednesday, Nov. 6, when famed raconteur Douglas Gibson comes to town for an evening of stories about the country’s literary greats.
In Stories About Storytellers, publisher-turned-author Gibson exposes the behind the scenes stories he’s collected over a 40-year career that has seen him work with a “Who’s Who” of famous Canuck authors. Audience members can expect an up-close-and-personal look at A-list names like Mavis Gallant, Pierre Trudeau, and W.O. Mitchell. The show has toured to wide acclaim across Canada.
Another famous author who will be featured in Gibson’s show has been making headlines of late – Gibson is the long-time publisher and good friend of short story writer Alice Munro, who recently became the first Canadian to win the Nobel Prize for literature.
Gibson spoke to the Reporter having just returned from shooting a Swedish documentary about Munro. “I was on about thrity radio and TV shows when the Nobel Prize came out,” says Gibson. He recalls a compliment he received from a Cross-Country Checkup crew member at the CBC during his media blitz. “She said to me, ‘Mr. Gibson, you’re the most popular man in Canada!” he laughs. Gibson will be attending the Nobel Prize ceremony in Denmark on December 10.
The free event will be held in support of McGill’s campaign to endow the Chair in Canadian-Scottish Studies at McGill, which has already raised $2,100,000 of the $3,000,000 needed to fund the project.
“The local Canadian-Scottish community believes that it is about time that their story is told and that McGill – a University with a rich Scottish heritage – is the natural place to house the Chair, says Nicholas Synnott, the Development Officer spearheading the fundraising campaign for the Faculty of Arts. “Other Canadian universities have Scottish Studies programs but the attractive thing about what our initiative is the focus on a Canadian perspective.”
Gibson, who immigrated to Canada from Scotland in 1967, remains a proud Scot, even going so far as to record a humorous video demystifying Scottish phrases for CBC TV’s George Stroumboulopoulos Tonight in 2012, in honour of Robert Burns Day.
Gibson’s talk came about after several months of conversation with McGill and Montreal St. Andrew’s Society President Scot Diamond. “I’m so pleased it’s come together,” says fellow St. Andrew’s Society patron Peter McAuslan, who sits on the Scottish Chair committee. “I also like to think that this is really almost in some ways the first event which is attached to the proposed Chair in Canadian-Scottish studies, and we hope that it’s the sort of thing that we’ll be able to do on an ongoing basis, with the help of McGill, Montreal’s Scottish Community, and the St. Andrew’s Society.” McAuslan says he’s particularly looking forward to hearing Gibson dish on Margaret Atwood.
Overall, event organizers are looking forward to a memorable evening that will highlight Chair’s campaign. “The Chair in Canadian-Scottish Studies will not only attract brilliant scholars to McGill and provide an area of studies for students with an interest in Celtic culture and early Canadian immigration, but will also be the anchor for solidifying our relationships with our sister Universities of Glasgow and Edinburgh,” says Synnott.
As a former McLennan Lecturer at McGill, whose daughter, Katie Gibson, is a McGill law school graduate, Gibson says the Scottish Chair is, “a wonderful idea,” adding, “McGill is the perfect place for such a program, and I am able to contribute my services, so I am very pleased!”
“Without making it sound too highfalutin,” says McAuslan, “I think that the Scots have an important place in the development of Montreal, Canada, and of course Quebec, and I think that there hasn’t been enough study on that history,” adding with a laugh, “It’s about time for someone to be sitting in that Chair!”
Stories About Storytellers takes place on Wednesday, November 6, at 6 p.m. Thomson House, 3650 McTavish Street. Reception to follow. For more information, go here.