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Hyperlocal: A winner, an NFB interactive, and the Canada Malting Silos

The NFB's Jennifer Moss talks about making the final interactive story for the winner of Hyperlocal.

Well, we did it. We managed to create five interactive stories in six weeks, and we’re all still speaking to each other. It’s been a monumental task of creative and administrative cooperation at both the CBC and the NFB, and we’re now at the finish line. The last task was to select the winning entry from the hundreds of stories about local change that were received from across the country—and to transform that story into an interactive experience to sit alongside the works of Joseph Boyden, Miriam Toews, Will Ferguson, Heather O’Neill and Lisa Moore.

Selecting the winner wasn’t an easy proposition. The quality of entries was exceptionally high and each of the 37 finalists had merit. NFB interactive designer Jeremy Mendes (Bear 71) was on the Hyperlocal jury, along with the CBC’s Ian Hanomansing and writer Lisa Moore. The judges each put forward their top picks and then they duked it out over the phone. I caught up with Jeremy while he was combing through the various entries. I asked him to describe his selection process: 

In relatively short order, the jury arrived at a decision. The winning entry is: In the Shadow of the Canada Malting Silos, by Melissa Bull. The judges were moved by this subtle story about changes in the Montreal neighbourhood of Saint-Henri. Bull grew up there, and recalls the rough-edged beauty of her childhood haunts, the empty lots full of wildflowers that “burst sunny and redolent over the stink of tar,” the raucous neighbours and the dilapidated Canada Malting Silos that towered over everything. 

For Bull, the silos represented a place of quiet reflection, where the natural and industrial landscape merged. Looking back, she cannot imagine Saint-Henri without the Canada Malting Silos. To her, they are inseparable from her childhood. So, when a flyer arrived in her mailbox stating that the silos were slated to make way for condos, she felt moved to write about the place before it disappears.

In the Shadow of the Canada Malting Silos is a simple and personal story. Its writing style has a quiet elegance to it, and it incorporates a wealth of interesting visual elements suggesting urban/suburban decay: hot tar, weedy backyards and the rusty but still impressive silos themselves. 

There was plenty of potential here for an interactive project. When I met up with Hyperlocal co-creator Sean Embury of Fulscrn to discuss some possible interactive approaches, he brought in some great images of the malting silos that he found online. 

Eventually, we ended up with a great concept that we think does justice to the silos, and to Bull’s writing. The final product is featured on the NFB’s Hyperlocal website, hyperlocal.nfb.ca, and on the CBC Books Canada Writes Hyperlocal site, hyperlocal.cbc.ca.  

Congratulations to Melissa Bull for a great story—it has been a privilege to work on the interactive component. 

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