Tale of a Town: 'Storymobile' hits the North

'We’re continually building it, and trying to weave in more and more voices,' said Charles Ketchabaw, who's now in Whitehorse and headed to Yellowknife next week.

Cross-Canada project collects stories and memories from country's 'Main Streets'

Lisa Marie DiLiberto and Charles Ketchabaw with their 'Tale of a Town' Storymobile, in Whitehorse. (Submitted by Charles Ketchabaw)

Charles Ketchabaw has spent the last couple of years strolling down Main Street, chatting with the locals. 

Which "Main Street"? Any and all of them, right across Canada.

He and his partner have been touring the country with their "Storymobile" — a small trailer — collecting stories from people about their home towns and what makes them special or unique. The stories are then translated into theatre events, art installations and a podcast called "The Tale of a Town."

Their first Northern stop has been Whitehorse. Later this month they head to Yellowknife.

"Everybody's quite open with us, so we've had a great time," Ketchabaw said, in Whitehorse. 

He said their method is simple: "park the Storymobile and invite residents to talk to us about what they remember from the past."

The stories inspire art and performance installations in each community. After Whitehorse, the Storymobile heads to Yellowknife. (Submitted by Charles Ketchabaw)

In Whitehorse, he's heard stories about mischievous students moving an unpopular teacher's Volkswagen Beetle on the sly, and Commissioner Doug Phillips shared his memories of the first television that arrived in the territory.

Yvonne Clarke described arriving from the Philippines to discover Yukoners' colourful language.

"I [had] to practice saying the f-word, and get comfortable saying it," she told the Storymobile.

"I was so proud of myself when I say, 'hey, I did swear today'. So it was kind of weird!"

'Community belonging'

The three-year road trip is scheduled to end next year, when Canada celebrates its 150th anniversary. One of the goals of the project has been to inspire interest in local history, downtown culture, and "community belonging".

In Whitehorse, the stories have been incorporated into an interactive theatre project that's running in the city's downtown this weekend.

"We're continually building it, and trying to weave in more and more voices," Ketchabaw before the event.

"What I find the most rewarding is when I run into someone at the coffee shop and they say, 'oh wow, I really wish I could do another interview, because I remembered so much," he said. 

"Tale of a Town" shows are presented in Whitehorse Saturday and Sunday, starting at Rotary Park. 

After this weekend, the Storymobile heads to the N.W.T., arriving in Yellowknife on Sept. 26. They also hope to get to Nunavut by next year, but bringing the trailer might be a challenge.

With files from Dave White