Toronto

Sting performs at special event for Oshawa GM workers facing layoffs

In a show of solidarity, Sting performed songs from his new musical for General Motors workers in Oshawa.

Musician's new musical all about how a collapsing industry affects a place and its people

The singer opened the show with Message in a Bottle, a classic song — which isn't in the musical — from back when Sting was part of the band The Police. (Chris Mulligan/CBC)

In a show of solidarity, Sting performed songs from his new musical for General Motors workers in Oshawa.

The singer and the Toronto cast of The Last Ship, currently playing at Mirvish's Princess of Wales Theatre, performed the free show at Oshawa's Tributes Communities Centre.

The singer kicked off the show with Message in a Bottle — a Police classic that's not in the musical — and the crowd joined in to sing along. 

"The reason we're doing the show is [to] support the solidarity for your cause here," he told the crowd.

After his opener, he invited the rest of the cast from the musical to joined him on stage, many of whom were wearing "Save Oshawa GM" shirts. 

"We felt it was important to show our support for you," Sting said.

Sting, 62, wrote The Last Ship's music and lyrics based on his own experiences growing up in an English shipbuilding town roiled by the collapse of its main industry. The former Police frontman stars in the production as a protest leader fighting to hold the community together by building one last ship.

Following the event, Sting spoke to the media along with Unifor president Jerry Dias and two of the show's performers. (Christopher Mulligan/CBC)
 

Sting has said he sees a parallel with what's happening in Oshawa, where GM plans to close its long-running plant at the end of 2019. As of 2017, GM was the largest employer in the city.

Unifor President Jerry Dias said in a statement Sting has "witnessed first-hand" what happens to families when a "core industry is ripped away" and that he's grateful to the singer for the support.

"We're not going anywhere," Dias said at the event. "They're hoping we'll go away, but the chances of that are zero." 

"This is an incredibly important day for us...because they see there is hope." 

'It's important that your story is heard' 

Following the performance, Sting spoke with Unifor representatives, performers, and the media, saying "we are telling your story; it's important that your story is heard," and "this can't be buried under a political carpet."  

Sting said while he was performing, he looked into the crowd and could see "genuine worry" on people's faces — something he said was moving for the performers. 

 "These worker's have loyally given their lives to the company," he said. "It's a two-way street." 

With files from The Canadian Press

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