The publisher and founder of the Georgia Straight, Dan McLeod, will soon receive his own star on the Walk of Fame sidewalk along Granville Street. This is one of the honours associated with his election to the B.C. Entertainment Hall of Fame.
On November 18, McLeod and opera singers Ben Heppner and Nancy Hermiston were inducted in a ceremony filled with music at the Old Auditorium on UBC’s Point Grey campus.
One of the highlights was Heppner’s lively performance of “Haben Sie Gehört das Deutsche Band?”, accompanied by UBC sessional lecturer David Boothroyd on the piano. The event also included performances by Judith Forst, the UBC Opera Ensemble, and solos by UBC opera singers Ian McCloy, Sodam Lee, Shane Hanson, and Yenny Lee. It was organized by Hermiston, a UBC school of music professor and chair of the voice and opera divisions.
Before McLeod went on-stage to receive his B.C. Entertainment Hall of Fame pin, Vancouver arts producer Bill Allman told the audience that the Straight “has played a critical role in forging a thriving arts and culture community in Vancouver”.
“Through its comprehensive coverage of theatre, music, dance, comedy, film, visual arts, and multimedia, Dan McLeod’s vision has advanced Vancouver’s creative economy and helped countless rising artists and creators come to the attention of one another, as well as to readers, to audiences, and to funding agencies,” he said.
McLeod cofounded the newspaper in 1967 in the bar of the old Cecil Hotel with artists Michael Morris and Glenn Lewis. They called it the Georgia Straight because radio broadcasters in that era used to regularly offer marine forecasts for the body of water known as the Georgia Strait. The trio figured that the name would elicit free publicity.
On Thursday (November 22), McLeod’s name, along with a star, will be embedded in the concrete on Granville not far from where the paper was christened. He told the audience at the Old Auditorium that it was nice to be back on the Point Grey campus, where he studied mathematics.
“When I first came to UBC, in my first year, I was intent on being a nuclear engineer or a nuclear physicist,” McLeod revealed. “That ambition soon went sideways because I was assigned George Bowering as my first-year English teacher. He went on to become Canada’s [parliamentary] poet laureate many years later.”
McLeod started writing for a poetry publication called Tish, which was cofounded by Bowering, Fred Wah, and other poets. In those years, celebrated U.S. poets such as Allen Ginsberg and Charles Olson visited the UBC campus.
“I think some of the best poets are orators,” McLeod said at the Old Auditorium. “That’s what I would have liked to do, but I don’t see myself as that.…I think rather than being an orator, the next best thing I could do was to give a voice to other orators—be they underrepresented or didn’t have a voice.”
This, he added, was the spirit that led to the founding of the Straight.