Tom Jackson’s Stories, Songs & Santa Causes tour promises feel-good holiday hopefulness

“Our show is designed not to bring you Christmas, but possibly help you be Christmas."

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      Tom Jackson—singer, actor, philanthropist, and former chancellor of Trent University—wants audiences to feel the power of generosity this festive season.

      “The gift is in the giving,” he tells the Straight over video call from Ottawa. “What if the person that you helped paid it forward, and what if that person paid it forward to somebody else who paid it forward?” 

      Jackson, who has British and Cree ancestry from the One Arrow First Nation, lives up to his reputation as a master storyteller during our interview. 

      He tells me about a houseless man from Inuvik he met in Ottawa, whom he’s trying to help return home. He tells me about a First Nation jingle dancer he knows, who dances until she sweats so she can “forgive without forgetting.” He tells me about a stray dog he adopted, about kids who sold brownies to raise money for a local food bank.

      “God only knows what kind of a difference those girls are going to make over the course of their life,” he says.

      Every story has a unifying theme: the importance of kindness and helping others. 

      “The live performances that we do are in support of social service agencies, which includes food banks and homeless shelters,” he says. “People often wonder why I do it. It’s because it’s my oxygen.”

      From 1987 to 2004, then again from 2012-13, Jackson toured every Christmas with the Huron Carole live show. The event raised millions of dollars and tonnes of food for food banks across Canada. Jackson put on digital versions of the Huron Carole in 2020 to help charities and non-profits raise money, and took the show on the road for a socially-distanced trip through Western Canada in late 2021. Stories, Songs and Santa Causes marks his first return to a nationwide tour, traveling from New Westminster, BC to St. John’s, NL. 

      “We want to make sure that what we bring to the people who come to the hall is a sense of joy,” Jackson says. “Our show is designed not to bring you Christmas, but possibly to help you be Christmas.”

      Jackson will be joined by music producer Tom McKillip and multi-instrumentalist John MacArthur Ellis on their three-week jaunt. The live show promises to be similar but different to the Huron Carole; plenty of music and storytelling, along with encouraging audience members to think about how they can make a difference in their communities. 

      The Nov. 25 show at the Massey Theatre benefits Don’t Go Hungry, an organization in New Westminster and Burnaby that provides free no-barrier grocery hampers every Saturday to anyone struggling with food insecurity.

      Jackson recognizes that food banks are a short-term solution to a larger social problem, as their use has soared 15 per cent in the past year alone.

      “I’m just a band aid. All I want to do is stop the bleeding,” Jackson says. “There’s greater minds than mine [that] will figure out how to stop this from happening.” 

      What Jackson has been so successful at over the years is leveraging his platform of music and performance to encourage people to donate to social causes. He says that art is powerful in part because it’s the most effective way of creating social change. 

      “Ballads, not bullets. You affect more people with a ballad than you ever will with a bullet,” he says. 

      “We have to find different instruments that will purge the sounds of silence. We need to be loud and proud. We need to be warriors and sing about what’s right to create change.” 

      Despite being in his 70s, Jackson shows no signs of slowing down. He says he has no intention of stopping: there’s always more shows to play, more songs to sing, more love to spread.  

      “The people that I help are my people, and I want to connect with them. Because all of that is my oxygen, and if I don’t have my oxygen I’ll cease to exist.”

      Tom Jackson’s Stories, Songs and Santa Causes will be at Massey Theatre in New Westminster on Nov. 25. Tickets are available here.

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