The Art of Jack

James Gordon at Jack Layton book launch, Rivoli Toronto poet Penn Kemp has been working for the last 19 months, since the death of NDP leader Jack Layton, on a book celebrating his life and values. Jack Layton: Art In Action from Quattro Books was released this week with events in various cities across the country. Tonight was the Toronto launch at the good old Rivoli on Queen West.

The book is a compendium of stories, photos, poems, drawings and remembrances – including one from me about the time Jack showed up at the Six String Nation party at Lula Lounge, did a great interview for CityTV and then played Voyageur while Doug Nicholson took a very memorable set of portraits.

Many of the contributors to the book showed up tonight at the Rivoli to take part in the launch and I was glad to be asked to take part. I was even gladder that James Gordon (pictured with Laura Bird, Tannis Slimmon, Jane Lewis and Lindy Vopnfjord on the screen!) and Robert Priest both played Voyageur for their segments memorializing Jack. But I have to say that I was especially glad for my friend Laura Bird. A few months ago, Laura came out to a teachers' event I was doing in Hockley Valley and played a song on Voyageur to end the presentation. The song she performed was one she had just written for Olivia Chow in honour of Jack – I believe it's called "Beams of Light". Tonight she got to perform it in front of Olivia. She told me later she couldn't look at Olivia while she sang but she did a beautiful job – backed by Jane, Tannis and James – and I know she had a few words with Olivia afterwards. I know the feeling.

Thanks to the Kemps and the Quattro folks. Thanks also to James and Robert and to Mark on sound and lights at the Rivoli.

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