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article imageMusician Tom Jackson’s on the road again Special

By Lenny Stoute     Nov 23, 2011 in Entertainment
It’s the week before Tom Jackson’s annual Christmas national tour in support of the Canadian Association of Food Banks, and he’s enthusiastic talking about the prospect.
Jackson came up with his novel cross-country benefit tour 20 years ago and sadly, the needs and wants that pushed him to take action are still with us, in ever-growing Dickensian numbers. It’s a situation which engenders mixed feelings in the big man.
“The good news is that since I’ve been doing this we’ve generated $200 million in cash and goods for a variety of food banks, community service agencies and disaster relief. The sad news is that there is still the need for me to keep doing this.
“What was started as a one-of has become my job and I couldn’t find another that suits me better. There will always be the gap between the haves and the have-nots. As humans, I feel it is all our jobs to work to narrow that gap.
“That’s what gets me up in the morning; knowing that whatever I have to do that day relates to being pro-active about narrowing the gap, So when you ask how much longer I intend on doing this, the answer is simply as long as there is breath in my body. It’s what I live and breathe.”
He also sings, acts, writes songs and most recently the script for a play. All of the activities cross-pollinate each other and come to a kind of peak with the seasonal concerts.
Loosely themed around Winter and the Holidays, the show is of that increasingly rare family-friendly persuasion, a warm-hearted mix of singing’n’playing’n’storytelling, all delivered with a casual kitchen party vibe and a neat light show. The man has his funny side too; he delights in playing roles onscreen that are a million miles from who he is, especially in horror outings like Shining Time Station and Skinwalkers. Likewise, the role he’d most like to play is The Phantom in the Opera that bears his name.
All of these activities are present in the ongoing evolution of Jackson as artist and social benefactor.
A dramatic example of this is currently a-bubble on the Jackson front burner. His spiritual interests, knowledge of First Nations cultures and concern for the environment, songwriting ability and acting know-how all come together in his work-in-progress, a stage play to be premiered in 2013.
“The play comes out of a story I wrote some 20 years ago. I had the idea of turning it into a script but that didn’t come to pass until June. Then from June to now the project accelerated to where we were able to workshop it in London, England, and we’re confident of opening in 2013.
“It’s the story of the love between a man (Mankind) and a woman (Mother Earth) and along the way examines the nature of love itself and what that means to each of us”.
The play also looks at the ancient wisdoms the couple can rely on for guidance. Accordingly, Jackson spent considerable time in B.C. researching pockets of First Nations culture where the old teachings lived on in purest form.
“We know a lot about Eastern British Columbia but there’s not much record of the culture of Western B.C. the land between the mountains and the ocean. If you want to track the information, you have to go there."
Jackson’s travels in that region to places with names like The Village Of Skulls and The Hiding Place would themselves make for a movie. At the end he feels he tapped into that energy stream of ancient ways of living with the land and returned to the play informed and energized.
Wondering out loud how much more artistic work could be done if he had government assistance on the social benefactor front, Jackson is thoughtful and most diplomatic in response.
“I’m not one for putting myself on the government radar in this regard. I view this as my job, and I really enjoy my job, which is to be of help. The government has many other issues to deal with I suppose; I’m just privileged and humbled that I can be of help.
“When I started this thing, food banks were at the seed stage, even the need for them was being debated. The real heroes on the food bank scene are people like Gerard Kennedy and the Council Fire folks in Toronto. All I have done is be inspired to build on what they started.
“Now food banks are everywhere and more and more people are needing them. I think this is of concern to all of us. A guiding principle of the West Coast First Nations communities was direct assistance, people helping people. We need to look at more ways for people to reach out to people."
The ‘Twas in the Moon of Wintertime tour starts Nov.25 in Burlington ON and closes out Dec.19 in Jackson’s home base of Calgary AB. That show is the last of four Jackson will perform in Calgary. Each night’s show will benefit a different social organisation of the sort to which Tom Jackson is the angel with the baritone pipes.
Which is how Jackson refers to the frontline workers. “They’re the real angels in the trenches. They’re the people who inspire me."
More about Food banks, national tour, Folk music
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