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She Loves to Stitch

Arlene MacAusland of Twisted Knickers and her penny rugs

by Peggy Miles

Arlene MacAusland (photo: Peggy Miles)I have an inner need for material.” says crafter Arlene MacAusland. She has a hankering for buying, cutting and transforming different types of fabric into something beautiful. “I love all kinds of materials…cotton, acrylic, yarn, wool.”

Arlene is the crafter behind Twisted Knickers and works from her home studio in Darnley making hand stitched penny rugs using wool felt blends and/or wool fabrics. Surfacing in the mid 19th century, the penny rug is a folk art style of applique where decorative shapes are layered and sewn together with blanket stitch embroidery. Coins were often used as templates to make the round shapes that were incorporated into the design of the rugs.

Arlene describes the penny rugs that she creates as contemporary primitive; her work reflects the traditional medium, but she gives it a modern flare. She has a knack for assembling dynamic colour combinations. Some designs are more tradition, giving prominence to flowers and Celtic symbols, while others are fun animal themed works featuring sheep munching on clover or multi-coloured cows. An average piece has between 3000-5000 stitches.

Arlene also makes bunny blankets, with each blanket having an attached bunny stuffy. In addition, she makes tin punch ornaments, and sells kits for those who want to make their own penny rugs. The last few winters she has been kept busy making 4,000 fabric finger puppets for a national children’s organization.

The talented fabric artist hails from Saskatchewan and has always had an interest in creative work, reflected in her younger years by making her own clothing and attending university design courses. However, her pursuits included environmental studies and she began a career. Moving to the province in 2001 with her Islander husband Mark and their small children, she found herself delving into the craft world as a way to satisfy her passion and to be home with her family.

Arlene credits the influences of her spouse’s late grandmothers as a source of inspiration. Her husband’s MacAusland grandmother was connected to the MacAusland Woolen Mills in Bloomfield, and provided her grandson’s wife with a rich family legacy, as well as with woolen fabric that the artisan still uses in her craft pieces. Her other grandmother in-law was an avid quilter and also provided fabric remnants and decades of experience.

The PEI Crafts Council member expresses her desire for society to value handmade things. “It’s important for my kids, and for others, that these skills are retained.”

You can find Arlene wares at the gift gallery at the Eptek Art & Culture Centre in Summerside, Northern Watters Knitwear on Victoria Row in Charlottetown, and at the Artisan's Studio in Avonlea Village, Cavendish. Her items are also available on Etsy and she welcomes visitors to her studio in Darnley.

Community Celebration

Public invited to Heather Moyse Heritage Park

Summerside Scene
by Peggy Miles

Heritage Park (photo: Peggy Miles)The Summerside Safety and Crime Prevention Committee is a volunteer group of citizens and safety advocates who take a lead role in making the small city a safer place. Supported by the City of Summerside, the group helps to develop long-term solutions towards crime prevention.

Issues such as property damage or youth-at-risk are typically discussed at committee meetings. In the past few weeks however, members have also chosen to focus on coordinating a community event at the Heather Moyse Heritage Park on May 22.

The recreation space is accessible via access points on Ottawa and Arcona Streets and features a pathway loop with multiple wooden bridges, a meadow, and a number of pavilions and picnic areas. A highlight is the presence of trees from PEI’s native forest, including 19 types of hardwoods and 10 species of softwoods.

The park has faced a number of challenges since it was developed as a community space a couple of years ago. Sometimes a haven for unsavoury activity and late night hangout, it’s caused a certain amount of unease with neighbours and citizens. A year ago the East Prince Women’s Information Centre hosted a march at the park in support of women’s safety. That’s when the idea for a bigger community event first developed.

Says Andrew Richardson, who chairs the Safety & Crime Prevention Committee. “When neighbours know each other and take ownership of their local public spaces they tend to be safer. We are hosting this event as a way for neighbours to introduce themselves and to celebrate a great park and spring's arrival.”

Taking place from 4–7 pm, the event will feature a barbeque, music and activities along the one-kilometre pathway loop. The event is supported by the municipality and the local Communities in Bloom committee—they’ll be prepping a garden bed where event-goers can plant flowers on the night of the event.

The Summerside go!PEI committee is also participating. Says Summerside go!PEI Chairperson Melanie Ramsay-Mugridge, “Go!PEI is excited to grow a partnership with the Safety and Crime Prevention Committee in Summerside. The goals of the committee blend well with the goals of go!PEI. Providing opportunities for people, of all ages, to take part in low or no cost activities and educational initiatives builds stronger, more cohesive communities,”

All Summerside residents and visitors are welcome. The rain date for the event is May 23. Information can be found on Facebook at Community BBQ at Heather Moyse Heritage Park.

Planet Summerside

Summerside Scene
by Peggy Miles

Planet Summerside (photo: Peggy Miles)Over the last few months, Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield’s adventures in space have touched individual communities around the world. This stream of photos has allowed us to see the Earth from his unique perspective and reframe the way we think about our planet.

These awe inspiring images give me the desire to protect this planet so beautifully mirrored back from space. While it is a daunting task to make a positive environmental impact on this big blue marble, I choose to start with my piece of it here at 46.4000° N, 63.7833° W (also known as Summerside, PEI, Planet Earth).

April is Earth Month, so I want to start a conversation with Summerside residents about being engaged in their neighbourhoods. Local efforts lead to global impact: change happens most successfully as a collective.

When I imagine a healthy, vibrant community that reflects environmental values, I see active and engaged citizens. Of course government and environmental advocates are a vital part of the equation; however citizens need to participate in the process of creating sustainable neighbourhoods. One of these initiatives is a community garden.

Community gardens promote active living and relationships with fellow citizens, provide fresh locally grown food, and can also help to address poverty issues. Last year the Summerside community had two shared green spaces for residents to grow vegetables for their own consumption.

The gardens are located behind the St. Eleanor’s Fire Hall and at Lefurgey Park in Wilmot. The latter was started by area residents just last year and offers plots for rent to any Summerside resident. Twenty-five percent of the land is used to produce food for the local food bank and soup kitchen.

For those who cultivate food and greenery on their own properties, the City of Summerside has been discussing a rain barrel program with a goal of conserving water. Nothing has been officially launched, but citizens should stay tuned for details on a future program.

In addition to our neighbourhoods, there are other important community spaces where meaningful environmental dialogues can take place. Conversations are already occurring at the Summerside Farmer’s Market, along the Baywalk, in our parks and at environmentally conscious businesses throughout the city. These discussions involve topics such as pollinator corridors, rooftop gardens, and carbon footprints, as well as issues like government policy and business practices that affect the environment.

For individuals seeking additional resources, the Bedeque Bay Environmental Management Association (BBEMA) is very active in the Summerside community. Working directly with local schools, seniors manors and organizers of public events, they are the go-to organization for Summerside citizens seeking environmental knowledge (

We can promote environmental responsibility through active leadership and meaningful dialogue. This will help to sustain Summerside as a healthy place to live where families, friends and neighbours will flourish. When the International Space Station flies over us again we can give a big satisfying wave to the astronauts above.

Canadian Seniors

National curling tournament will rock Summerside

Summerside Scene
by Peggy Miles

Silver Fox (photo: Peggy Miles)The last time the Canadian Seniors Curling Championship was hosted in Summerside, Colleen Pinkney’s third stone broke the zipper on her Nova Scotia team jacket in the middle of a game. She asked a volunteer if there was a place in town where she could take it for a fix. “Leave it with me,” said the volunteer who rushed out to the shop of a downtown seamstress. The zipper was fixed and the jacket returned to the Nova Scotia player in time for the next end of curling.

And that is precisely why Summerside has upheld its reputation as Canada’s Tournament Town, known as the little city that can host big events.

That last national senior curling championship was hosted back in 2009 and the volunteer who took care of the jacket was Irene Delaney. Her husband Carl is the Chairperson for this year’s event, returning to Summerside and the Silver Fox Curling & Yacht Club from March 16—24. He gave me an update recently about his committee’s plans in these weeks and days leading up to the event.

Carl tells me that the Fox is the only curling club in Canada that will have hosted the Canadian Seniors three times – a vote of confidence from the Canadian Curling Association and a testament to Summerside’s ability to host major sporting events.

Featuring both men’s and women’s play, there will be 96 competitors on the ice during the 9 day event. “Other than the Scotties and the Brier, this is the best curling you’re going to get” says Delaney. He’s right—the event boasts former Scotties and Brier participants and champions (and even Olympians like Russ Howard who played for Team New Brunswick at the 2009 event in Summerside). Even though the word “senior” may evoke an image of curlers past their prime, make no mistake about it—the quality of curling will be top notch. It’s a terrific opportunity for curlers young and old to interact with Canada’s curling elite.

Spouses and family members will accompany the players and the influx of visitors to Summerside will be evident around town. The economic spin-off for the event is expected to be over 1.5 million dollars—a welcome boost for Summerside and the province in the winter season.

Carl says that the event would not be possible without the support of an “excellent volunteer core”. Over 150 local curlers and community members will serve as timers, statisticians, drivers, hospitality ambassadors, entertainment coordinators and much more. The event is guided by a host committee of 18 members.

Carl is a familiar face at the Fox. He’s been in the business of organizing national sporting events for a long time. “Summerside is a sports capital…it’s important that we keep that reputation going.” Count this latest event as a checkmark on the community’s long list of hosting accomplishments.

Calendar Girls

Harbourfront Players on stage to benefit Prince County Hospital

Summerside Scene
by Peggy Miles

Calendar GirlsA most revealing performance graces the stage at the Harbourfront Theatre as the Harbourfront Players presents Calendar Girls.

Made popular by the 2003 movie and based on a true story, Calendar Girls chronicles the lives of a group of middle aged English women who pose nude for their annual Women’s Institute fundraising calendar. The story explores themes of friendship, loss and ageing.

Stage productions such as this are under licensing rights, and to the good fortune of audiences everywhere, amateur productions of Calendar Girls are permitted to be staged during this limited timeframe.

Sherri-Lee Darrach is credited as the original director of the local production; however, after Darrach moved on to other projects, actress and theatre veteran Marlane O’Brien took over that role. O’Brien says that the cast of local ladies (and a handful of gentlemen) are an “amazing group” of performers. In addition to dealing with the nitty gritty tasks of lighting, sound and blocking (the positioning of actors on stage), she challenges each performer to bring out the best in herself.

Local theatre enthusiasts will recognize many of the individuals involved in this community theatre production. Sandra Sheridan portrays lead character “Chris,” whose character is the driving force behind the fundraising endeavour. She is joined by Sue Urquhart who plays grieving widow “Annie”—it is in memory of Annie’s husband that the calendar’s philanthropic efforts are being dedicated. They recruit a number of women to join them in posing for the calendar including single mother and organist “Cora” played by Nancy Smythe, retired teacher “Jessie” portrayed by Catherine Ann, “Celia” played by Sara McCarthy, and housewife “Ruth” represented by Stephanie Betts. Shelley Tamtom is WI Chairwoman and social climber “Marie.” Steven MacDougall channels “Lawrence” the young photographer who shoots the calendar photos, Chris’ husband “Rod” is Thane Clark and Annie’s husband “John” is Nils Ling. Joady Walton supports as stage manager.

Director O’Brien expresses that the production is a true celebration of women, and reminds us that good things can come from bad. A flower theme runs throughout the play and connects to the process of ageing—sharing both as having beauty, the last stage of life being the loveliest.

The experienced theatre leader indicates that the production is “well written with depth, heart and laughter.” Women of every season are represented, O’Brien says, “I think that’s why Calendar Girls is so delicious on so many levels. The audience will go on quite a wonderful journey.”

And as to the question on everyone’s mind: there is no ‘real’ nudity, rather some strategically placed props. There’s a teensy bit of salty language if that’s a consideration for you as an audience member.

Organizers are providing a portion of the proceeds to the Prince County Hospital Foundation.

Red Rock ‘N’ Roller Derby

New recruits sought by Women’s Flat Track Derby Association

Summerside Scene
by Peggy Miles

Red Rock N' Rollers (photo: Kevin Molyneaux0Wanted: Fresh meat. Also known as new recruits for PEI’s roller derby league. Yes, over the last couple of years, Red Rock ‘N Roller Derby has captured the attention of local enthusiasts as the league finds its bearings.

Quick derby lesson as quoted from the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association: “Imagine a hockey game, but replace the ice with a roller rink. Swap out the baggy jerseys for fishnet hose and tank tops, and abandon ordinary names in favor of pseudonyms like Tanya Hyde and Demi Gore. What you have is a reasonable facsimile of women’s roller derby.”

The PEI league is recruiting gals to get involved on the local level. Correct, only women can compete, however there are opportunities for both genders to act as coaches, referees, officials and volunteers. The league’s bouting season takes place from May to September, though participants practice year round.

RRRD has two upcoming Learn to Skate programs: one on January 14th in Summerside and the following day in Charlottetown. These are twelve week programs that will teach participants the basic skills of skating and things like stopping, avoiding injury and strategy.

Who is roller derby for? “Women from all walks of life,” reveals Maureen Gay, Training Director for the league. Maureen (or Mosie O’Pummel as she’s known on the track) says there is a wide range of ages—from the minimum requirement of 19, all the way up to women in their mid forties. From teachers to farmers, lawyers to homemakers, they all come together in the pursuit of competitive action.

Mosie stresses that gals are drawn to the game because of its empowering nature, inclusiveness and the social opportunities it presents. Plus “It’s not just fish nets, tattoos and funky hair styles—it’s athletic.”

Some people retain memories of 1960’s and 70’s roller derby, where outcomes were predetermined and things were more spectacle than sport.

A new day has dawned in modern roller derby and it is respected as a legitimate and competitive sport. It’s still, however, not a pastime for the timid—competitors boast about nasty bumps and bruised bottoms. To prevent injury, players must wear helmets, mouth guards and various pads.

The Red Rock N’ Rollers feel proud of their inaugural bouting season this past summer, which caught members of more established Maritime teams by surprise. Even though derby is new to Island spectators, it hasn’t stopped them from showing their support in the stands.

Mosie indicates that the players involved are ‘women of strong character’ who are involved because it “allows for an alter ego to develop and a way to express themselves in an alternate way.”

Active now in the Charlottetown and Summerside areas, the league hopes to eventually be able to expand to King’s County.

“I put on my derby shirt and I walk differently…even around the grocery store,” jokes Mosie.

Interested individuals should plan to attend the upcoming Learn to Skate Programs and can check out for more details.

Artistic Director

Catherine O’Brien lands job at Harbourfront Theatre

by Peggy Miles

Catherine O’BrienAlthough the new year has yet to be ushered in, the offices at the Harbourfront Theatre are busy preparing, planning and plotting for their 2013 summer season. Assisting with that effort is well known Island stage luminary Catherine O’Brien who will fill the role of Artistic Director for the theatre’s summer programming.

O’Brien is accompanied by a wealth of experience in the world of theatre. An accomplished performer and native of Deep River, Ontario, she received her initial training in Musical Theatre at Sheridan College in Oakville. Since then she has performed in theatres across Canada.

Many will recognize O’Brien for her various acting roles as part of The Charlottetown Festival at the Confederation Centre of the Arts. She is also the Artistic Producer of the Young At Heart Musical Theatre for Seniors, a company dedicated to bringing original Canadian musicals to seniors across PEI.

Her affiliation with the Harbourfront will shift her focus to behind the scenes and follows up a successful summer season directing Nunsense at the five hundred and twenty seat theatre. The momentum of the show has initiated a desire for the theatre’s board and management to pursue the role of producing summer performances. O’Brien’s talents will lend to that pursuit.

She plans to build on this past season’s accomplishments, but at the same time will take baby steps leading into her new role. She will have a hand in choosing what will appear on stage, casting, directing and other theatre management tasks such as promotion.

O’Brien will work closely with General Manager Kieran Keller to support and facilitate the theatre’s summer initiatives. She praises the theatre’s operations team and is looking forward to benefitting from the experience and skills of other staff members.

“I never thought of myself as the leadership type, but I kept finding myself in those roles” says O’Brien. She expresses that as a leader it is important to gain support and trust. And when she feels strongly about something, “I follow through.”

O’Brien surmises that she may miss her regular onstage appearances, however the collaborative process of leading a team through an artistic process evokes a feeling of mutual pride and accomplishment.

Her desire is that the Harbourfront remain a community space that is reflective of the area’s people. She looks forward to developing relationships with local community groups and reaching out to businesses to build partnerships that will benefit all.

O’Brien knows it can be a challenge producing viable entertainment options for the general public, but she’s looking forward to facilitating memorable experiences for Harbourfront Theatre audiences who will want to come back for more. Stay tuned for further announcements about the 2013 summer season at the Harbourfront.

Filmworks Summerside

Summerside Scene
by Peggy Miles

Filmworks Summerside organizing committee members (l–r): Kenny Driscoll, Jean MacKay, Charmaine Comeau, Karen Hatcher, Greg WeeksIndependent cinema is coming to Summerside. A group of local film enthusiasts have formed a collective that will bring Canadian and international films to Summerside’s big screen. The volunteers are liaising with Film Circuit, an outreach division of TIFF (the Toronto International Film Festival). The division interacts with community groups, assisting them in showcasing flicks that wouldn’t normally be available in smaller markets. Film Circuit works with 160 Canadian communities, helping to build audiences for independent cinema across the country.

The concept for the Summerside film series quickly came together, beginning as a conversation between retired teacher-librarian Charmaine Comeau and local entrepreneur Greg Weeks. The pair articulated their desire to bring new opportunities to film fans in the area and they swiftly formed a committee of individuals with the skills and passion to contribute to the idea. The group is also supported by Culture Summerside.

“We want to connect people through film, creating a cultural and social experience,” says Comeau. She expresses that similar to a book club, a film can be used to spark discussion. Comeau hopes that people will gather for informal dialogue over coffee after each motion picture.

Filmworks Summerside credits the TIFF Film Circuit with bestowing the resources that have enabled the local group to get the project off the ground. With this national leverage Filmworks Summerside has access to a variety of limited-release movies, films that have recently debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival.

The local organization has partnered with Empire Theatres in Summerside and that’s where their first film will be hosted on November 14 at 6:30 pm. Appearing on screen: The Intouchables, winner of seven international awards. A French film with English subtitles, it is based on a true story of an unlikely friendship between a wealthy Parisian man who has become a quadriplegic, and an unrefined young offender who becomes his live-in caregiver.

The series will continue with screenings on the second Wednesday of each month from January through May.

Tickets are available at a number of community outlets including the College of Piping, Eptek Art & Culture Centre, Lefurgey Cultural Centre/MacNaught History Centre or Samuel’s Coffee House. Sales are cash only and it is recommended that patrons buy tickets in advance, as large audiences are anticipated. Tickets are $8 per person in advance or $10 at the door. The group is also selling season Visit their Facebook page at Filmworks Summerside or at

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