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Some­time in the 1990s (no one remem­bers exact­ly when), the Indige­nous Writ­ers Col­lec­tive held a pub­lic read­ing, an event called Red City which fea­tured many of the most promi­nent Indige­nous writ­ers in Win­nipeg at the time. Among those who pre­sent­ed on that his­toric evening was the poet Dun­can Mer­cre­di. And now, more than two decades lat­er and as Winnipeg’s Poet Lau­re­ate, Mer­cre­di is spear­head­ing the next iter­a­tion of this momen­tous occa­sion, The City is Still Red.

When Mer­cre­di was named Poet Lau­re­ate in March 2020, one of the things he want­ed to accom­plish was to reignite the Indige­nous Writ­ers Col­lec­tive, which hadn’t gath­ered since 2014. Mer­cre­di saw his appoint­ment as a per­fect avenue to reassem­ble and expand the group. 

And then a week after his appoint­ment, Man­i­to­ba reg­is­tered its first case of Covid-19 and pub­lic gath­er­ings dis­ap­peared. But the pan­dem­ic didn’t stop Mer­cre­di; he has been writ­ing tire­less­ly for the past 21 months as well as giv­ing talks and vis­it­ing schools via Zoom. Though he has got­ten used to the vir­tu­al tools we’ve all come to rely on, he looks for­ward to the first in-per­son event he has been able to host since becom­ing Poet Laureate.

We have some great writ­ers that came up togeth­er,” says Mer­cre­di, but there is an amaz­ing num­ber of younger peo­ple doing incred­i­ble things and telling their sto­ries in new and excit­ing ways. As much as I want­ed to get the old gang back togeth­er, I want to help pro­vide a place for the next gen­er­a­tion to do their thing. Eliz­a­beth Den­ny sug­gest­ed we pay trib­ute to that event from the 90s while at the same time acknowl­edg­ing the next gen­er­a­tion, so she came up with the name The City is Still Red.”

In addi­tion to Mer­cre­di and Den­ny, the event fea­tures Michael Hutchin­son, Tasha Spillett-Sum­n­er, Sadie-Phoenix Lavoie, Het­xw’ms Gyetxw (Brett Huson), Jor­dan Wheel­er, Trevor Greyeyes, Rosan­na Deer­child and Kather­e­na Ver­mette. It is host­ed by David McLeod.

The City is Still Red takes place on Tues­day, Novem­ber 30 at 7:00pm. Loca­tion is the West End Cul­tur­al Cen­tre, 586 Ellice Avenue. Tick­ets are not required but masks and proof of dou­ble vac­ci­na­tion are manda­to­ry (see the West End’s web­site for venue policy). 

For more infor­ma­tion about this free event, Winnipeg’s Poet Lau­re­ate or the Win­nipeg Arts Coun­cil, please vis­it www​.win​nipegarts​.ca.