New radio program highlights history of the Highlands
By Angelica Ingram
Joshua Skinner spent the summer combining some his favourite hobbies, including radio, history and morning walks in Haliburton.
A Trent University student, Skinner, 23, was fortunate to land a youth summer contract position at Canoe FM, where he put together a radio program that examines the history of Haliburton County.
The student, who is studying politics, heard about the opportunity through his grandparents, John and Judy, who live in Haliburton year-round.
The contract position was made possible through a CFRC grant applied for by station manager Roxanne Casey, who had this idea for a radio series about history, said Skinner.
“The job description was somebody who is able to record 15 to 20 interviews of people in the town,” he said. “I sort of took that and added my own interpretation of it, of trying to conceptualize the history of the settlement of this region through a series of interviews.”
Titled My lands are the Highlands, thought up by Skinner, the show features 20 30-minute episodes that star some of Haliburton’s biggest history buffs, including Steve Hill and Kate Butler of the Haliburton Highlands Museum, Keith Hodgson, Hilda Clark, Leopoldina Dobrzensky and more.
At the station since the first week of June, Skinner has an interest in radio and does some broadcast work at Trent.
“When I saw this job opportunity it was very similar to what I had been doing for the prior eight months, so I decided to apply those skills here,” he said. “It’s been really a wonderful process for me.”
When conceptualizing the show, Skinner wanted to stay away from a chronological look at Haliburton’s history and instead focus on prevailing themes.
The show includes a variety of topics, including education, health care, logging, wildlife, settlement, etc. One episode talks about local newspapers, with emphasis on the Haliburton County Echo.
“I think this is a better way to do history,” he said. “You can look at how the show goes and you can see that Haliburton started off as this agrarian settlement but as more and more services were added, as time progressed, we got to this point where objectively we’re a cottage community. We’re a tourist destination.”
Throughout the show Skinner aims to show the evolution of the area and its changing landscape. He credits the interview subjects as what made the project a success overall.
“The show’s been fantastic to work on. There’s so many people with so many different narratives,” he said. “There’s such a wealth of information in this town that’s very much there in a physical format and in the minds of people but I wanted to take that history and apply it into a different medium.”
Skinner has enjoyed his time at Canoe FM tremendously and learned so much from its staff and volunteers.
“It’s been fantastic. I can’t speak enough about what a great mentor Roxanne Casey and Ron Murphy have been to me, just in showing me how you go about working in a radio station, because this is something I would like to do in the future.”
Looking back, Skinner’s fondest memory of his summer spent in Haliburton is getting to know the community through the recording of the show.
“There’s so many different voices and different narratives that have been represented through the recording of this,” he said. “I think there’s so many different things that we can learn from those views and learning from the past ... it’s a beautiful, diverse landscape. There’s so much to appreciate here. The people of this community really reflect that.”
My lands are the Highlands will premiere on Canoe FM on Monday, Oct. 5 at 7 p.m., with an encore broadcast every Thursday morning at 11 a.m.
The episodes will also be archived on Canoe FM’s website.