Eaglesmith’s one-man war to bring back rural life

Fred Eaglesmith


He’s toured Canada and the United States. He’s been on Letterman. But on Saturday, Fred Eaglesmith will pull up a stool in the middle of the Old Plympton Township Hall and put on a concert for about 60 people.

It may seem unusual for a musician to pick such a small, out of the way venue – a hall that usually hosts wedding showers and the occasional family get together. But for Eaglesmith playing the Old Plympton Township Hall is not just about music; it’s about the feeling of community which has been lost as government policies drive people from their rural roots.

Eaglesmith drove by the hall one day, wrote down the number to contact and called. “We didn’t see the inside, we just saw the outside and said that’s a beautiful place to play,” Eaglesmith told The Independent.

Eaglesmith, who recently did a “Legion of Legions” tour, says he wants to bring life back to small communities. “I  really believe when they brought regional government to Ontario we lost our communities,” he says. The musician and his wife, Tif Ginn, live in Waterford which is part of the Regional Government of Norfolk.

“It is an inhumane thing they’ve done when they brought regional government to Ontario… When we had little townships people had to stick together to fight for their little municipalities…it was community.”

Eaglesmith says he often plays community halls which are on the verge of being shut down. “All these halls should have dances in them on Saturday night and cards in them on Monday morning.

“When I was a little kid, we went to the hall,” he says adding in most Texas towns, community halls are filled with music each Saturday night. “These halls are treasured.”

Eaglesmith says the caretakers of the building were happy he wanted to rent the hall. And he’s excited to be there. “We also got a call from the National Arts Centre to play – we’re more excited about Plympton.”

That’s not to say there won’t be challenges.

Over the years, there have been renovations to the hall. “The bathroom is on the stage, so we’ll have to play on the floor of the hall. We might not even use a sound system.”

Eaglesmith doesn’t mind. “I’ve played a few small halls and theses are the best shows where the halls are so little.”

And while the joint will be jumping, Eaglesmith says he hopes that one night of music leaves a lasting impression on the community. “It’s not just about me coming to their hall…I want them to think ‘I forgot about this feeling (of community)…every little bit helps.”

And he hopes it makes people consider using the small hall in their hometown instead of renting something in an urban area. “Why have a wedding and take it to Sarnia or London when they could have it in their backyard.”

That he says will help rebuild rural communities which are hurting as people move to large urban centres.

“This is my little one man war to say ‘Hey! There is community.’”

Tickets for the Saturday night concert are available at The Cheeky Monkey in Sarnia