Making East Things Part 5

Feb 16

The Cotton Factory is a refurbished industrial space on Sherman street North in Hamilton. The building, occupying an entire city block, was once owned by textile magnate John Patterson. He was one of the notorious ‘Five Johns’ — industrial lords who basically ran this town in the late 1800s. After the textile industry caved in the 1970s, the building stood derelict for many years. Then, in the early 2000s, city funding was secured to convert the structure into a live/work artists’ complex. This focus of creative talent and energy helped facilitate an arts resurgence (and eventual quasi-gentrification) of my town.

The revitalized building was originally called the Imperial Cotton Centre For The Arts. The name was then shortened to The Cotton Factory. I miss the fancy, former moniker. It’s a three story, maze-like complex of subsidized artist studios. There are dancers, printmakers, musicians, crafty and creative folk of all sort occupying this one, elaborate complex.

The room I was invited to perform in is run by the Hamilton Aerialist Group. If Hogwarts had a gymnasium, it would look like this. There is a high, arched ceiling. There are metal beams and odd wood adornments. Fabric, chains, bars and lights hang from the rafters. Once a year they put on a big show. There are people doing flips and twists in the air and on the wide oak floor. The coloured lights, spinning yarn and twisting bodies bewilder. I played two old tunes and was humbled to witness the graceful and death-defying  choreography this group had prepared.

It was a moving experience for me, in part, because during the early 2000s, when the centre was first being established, I nearly rented out a section of this building as a live-work studio. Around this time I met my love, Heather. We moved in together,  I went to teacher’s college and we eventually built our perfect, scrambly family here deep in the maze-like suburbs of Ancaster. I taught, wrote music, toured, and raised two twisty and remarkable children. I continue this essential project to this day.

Being invited to perform at The Cotton Factory was like being welcomed back to an alternate timeline of my life. I brought my kids and my mom. They loved the show. I am privileged to collaborate with friends who have committed their lives, unflinchingly, to refined strangeness. Here at The Cotton Factory, sights, sounds and feels remind me how lucky I am; I can marry my two worlds together. Here the infinite joy and clamour of domesticity is a squirmy and industrious bedfellow to the debauched revelry of wayward creative living.