This is my story: Songs of the City

Still of Peter Cullen one of the organizers of the 'Songs of the City' events made in collaborations with United Way Central New Brunswick. (Submitted: Andrew Kelly)

The Playhouse showcased Songs of the City, an event that blends storytelling and music.

On Jan.17, BMO Private Wealth and United Way of Central NB (UWCNB) presented Songs of the City at the Playhouse, an event where speakers and songwriters whose lives have been impacted by United Way perform.

“I think, everybody has a story. So it’s really important that these folks get the opportunity to share their stories,” said director of communication and marketing, Kate Butler.

For more than 60 years, United Way has raised funds through campaigns to address critical needs throughout central New Brunswick. Through charities, non-profit partnerships and individuals, United Way looks to create a long-lasting meaningful change.

Butler said Songs of the City originated in Toronto and it was brought to Fredericton by United Way of Central NB executive director, Jeff Richardson, who adapted it for the city.

They started working on this project in September, when they reached out to over 30 funded agencies in the Fredericton area and found people in the community who were interested in telling their stories.

Butler said some of the participants had been hesitant to tell their stories because “it’s very vulnerable.”

“You’re kind of getting up on stage and telling folks your story,” she said. “So that’s been a little difficult, but we’ve worked through it and met with them several times. We talked through their stories so well.”

She said after finding the storytellers, they reached out to some musicians in the city and with their help it was possible to get a shorter and musical version of the person’s story.

Still of Dylan Ward vocalist and lead guitarist for the band ‘Marian’ who performed at the Songs of the City of 2023. (Submitted: Andrew Kelly)

Different agencies were highlighted as part of the event, such as the Fredericton Public Library and the Riverstone Recovery Centre, which had a big impact on the participants.

“It pairs individuals from Riverstone Recovery, who have recently overcome addiction, and sort of gives them access to low-barrier employment at the library,” said Butler.

The program provides a source of income and an opportunity to gain employment skills and experiences that will stay with them throughout their recovery journey.

”So it helps them to get back on their feet again, working a couple hours a week and the library is a very safe space,” she said.

Butler said with Songs of the City they hope to give an understanding of United Way’s work and reduce this stigma.

“We hope that people in our community get a face and a name to kind of reduce the stigma,” said Butler. “We’re also highlighting New Brunswick and looking forward to reducing the stigma on folks that are getting better recovery or who have been living ground center, and now moving into our neighbours community.”