NOW Magazine - Anniversary special - - News - MICHAEL HOL­LETT

Queen West was darker then. I don't mean in at­ti­tude, just fewer colours. When I started pa­trolling the over­sized and un­der­val­ued boule­vard for NOW Mag­a­zine in 1981, there was no il­lu­mi­na­tion from fran­chise stores to guide the gullible. It was a gritty street that smelled like the fu­ture – and yes­ter­day’s break­fast.

Cul­ture and ideas bled from the claus­tro­pho­bic store­fronts af­ter sun­down like a yel­low bruise spread­ing across snow-white skin. Peo­ple felt so far off the radar that they had no rea­son to com­pro­mise, be­cause they had no chance of slip­ping in­side the main­stream. Daily news­pa­pers didn’t know they ex­isted, and free of any ex­pec­ta­tions for suc­cess, true in­ven­tion reigned.

To­day, build­ings are again shut­tered along Queen West, but now it’s be­cause land­lords are play­ing a wait­ing game, at­tempt­ing to cash in on the bo­hemia that ar­rived al­most 25 years ago. Strug­gling artists have moved far­ther west – and east, too – even far­ther afield, free of lat­i­tu­di­nal log­a­rithms. But the in­ven­tion hasn’t dis­si­pated.

I've watched Toronto re­coil at vi­sions of it­self only to emerge stronger each time. When Mike Har­ris’s Tory tax-cut­ting ter­ror­ists in­vented the ma­lig­nant megac­ity, I saw a com­mu­nity come to­gether to de­clare it­self – even if the vote wasn’t counted.

A new cit­i­zens’ move­ment was born – yet again – and is con­stantly re-en­er­gized by the very at­tacks meant to de­feat it. Peo­ple power pro­pelled David Miller, a mayor that Bay Street didn’t breed, into City Hall’s top seat, a spot usu­ally re­served for back­room bud­dies.

In pol­i­tics and art, Toronto is still be­ing fed by new ideas of­ten birthed in the dark­est mo­ments, and the in­ven­tion and in­de­pen­dence of Canada’s most im­por­tant city re­fuses to be con- tained or cor­ralled. NOW Mag­a­zine re­mains part of this in­de­pen­dent spirit, hand­made mass me­dia with more read­ers than even our most op­ti­mistic dreams would have promised when Alice Klein and I started this pa­per 25 years ago.

Whether it’s mu­si­cians who man­age to get their songs out through the In­ter­net when con­ser­va­tive ma­jor la­bels tell them their mu­sic doesn’t mat­ter, per­form­ers who lit­er­ally build their own stages when main­stream venues are closed to them or com­mu­nity ac­tivists who turn into politi­cians be­cause the guys who al­ready have the job don’t speak for them, we are there with you.

We’re not op­er­at­ing from di­rec­tives from above. No memos from ma­hogany-pan­elled board­rooms will tell us what to cover. No or­der to re­port on a trend long af­ter it has al­ready be­come tired.

The peo­ple who own and cre­ate NOW walk and live th­ese streets with

you. Your cre­ativ­ity has given us so much to re­port, and your com­mit­ted read­er­ship has cre­ated an in­de­pen­dent mag­a­zine not be­holden to any one group of ad­ver­tis­ers or in­ter­est groups. And we’re not vul­ner­a­ble to the regular on­slaughts launched by the coun­try’s mega-me­dia corps. Na­tion­wide, this coun­try’s al­ter­na­tive week­lies, from Van­cou­ver to Hal­i­fax, are al­most all indie-op­er­ated, a hand­ful of fresh voices in the face of ho­mog­e­nized dis­course.

We’re proud to be part of the so­lu­tion and hon­oured to be part of your lives. We’ll see you on the streets, in the clubs and on the move. And we’ll see you again next Thurs­day – and ev­ery Thurs­day for years to come, in print and on­line.

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