Aug. 04, 2004 - Issue #459: Folk Fest
Tunes for Tooker
Folk Fest workshop pays tribute to late Edmonton environmental activist
Whether he was chaining himself to a 447-tonne piece of oilsands equipment to protest the environmental impact of oil companies, or locking himself in a vault inside Premier Klein’s Calgary office to draw attention to broken governmental promises about greenhouse gas emissions, Tooker Gomberg always knew how to make a statement. This past March, Gomberg became a martyr for the causes he so passionately fought for, taking his own life after suffering through three years of intense depression thought to have been brought on by the stresses of his activist lifestyle.
This weekend, a memorial workshop focusing on music with politically-charged messages and socially-conscious melodies, will be held at the Edmonton Folk Festival to pay tribute to Alberta’s most infamous environmental advocate and former city councilor. “Tooker was always very fond of music and the Folk Festival,” says Angela Bischoff, Gomberg’s widow and the event organizer. “In fact, we went every year and that’s where we fell in love 17 years ago.”
Music that pressed for social change was a big part of Gomberg and Bischoff’s lives. “Generally,” Bischoff says, “I’m pretty disappointed with musicians not taking more responsibility for shifting the political consciousness in our culture, and this is an opportunity to celebrate those musicians that play more political roles.” The event will be hosted by local musical activist Bill Bourne, and will also feature Susan Crowe, Martyn Joseph and Lynn Miles. The seminar will also include a talk by Bischoff on depression, the dangers of pharmaceutical drugs and the lessons she hopes people will learn from Gomberg’s death. “I think his life was really filled with passion and excitement for issues that are really important,” she says, “but I think to some degree he neglected the more personal attentions for himself and ultimately that lead to his depression.”
However obsessively Gomberg pressed for political change, he did so with an unmatched wit and sense of humour, dressing up like Robin Hood during his 2000 run for mayor of Toronto and dared incumbent Mel Lastman to debate or grabbing headlines when he burned his passport to protest the Canadian embassy’s refusal to champion his cause. Now, four months after his passing, Bischoff hopes Gomberg will leave us with one final message: no matter how good your work is, it’s important to take time for yourself.
“We want to move forward, create change and be spontaneous,” Bischoff says, “but at the same time we need to make space in life for singing, dancing, music and friendships. Tooker didn’t go too far with his activism—he just did it to the exclusion of his own best interests. His life is living proof that change can happen from one person through hard work, and his death reminds us of the need for balance.” V
Tooker Gomberg Memorial
Edmonton Folk Music Festival • Gallagher Park (Stage 6) • Sun, Aug 8 (3pm)
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