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Longtime festival director Carlton Munroe looking forward to Jubilee

Carlton Munroe looks over the signatures of people who signed a drum skin for him after the Big Bash for Carlton in January.
Carlton Munroe looks over the signatures of people who signed a drum skin for him after the Big Bash for Carlton in January.

Used to working 18-hour days and “putting out fires” during Jubilee weekend as executive director, Carlton Munroe’s festival experience will be a bit different this year.

Munroe was diagnosed with glioblastoma, a type of brain cancer, in November.

He had a mass removed from his brain in December, and started six weeks of radiation shortly after more than $53,000 was raised for him and his family during a 12-hour concert on Jan. 14 at Glasgow Square and Wrangler’s Bar and Grill.

He didn’t know what to expect from the Big Bash for Carlton, but didn’t imagine it would reach the size and raise as much money as it did. He calls it “pretty humbling and somewhat embarrassing.”

“I can’t tell you how grateful I am, enough, each day for that.”

Munroe said about 15 people offered to drive him up to Halifax for the radiation treatments, “during the snowiest, stormiest part of the year.”

“I never missed a day. That’s me to a tee. I don’t like missing things.”

He started chemotherapy in April, and had an MRI in May. It showed “a little shade,” which Munroe was told could mean a variety of things.

A second MRI on July 17 showed a recurrence of the cancer, prompting an increase in how often Munroe takes chemo pills – from five days a month to every day for the next six weeks.

He added he’s looking into some other therapy options as well.

Munroe said he’s feeling good 90 per cent of the time, both physically and mentally.

“When you get a little dose of some bad shit happening, you get pretty down. But the love and support I’m getting from everyone, family and everyone beyond family, that’s what pushing me through. … There’s all kinds of cases of people that you can see that are certainly going well beyond expectancy and then some and I’m going to be added to that list. …”

He had “one little seizure” nearly a month ago, as he was heading to his daughter’s ball practice. Munroe said they hadn’t even left the road in Scotsburn where they live when his wife, Taryn, sensed something was coming and went back home.

“It didn’t last a minute. I was coherent before the ambulance came.” Munroe said he wasn’t sure right after the seizure if he was going to be able to drop by Jubilee.

“That was devastating me.”

But he’s feeling good and looking forward to the weekend, naming nearly every performer when asked who he’s most excited to see.

A lot of this year’s Jubilee performers conjure up memories for Munroe, citing his excitement for Pictou County Pop Classics, which was born out of the ideas from Munroe and director Mike Vienneau.

Having Wintersleep on the ticket is particularly exciting for Munroe, noting they headlined the festival during his first year as executive director and it was the “most special part” of that year.

He speaks highly of Matt Andersen, recalling one of his favourite Jubilee memories was when he saw Andersen play with a full band for the first time in 2012.

Munroe took on the executive director position in 2009, and had previously volunteered and hosted through his work at the radio station throughout the festival’s more than 20-year history.

While he’s not organizing it this year, he’s helped answer questions for 2017 chair Michelle MacLean as she takes over many of his duties.

He notes when he’s been working the event, it’s easy to miss “crazy sets” when “something goes awry.” This year he expects to be able to take in more of the show and talk to the musicians.

“It’s going to push me through the rest of this calendar year, I’ll tell you that right now, and then some.”

 

Mounting this year’s Jubilee

 

Every year when Michelle MacLean is asked why she volunteers, she says the most rewarding moment is when she’s standing side stage and the crowd is singing along to the band she helped bring to the Jubilee.

This year will be even more of a reward as MacLean takes on a much larger role as the 2017 chair of the festival.

Over the past few months, she has learned a lot. She’s applied for grants, obtained a liquor licence, asked for road closures, worked with musicians’ management teams and even more tasks than she can remember. Past chair Mike Dunning has helped with the artist contracts and she’s asked Munroe plenty of questions.

It’s her first year in the chair position, and it’s included Munroe’s usual duties as well, all while she also juggles work and tries to find some free time for herself.

“I think I’m doing OK so far,” she says, laughing.

She notes the people on the board of directors are all volunteers, and they’ve all “stepped up immensely.”

She said they deserve applause as much as the artists “because they’re the reason the event even gets to happen this year.”

The New Glasgow Riverfront Jubilee begins Friday and continues until Sunday.  

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