Ridge is a visceral music storytelling production centred around the Battle of Vimy Ridge. It explores difficult yet necessary questions about how and why we grieve while examining misconceptions and varying perspectives around the infamous battle.
Ridge draws parallels to other formative events in our country’s past. Brendan McLeod & The Fugitives bring history to life through vivid storytelling, verbatim theatre and live music.
This Remembrance Day, Ridge is performing live at Key City theatre in Cranbook. The performance allows viewers to consider alternative viewpoints to war and the sacrifices of those who didn’t have the freedom to participate in battles.
Many historians and writers say the victory at Vimy Ridge in April 1917 helped define, shape, and unite a nation. For Canada, the battle is described as one that gave birth to our country. It was the first time all four divisions of the Canadian Corps fought together and showed strength, allowing us to emerge from under the shadow of Britain and feel greatness.
“Through the playing of trench songs written by soldiers, through the narrative and monologues, through historical readings by the band, we experience the emotion of battle,” says McLeod. “But to say that one battle defined a nation may not be accurate. It is more nuanced than that.”
McLeod explores why the battle of Vimy Ridge and the loss of more than 10,000 Canadian soldiers is mischaracterized. Ridge uncovers how the battle has been misinterpreted for more than 100 years, undervaluing large segments of our Canadian population.
Although McLeod believes the battle played a significant role in shaping our collective identity, he identifies why there is a need to re-examine the interpretation of the battle. Ridge exposes the missing segments of our population that were not included in that collective identity but who fought bravely in the battle – such as our indigenous populations who were regulated to second-class citizens when they returned from war.
McLeod is an award-winning writer, theatre artist, and musician. He’s the author of a novel, a poetry collection, five theatre shows, and is the founder of The Fugitives, a Canadian Folk music group. A former Canadian SLAM poetry champ, he was the Poet of Honour at the 2012 Canadian Festival of Spoken Word.
The Fugitives has been nominated for a JUNO and multiple Canadian Folk Music Awards and won Best Folk Album 0f 2019 from the German Music Critic’s Association. The First World War soldier songs were recognized with the 2022 JUNO nomination for Best Traditional Roots Album.
“Through inventive musical interpretations of First World War soldiers’ songs, we look at the historical inaccuracies of the war and the battle,” says McLeod. “During the First World War, there were 20,000 soldiers under the age of 18. We bring these lives to our audience with passion.”
Ridge is a vivid experience that examines our connection to the past and passionately argues against the exploitation of young lives.
”Ridge is an opportunity to put the victory back in the hands of those who fought,” says McLeod. “Ridge brings to life the detail of those lives and provides a different way to remember.”
For more information on Brendan McLeod and the fugitives, visit: brendanmcleod.ca/ridge