Festival Preview: Finding alternatives to the boob tube

By Peter Hemminger

It’s happened to the best of us. You wake up bright and early, determined to make the most out of your day, but what to do? You’ve been meaning to work out more often, so perhaps a trip to the gym is in order. Then again, you’ve also got a novel to finish, and the weather’s nice enough so a day trip to Banff seems like a damn good idea.

The decision weighs heavily on your mind, so you flip on the TV while mulling things over. Next thing you know it’s 3 a.m. and you’ve accomplished nothing. You’re watching infomercials about hand-held, acne-curing blenders and your hand is smeared with grease from snack foods made of a substance known only as nu-cheez.

There is a better way. On Sat., Aug. 6, Riley Park will host Channel Freedom, a free, all day festival devoted to “Life Outside the Box.” From jugglers and magicians to poetry, live music and guest speakers, Channel Freedom is determined to open people’s eyes to the hazards of excessive television.

“A lot of people suggest that it’s the content itself that’s the unhealthy part,” says festival organizer Jordan Dack. “That may well be, but that’s not why we put this festival on. It’s not about what’s on TV, it’s about what you could be doing instead of watching TV, and the time it takes up. It’s not a bad thing, but it’s just one thing, and a lot of things aren’t promoted as much as television, so children feel their only choice after school is to come down and sit themselves in front of a TV.”

Jordan and his brother Mikkel have spent the last four months organizing the festival, recruiting sponsors and performers and trying to educate people about the world around them. In the course of those four months, each has cut back on their TV watching. Jordan even took the bold move of cutting off his cable, but they want to make it clear the problem isn’t with television itself. In moderation, there’s nothing wrong with a little mindless entertainment.

“We don’t dislike it, we’re not anti-TV. We don’t curse it and take bats to it or anything,” laughs Mikkel. “But it is an addiction, and we’re victims of it too. We’re not saying that we’ve conquered this and now we want to show you how to live. We just want people to go through it with us, help find alternatives with us.”

So put down the nu-cheeez, throw out the remote, and try Channel Freedom instead. The highly interactive festival is bound to open up doors you didn’t know existed. Who knows, in the course of the day, you may discover a talent you didn’t even know you had.

“There was a shift at some point where the pursuit of technology and advancement went from making things easier to filling up time and entertainment,” Jordan explains. “Before that shift, when things were just making life easier, people’s days started to open up a bit more so they filled it with art and creativity. And all of a sudden they invented something that filled time, and it’s kind of put a stop to that. The next Beethoven could be out there right now, and they wouldn’t even know it because they haven’t had the chance.”

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