Energy Poverty Campaign Kickoff with Stephen Hero

Category: community 342

The Conservation Council of New Brunswick’s Energy Poverty Campaign kicks off February 24 with an unforgettable evening of music led by multifaceted Saint John musician Matthew Elliott (aka Stephen Hero). 

Matt Carter (with notes from CCNB)

The Conservation Council of New Brunswick launches its Energy Poverty Campaign this month with the special event Switch on Hope at the Carleton Community Centre in Saint John on Saturday February 24.  The campaign aims to spark important conversations about energy poverty by drawing attention to the challenges many New Brunswickers face through the convergence of rising energy costs and astronomical rent prices. When food is factored into the equation, the number of individuals and families in the province simply working to live is at an all-time high. 

In an admirable move and one that will no doubt help the campaign’s message reach a wider audience, the Conservation Council teamed up with Matthew Elliott, a Saint John musician known for his social justice activism, to help get the message out.

Last summer Elliott led a pair of youth-centred summer camps – one at the Carleton Community Centre (CCC) and the other at the Interaction School of Performing Arts. During both camps, Elliott took students on a creative journey to write original songs exploring themes of energy poverty and climate change. The work of these young songwriters will be featured as part of the kickoff event. 

“This residency with CCNB was the first artist residency I’ve done and it was a really amazing experience,” said Elliott. “I’ve worked with kids before doing cooking classes but I’ve never actually led a group of kids through the process of making music. I got to introduce them all to recording in a professional studio for the first time. Many of them had never created music before, so that was extremely rewarding for me. 

“I really believe that as you age in a music and arts scene it becomes more and more your role to facilitate the participation of young people in the scene, to be welcoming and inclusive, and to try your best to work against anyone trying to gatekeep. It’s been so amazing over the years to see our little scene grow and become better and I think the more we can do to get young people involved in a safe way the better the scene will be.” 

As the unofficial poet laureate of blue collar, working class Saint Johners, Elliott, who performs as the rapper Stephen Hero, roots rocker David R. Elliott, and as himself in the recently reformed Saint John punk rock trio Crying Shames, frequently sings about his own experience living in New Brunswick while balanced precariously on the poverty line. 

“As a person who has lived in poverty essentially my whole life, energy poverty is very close to me,” he said. “And in this moment as we continue to get gouged mercilessly by corporations and as stupid people continue to get tricked into fearing queer people or whatever it is they’re being told to be afraid of next, it feels good to make art with a good intent and a community conscience. 

“People are being pushed further into poverty every day and it’s not by accident,” said Elliott. “Anything I can do to help bring people together and overcome this capitalist hellscape, I’m very happy to do. It’s easy to feel hopeless and fall into despair, but going out and trying whatever ways I can to effect change and support my community definitely helps assuage those feelings. I’m excited about the event on the 24th as we’ll get to see the work the kids created and help move the conversation forward about what we can do to help New Brunswickers deal with the current situation.”

The public is invited to attend the kickoff party and learn about Elliott’s process of creating music through these recent programs. Best of all, many of the students involved will be on hand to perform their songs. 

Energy Poverty Campaign Kickoff | February 24 | Carleton Community Centre | Saint John | 6 p.m. | View Event

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