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  • Endre Farkas

Cité memoire/The forgotten

Last night I had the honour of being a participant-guest at the launch/gala of Cité Memoire at the Science Centre in Old Montreal. Cité Memoire is a project to celebrate Montreal’s 375th birthday. To get the full details of this huge project go to

When I was invited to participate, I asked if I would be paid. I was told that there were no funds for the project. I told them that I believed in artists getting paid for their labour. They explained that the group curating the poetry side of it were volunteers. Because of this, I agreed to do the same.

I received my invitation. It was for one. When I asked – since I wasn’t getting paid – if I could invite a guest, I was told that it was not possible because of the tight budget. So off I went, expecting bad wine in plastic cups and Kraft cheese cubes with toothpicks.

Surprise, surprise.

Outside the centre, a double decker bus decorated with the Cité Memoire logo welcomed us. Hollywood premiere searchlights lit up the entrance, a red carpet led to the registration desk, tons of hostesses in artsie-black directed guest traffic, très chic event planners with blue tooth ear pieces and clipboards rushed about in last minute frenzy, an honour guard of waiters and waitresses with trays of wine in real wine glasses lined both sides of the red carpet and a photographer and a photo spot for pictures of us, “vedettes”, awaited us at the end of the carpet.

The right kind of guests, aside from the participating artists, men with man-buns, immaculately trimmed full beards, earplugs, in tight jackets, slim jeans, colourful deck running shoes, women with the usual panache of Montreal fashionistas, une-bec, deux-bec Québec air-kissing, business elite in expensive suits standing around awkwardly, waiters, waitresses, all the currently unemployed actors in the city (presumptive of me, some might have been dancers) circulating with trays of micro but delicious hors d'oeuvres and loud phatic buzz filled the vast foyer of the Science Centre.

Saw his honour Mayor Denis Coderre glad-handing and posing for selfies. Took a picture of him but forgot to do a selfie with him.

Speeches by the biggies Michel Lemieux, Victor Pilon and Michel Marc Bouchard, ministers, mayors and moguls of business who contributed to the success of this “UNIQUE” world class project involving the latest high tech. Eight hundred people over a period of 4 years at I don’t know what cost were involved in getting it done.

I presume that everybody, from the bigwig organizers to the waitresses, were paid— and rightfully so.

So here is my question and beef: Why wasn’t I, who worked as hard to produce the poem that was used in this project to celebrate our city’s world classness, paid?

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