Radio Show Features Furry and Feathered Friends

CFRU hosts discuss birds, bees and bears

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Doris Leung and Steve Mason

Doris Leung used to feel that there might be some conflict between her interest in science – she’s a Phase 2 OVC student – and her interest in art. But she’s discovered a way to combine the two.

“Now I see that they overlap,” she says.

Leung celebrates that concept in a weekly radio show called Hands and Tails, produced with Steve Mason, on CFRU Fridays from 10 to 11 a.m. “The show is about the interactions between people and animals in the broadest sense. We link art and science and animal welfare,” she explains. There’s also a blog that features sound clips from the show and photographs of some of the guests at http://handsandtails.blogspot.ca/.

As tech operations coordinator at CFRU, Mason is not usually behind the microphone. His is one of the few paid positions at CFRU; much of the work done at the U of G campus radio station is carried out by volunteers. But he was intrigued by Leung’s idea when she proposed it. “It had been quite a while since I’d done a show, and this sounded very cool,” says Mason. He’d previously worked as a commercial photographer and has an abiding interest in the inspiration and work of artists of all kinds.

“Doris has more animal background, but I have a lot of contacts in the art world,” he says.

For both of them, an important goal is to include voices on the show that wouldn’t be heard on more traditional media. Shows are a mix of prerecorded segments and live discussions. The topics vary from week to week: “We usually pick an animal and just go from there,” says Mason.

Leung had no background in radio when she started volunteering at CFRU last year. “At first I was just organizing the music library,” she says. “When I decided to do a show, it felt overwhelming at first, but the training here is excellent. The experience of doing these interviews has definitely given me more confidence in talking to people. And it’s fun! On the other hand, it is hard to balance planning and doing the show with school and looking after my two dogs.”

Fortunately, producing the show is getting easier as the hosts gain experience. The first took about seven hours of work, Leung recalls, but recent episodes have required only two or three hours to put together. “We generally know a couple of weeks ahead of time what topic we’ll be doing,” says Leung. That gives them enough time to find people to interview.

What’s the show about? “Expect the unexpected” could be the show’s subtitle. The first episode was about bears, and featured an interview with a Métis artist who used images of bears in her artwork and also hunted bears. Others interviewed for that show included a honeybee farmer who was having problems with bears destroying the hives on his farm, and Aidan Ware, co-ordinator of education and development at the Macdonald Stewart Art Centre (MSAC), who talked about the familiar “begging bear” on Gordon Street in front of the centre. The bear sculpture was accidentally knocked down last year, but the MSAC repaired it and returned it to its place with a more solid base.

Another recent show on pigs offered interviews with Anita Krajnc and Gabriel de Montigny, who started Toronto Pig Save (www.torontopigsave.org) to protest the transportation and slaughter of pigs in a Toronto facility. They stand vigil outside the slaughterhouse several times a week, hoping to raise awareness. Krajnc also talked about the artwork of Sue Coe, another animal activist, (www.graphicwitness.org) and how art about animals can influence people’s perceptions.

For yet another episode, Mason interviewed people from the Guelph Humane Society about the two sides to their work: rescuing animals from abusive or neglectful situations, and finding new homes for pets in need. The show also included a veterinarian in Ottawa who provides free health care for street youth with companion animals.

“While each show is quite different, you can see how to take a theme and run with it,” says Leung. “Usually we try to have one more serious interview plus some that are more casual and relaxed.”

They plan to continue the show through the summer months, with Leung commuting from Toronto. “We have lots of ideas for future shows,” she adds. “You talk to people, and you find that everyone has a story to tell.”