Today marks the fundraising and subscription launch for the West End Phoenix, a new monthly broadsheet community newspaper for Toronto’s West End. Dreamed up by musician (Rheostatics), writer and soon-to-be-publisher Dave Bidini, the West End Phoenix will be a home-delivered newspaper devoted to telling the stories of a diverse, compelling and quickly evolving catchment, from the Junction Triangle to Parkdale, Christie Pits to Baby Point.
Inspired by a summer working at the Yellowknifer, a vital smalltown paper in the Northwest Territories, Bidini imagined the West End Phoenix – small but mighty, as well as non-profit, ad-free and patron supported – as a way to reflect his own community and to provide a place for the journalists, artists and storytellers who live there to work there, too. Contributors will reflect the broadest range in both experience – from legendary voices to young writers – and perspectives.
Readers of the West End Phoenix will find paper artist Kalpna Patel, writer Michael Healey, journalist Eman Bare, illustrator Jeff Lemire, musician Odario Williams (Grand Analog), photographer Barbara Davidson and novelist Claudia Dey, who, among others, will be drawn mainly from West End neighbourhoods, their views illuminating the catchment and transforming the idea of a community newspaper.
The author of 12 books and the only Canadian to be nominated for a Genie, Gemini and Juno as well as to appear on CBC’s Canada Reads, Bidini is joined by Deputy Editor Melanie Morassutti and Senior Editor Susan Grimbly (both formerly of the Globe and Mail). The West End Phoenix has been offered a residency in the Gladstone Hotel to prepare the first issue, to be published in October 2017, supported by a local paid subscription base and three levels of patronage, accessible at westendphoenix.com. They have an emerging partnership with the Toronto District School Board that will help engage young voices in the community with the intention of publishing them on the broadsheet.
Guided by a board and advisory council that includes The Grid founder Laas Turnbull, writer Margaret Atwood, media consultant Ali Rahnema, J-Source managing editor H.G. Watson, filmmakers Nicholas de Pencier and Jennifer Baichwal, and Women’s March organizer Bianca Spence, the West End Phoenix arrives at a challenging time for print media, but, in the words of publisher Bidini, “I believe that our diverse and wild neighbourhood has the appetite for long-form writing, rich photography and beautiful newsprint, and for the Pet of the Month and some fine comics at the back of the paper, too. We hope the West End Phoenix will become a living document of a time and place, and the voices of that place.”