Do Me A Solid: Hope Rising!

On Wednesday, November 7, the second annual Hope Rising! benefit concert took place at Roy Thomson Hall in Toronto. Annie Lennox, Sarah McLachlan and Angélique Kidjo performed (more on them in a bit!) to the sold-out crowd. The evening raised funds and awareness for the Stephen Lewis Foundation (SLF), an incredible organization that provides resources and support directly to grassroots organizations in 15 countries most affected by the HIV/AIDS pandemic in Africa. 






The night kicked off with a small cocktail reception, where guests toasted Stephen Lewis on the occasion of his 75th birthday. While Lewis’ birthday isn’t until Sunday, Hope Rising! was the perfect chance to celebrate this remarkable man’s milestone birthday. Raising their glass to Lewis was his family, including daughter Ilana Landsberg-Lewis (executive director of the SLF), and friends such as Thandie Newton, Olivia Chow, Matt Galloway and Jeanne Beker. 


Photo: Kristina Laukkanen 

Jian Ghomeshi did a stellar job of hosting Hope Rising! He started off the night by addressing the big W that Barack Obama had won the night before and added levity to the evening. Plus, as one audience member heckled him about, he looked “real good” in a suit!


Annie Lennox kicked off the night by performing some of her classic tunes, including No More I Love You’s, Here Comes the Rain Again and There Must Be An Angel. Despite suffering from a cold, Lennox delivered a knock-out performance. She played a piano during her set and sipped tea in between songs. 


Photo: Cameron MacLennan

Sarah McLachlan also played her own music during her set – she was seated at a grand piano in the centre of the stage. During one of her songs, she was accompanied by three dancers from the Alberta Ballet (with whom McLachlan is collaborating with on a new original ballet). She ended with a stellar performance of her hit song, Angel. 


Photo: Kristina Laukkanen

Of all the evening’s performers, Angélique Kidjo was likely the least well-known to the audience, but no one at Roy Thomson Hall that night will ever forget her after her high-energy performance. A close friend of Stephen Lewis and the SLF, Kidjo, her band and her back-up singers had everyone in the room up on their feet dancing and singing along. Audiences couldn’t help but feel energized and positive after seeing her on-stage. 


Photo: Kristina Laukkanen

One of the highlights of the evening was definitely when Annie, Sarah and Angélique came together on stage to sing a gorgeous version of ‘Sweet Dreams’, the Eurythmics hit song from 1983. Then, as a surprise end to the evening, the entire group of performers (including d’bi young, African grandmothers and daughters and dancers from the Alberta Ballet) gathered to sing Happy Birthday to Stephen Lewis. It was a beautiful ending to an evening of positivity, hope and celebration.


Photo: Kristina Laukkanen

CIBC was the presenting sponsor and pledged a donation of $1 million to the SLF. In addition, over $250,000 was raised by Hope Rising! and we were humbled and honoured to be part of this very special night. 





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Media, Darling: Doug O’Neill

Doug O’Neill is the executive editor of Canadian Living magazine,
where he also produces the weekly Travel Talk blog.  Doug’s career in
magazines has taken him to a slew of Canadian titles including Toronto Life, TV
GUIDE
, Homemakers, and he’s also freelanced for a variety of Canadian and
American magazines. He most recently taught “Service Journalism” in
the Magazine Publishing Program at Ryerson University.




Did
you always want to be in the media? If not, what other careers were on the
horizon?
I‘ve
always been smitten with words. Storytelling was part of my Gaelic heritage.
But for some reason, I took a detour and studied environmental science at
university. Two semesters spent mucking about swamps was all I needed and I
transferred to the English department. After graduation I made a bee-line for
the magazine world.
Where would you like to be five years from now?
I’d like to be in a position that
enables me to work overseas for chunks of the year. I spent seven months in
Paris in the mid-1990s and it was a daily brain-twister – and a lot of fun. A
project (long-term or short-term) that would take me to Asia would turn my
crank.
Any advice for people getting started in
your industry?
Follow your gut. If you have a
quirky interest, make time for it. Those signature passions are what define you. No job is 100% perfect – but make sure one part of your job is a
perfect fit for you. And play with technology, even if you’re technophobic.
New gadgetry will unleash more creativity.
What are your favourite media outlets, not including
your own? 
Podcasts: Ted Talks, CBC’s “Definitely Not the Opera” and “The Amateur Traveler.” Print magazines (in no
particular order):  Afar (travel), Vanity Fair, Geez (new age, alternative
spirituality), GourmetNational Geographic, Globe
and Mail
Focus section (and anything penned by Elizabeth Renzetti), Food &
Drink
(for the pretty pictures), Enroute and the Springwater News (the
tiny community weekly that covers my home town – my aunt buys me a subscription
each year). Digital – where do I begin? Too many to mention but a
few off the top include Tyee, Spacing,  Macleans.ca (I still can’t read
the print version but love what they’re doing digitally), Toque & Canoe,
and the social media/community sections of CBC.ca (their news packaging has
been dull of late, but some great bloggers right now!).
Best interview you’ve ever had?
Irish
singer Sinead O’Connor.  She swore, then I swore, we both swore. I swear
it was the best interview ever. We talked about religion and dysfunctional
families.
Worst?
Margaret
Atwood. I was a junior researcher at Toronto Life in the mid-1980s. Ms. Atwood
answered the phone by saying,  “So, what’s your problem?”. I was quaking in my Birkenstocks.
Best
advice you’ve ever been given?
From a former boss/mentor:
“Keep asking yourself questions. Invite your inner editor to perch behind
your ear and  then listen to him/her. You discover your best answers when
the questions come from within.”
What rule(s) do you live your life by?
I’d like to say I live by this
rule, but sometimes I falter. In short:  Do what you want – not what
you should. If you do as you ‘should,’ sure you could probably have a really
good job. Do as you ‘really want’ – and you’ve got an amazing career you
absolutely love.
What’s the most important tip you can give
PR pros?

Don’t
be dismayed if we don’t return your call or reply to your email right away. If
we like your pitch, we’ll definitely get in touch. It just may not be the right
moment. 
Best experience you’ve had with a PR pro? We
love to hear about #wins.

I
worked on an intensive editorial partnership at the London Olympics sponsored
by P&G. Their on-the-ground team, Toronto-based MSL Canada, frequently used
a phrase that is pure magic to media: “Okay, Doug, we’re going to leave
you alone now so you can do what you’ve gotta do.”  H-E-A-V-E-N. They
knew when to pull back. Some PR folks tend to shadow media a little too much at
 media events and when working on projects. The MSL team were there when I
needed them, and then gave me the autonomy I required to get my story. It
worked for everyone. (Oh, and if you’re going to sit in on interviews — be sure
to ask the interviewer in advance if that is okay.)
I
hate?
#1. Mid-day PR luncheons.
 They wreak havoc on the schedule – and my tummy. Immediately after work
is so much better.
#2. Shopping – unless it’s for
kitchen gadgets and travel accessories.
#3. Small talk.
I love?
#1.When PR folks make a specific
reference to a recent editorial item in the print mag or online. It shows they
really know us.
#2. Patsy Cline. And not just
because we share the same birthday.
#2. My Bose iPod dock.
Reading?
I tend to read a few books at
once, but not all of the same genre. Currently: Linden MacIntyre’s Why Men Lie (fiction, not a self-help book!),  Rita Golden Gelman’s Tales of a Female Nomad (a travel memoir), and Naomi Duguid’s Burma: Rivers of Flavours (food meets history.)
Best place on earth?
A toss-up: Haida Gwaii off
Northern British Columbia or Southern India.
Dinner
guest?
Annie Lennox.
Hero?
Jane Goodall because she is
forever breaking the mould. And my late Dad, who single-handedly raised eight kids
on his own. He, too, broke the mould.
Favourite
app (or whatever you are downloading these days)?
Packing Pro. Seriously, I can pack
for a 10-day trip with no stress, no fuss. I simply do what my Packing app
tells me.
Pool or ocean?
Ocean, preferably at dawn.
Voicemail
or email?
Email. 





Fave Five: Olympic Moments

That massive international competition where athletes of the world compete for shiny medals (also known as the Olympics) is now over. We’re bummed all the superhumans have left London, mostly because it means we no longer have an excuse to watch hours upon hours of television.
We’re still reminiscing, as we’re sure you are too. To start you off, here are
our five fave moments from the
London 2012 Olympics.


This guy can seriously do no wrong. Besides
the fact that he’s the fastest man in the world, he also created the Usain Bolt Foundation, which puts funding into athletics, schools and medical facilities in his home town of Trelawny, Jamaica. 

Closing Ceremony
The Opening Ceremony was interesting, to
say the least, but the closing one was basically a concert of British legends.
Obviously we died over the Spice Girls reunion, but a big shout out to Fatboy Slim and that inflatable octopus (can we have it at our next birthday party?), Ed Sheerhan for holding down Pink Floyd and of course, the always fabulous Annie Lennox

Props to Oscar Pistorius, the double
amputee from South Africa. Called the “Blade Runner” for his carbon fibre prosthetic legs, he was born without a fibula in both legs. Pistorius made history as the first double amputee to participate in the Olympics and has been recognized as one of the fastest sprinters in the world. 


Drunk Bottle Thrower
What’s the stupidest thing you could do at the 100-metre men’s final as the entire world is tuned in to see if Usain Bolt wins a gold medal? Throw a bottle onto the track, which is what this guy did. Did we mention he happened to be sitting next to a Dutch judo bronze medallist? Bolt still won the race, of course.
Olympic Volunteers
Of the 70,000 volunteers, some lucky Olympic-goer captured this one making the best of her experience. Sitting for hours on end trying to get a crowd excited for the games is not something we would take on, but she does it with ease and comedic genius.