John and Rita Jackson recently won a National Campus Radio Award for Excellence in Programming for their CanoeFM Radio Playhouse program. The couple started the program at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic as a way to provide theatre productions to Haliburton County remotely. /VIVIAN COLLINGS Staff

National radio awards recognize CanoeFM programs

By Vivian Collings

Two CanoeFM radio programs are getting the recognition they deserve for their ability to showcase local talent and cultivate connection by the National Campus Radio Association (NCRA) Community Radio Awards in Broadcast and Online.
Patrick Monaghan, Algonquin Highlands resident and host of the Buckslide Blues Cruise on CanoeFM, won a Music Programming Award for Best in Blues or Similar Music, while John and Rita Jackson from Haliburton won the 2022 Community Excellence Award for their Radio Playhouse program at the beginning of May.

Station manager of CanoeFM Roxanne Casey said this recognition is significant to their station and the community because the NCRA Awards are a country-wide competition of around 120 other stations.
“All the programs were up against all of the campus and community radio stations across the country, so it really is like a competition. It’s pretty impressive that a small town in Haliburton, Ontario was able to win two awards,” Casey said. “We play music that you wouldn’t normally hear on a commercial radio station, so our station is important for local artists and Canadian artists to get their music played.”

Monaghan, a long-time blues fan, is diagnosed with cancer and undergoing treatment. He said that his radio program gives him the drive to focus on life outside of his illness.
“Doing this is what keeps me going. I could decide to sit and think about all of the bad parts of life, but this gets me up and allows me to focus on what I love,” he said.
It takes him about six hours to prepare his two-hour program each week, but he is also busy attending blues festivals and contacting people for interviews.
He strives to connect with musicians, other people in the blues industry, and community members to be able to educate his audience about blues music.
“Blues is the basis of jazz, country, rockabilly, certainly rock ‘n roll, so when people say they don’t like the blues, I tell them that they don’t like rock ‘n roll,” Monaghan said with a laugh and a smile.
Both Monaghan and Casey said that many people may not see the behind-the-scenes work, but it is what makes Monaghan’s show successful.
“Patrick works really, really hard at connection. He works really hard at trying to be sure he does a great program for himself, but also for Canoe radio,” Casey said. “He was really excited to win the award. He says that his radio show gives him purpose and something to focus on every week. It’s not about his health, it’s about producing an incredible show.”
Monaghan also won an NCRA award in 2020 and has his name on the Blues Hall of Fame Walk in Memphis, Tennessee.

2022 was the first year for the Radio Playhouse to win an NCRA award.
“Rita and John have a whole network of theatre groups that are all involved with their Radio Playhouse program, so they are incorporating different theatre groups in the county to be part of their Canoe FM Radio Playhouse,” Casey said.
The couple signed up to be volunteer on-air hosts at CanoeFM three years ago initially filling in for other hosts before getting their own show.
“We were involved in a number of theatre productions, so this was something very close to us that we loved to do together. When the pandemic hit, we realized that the use of radio could be used to put on plays when audiences couldn’t come out to live shows, and that’s where the idea came about,” Rita said.
Rita is currently playing the role of Mother Abbess in Highlands Summer Festival’s The Sound of Music, and John will be playing Lady Bracknell in the festival’s production of The Importance of Being Earnest from July 18 to July 26.
John said that the couple aimed to help local actors, theatre companies, and playwrights by giving them a medium to showcase their talent through the Radio Playhouse, and the response from the community was beyond expectation.

They said that so many others are involved in making the Radio Playhouse a success, and they couldn’t have done it without their time and effort.
“To be recognized on a national level was quite a shock. It’s been a wonderful opportunity to share theatre with the community,” Rita said.
John and Rita also host CanoeFM’s After Nine program on Thursday mornings from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.
Monaghan’s Buckslide Blues Cruise program airs on 100.9 CanoeFM on Tuesdays from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. and John and Rita’s Radio Playhouse airs on the first and third Wednesday of each month at 6 p.m.