If 2019 was the year we learned it takes a village, 2020 was the year the village discovered the value of community.
It goes without saying that 2020 was a hard year. We’re not going to try not to dwell on it too much in our annual report — and we promise not to use the words “unprecedented” or “new normal” (except that one time).
However, we do have to acknowledge that COVID-19 impacted almost every aspect of our operation in 2020. From not being able to meet in person as a board or with contributors to the cancellation of events that serve as major fundraisers for us, to even how we could edit and promote content based on changing rules and restrictions, there wasn’t much that wasn’t impacted.
Thankfully, as we found out in 2019, LondonFuse can adapt and improvise pretty well.
We started 2020 in a great spot, with a new home at Innovations Works in downtown London. We were able to host our 2020 AGM in January, hold a couple of board meetings, and have a contributor meeting there before the first lockdown in March.
We had big plans to launch our new neighbourhood directory, participate in a slew of community events, and host a couple of our own in the spring and summer. All of which were cancelled or postponed, and we quickly pivoted to move our meetings and events online at a time when we all needed community.
With the initial lockdown and the ensuing months of social distancing, LondonFuse Contributor virtual meetings became an important source of connection and community for many of our volunteers. Moving online helped us recruit new volunteers as participating from home meant fewer barriers for many than meeting in person. In 2020, LondonFuse welcomed 27 new contributors and two new board members.
We also moved events online, with our Fundraising Director, Melissa Parker, hosting several trivia events throughout the year. Our Editorial Director, Sammy Orlowski, organized an amazing Virtual Bad Art Festival and created some spectacular Blind Contour Portraits for Londoners.
Showcasing the good… and the bad
In a year marred by tragedy, injustice, loss, and anxiety, we also saw innovation, creativity, and community, all of which we captured in our content throughout the year.
Throughout the year, 26 contributors created and published 74 pieces of content on LondonFuse.ca. One-third of our articles this year were written by or contributed to by contributors new to us this year. Our stories were read over 20 thousand times, our website was visited over 105 thousand times, and we reached over 630 thousand people through our social media channels.
We looked at the creative ways Londoners handled the first lockdown, in pieces like Sammy Orlowski’s Isolation: A Track That Celebrates Creative Collaboration, Laura Thorne’s Isolation Doesn’t Have To Be A Drag, Melissa Parker’s Keeping Your Distance in the Forest City, and the collaborative 5 Awesome Local Albums You Can Buy Right Now.
Contributors told the stories of the vital work being done in the community in articles like Carrie Freele’s The 519Pledge is Back For 2020, Melissa Parker’s Simple Steps to Being a Good Citizen During a Pandemic, and Laura Thorne’s Getting Safe Transportation to Those Who Need It Most. And we captured important social movements, with pieces like Marty Annson’s This Side of “The Line:” Being Considered White Most of the Time, Black Lives Matter London Ontario Protest, Ivan Kasahara’s Political Representation In Unusual Times, and Emily Stewart’s Black Lives Matter Placards Displayed At Museum London.
LondonFuse continued to highlight mental health and well-being, with articles like Sammy Orlowski’s Opening the Mental Health Conversation with CrazyTalk, two collaborative articles on Self-Care Practices from the LondonFuse Community, Elizabeth McDonald’s We Need to Talk About Social Isolation and Addiction, Carrie Freele’s RAW: Digital Photography as Self-Care, and Katherine Fischer’s Mental Wellness for Musicians.
A Hyper-Local Approach
LondonFuse has always been locally focused, but 2020 was the year we became hyper-local. With more people exploring their own backyards, LondonFuse focused on highlighting local neighbourhoods over the past year.
We kept highlighting London’s gems in articles such as Roméo Desmarais’ Caribbean Stove PickUp Kicks Up The Heat, Vanessa Costa’s Nature Escapes In The Heart Of The Forest City, A. Jaye Williams’ Rolling The Dice On Gaming: The Game Chamber, and Laura Thorne’s Urban Roots London: Bringing the Farm to the City, as well as collaborative articles such as Locavore Chefs: Local Ingredients Spruce Up Fall Favourites and It’s Time To Be A Tourist In Your Own City!
We launched the new and improved LondonFuse Directory, a true treasure map for the Forest City, in the fall. Made possible by the City of London’s Community Grant Program, this Directory highlights London, Ontario neighbourhoods, and all the amazing shopping, dining, arts, culture, and recreation experiences they offer. The Directory encourages Londoners and visitors alike to be a tourist in the Forest City, to see the plethora of things available with an emphasis on independent businesses and organizations. A very special thank you to Nicki Borland for her amazing work coordinating the Directory project.
Some of our most popular content for the year looked back at London’s history, such as Vanessa Brown’s Growing Up in Huron Heights and Amelia Eqbal’s SoHo — Built to Last, with Room to Grow, both part of the London Neighbourhood Histories series. The series, funded by the London Heritage Council and the City of London’s Community Heritage Investment Program (CHIP), aims to highlight and chronicle some of the rich, layered heritage of many of London’s neighbourhoods, the diverse individuals who have lived within them, and the events that have impacted their development. The series will continue into the first few months of 2021.
Confronting Our Biases
Throughout 2020, the LondonFuse Board worked to reconcile our organization’s goals and vision as an inclusive, collaborative, and dynamic community with our very real shortcomings and lack of action. We grappled with our complicity in systemic racism and colonial oppression.
We recognize that it is not enough to be not racist; we must be anti-racist. Actions speak louder than words, and LondonFuse must ensure that we are centring Black, Indigenous, and racialized individuals’ voices and experience in our content, our programming, and our training.
As an organization and a publication, we have a responsibility to amplify the voices of marginalized groups, including racialized populations. As a publication, we must acknowledge our obligation to be telling stories in a way that is inclusive, ethical, and respectful. Our vision for “a connected, collaborative, and creative community” must also include an equitable approach to include a diversity of experiences, perspectives, and backgrounds. The stories we tell and the people and organizations we highlight and work with matter. The language we use and the way we share it matters.
LondonFuse has committed to doing more to address racism and xenophobia in our community and listening to what community leaders in these populations want and need from LondonFuse. We’ve committed to ensuring at least fifty percent of the writers, designers, and facilitators we hire identify as Black, Indigenous, LGBTQ+, disabled, or in other communities outside of the white straight cisgender demographic.
There is so much more we could and should be doing. 2021 will be the year we do better.
The Collective Lives On
First and foremost, LondonFuse is a collective. It’s bigger than any one person, one event, or one year. As we look back over 2020, more than ever, we are thankful to our community for their support. There are so many individuals and organizations that we have worked with and learned from over the past year that we would like to thank.
Most importantly, thank you to our volunteers. In a difficult year full of personal struggles and losses, you continued to devote your time and energy to Fuse.
To our contributors – you show up, time and time again, sharing ideas, growing and learning, and telling the stories that matter to you. You truly are the foundation of LondonFuse! Thank you for donating your time and your skills to create content for Londoners.
To the Board – you demonstrated such dedication and creativity to Fuse as we pivoted and tried new approaches and ideas. Thank you for providing leadership to the LondonFuse community and donating your time and skills to this organization.
A big thank you to our community partners, collaborators, and supporters, including ACO London, Brown & Dickson, CBC London, the City of London, Fanshawe College, Femme Art Review, Forest City Gallery, Government of Canada’s Department of Canadian Heritage, Innovation Works, London Heritage Council, Pillar Nonprofit Network, Old East Village Business Improvement Association, Western University’s Faculty of Information & Media Studies and Ivey Business School, and our advertisers and donors.
And finally, thank you London – LondonFuse wouldn’t exist without the vibrant, supportive, and creative community in which we thrive.
January 7, 2021 marked our 10-year anniversary as a registered not-for-profit in the province of Ontario. LondonFuse has come a long way, but there’s further to go.
In 2021, we’re welcoming two new board members to the team, who will focus on partnerships and marketing. Once they are oriented, the board will be doing some strategic planning and setting up some fresh goals for this new decade.
We know LondonFuse has a role to play in the rebuilding and recovery of the region as we (hopefully) emerge from the pandemic in the coming year. We also know we have a responsibility to ensure that that future is more equitable.
We’ll continue to seek out new partnerships and funding opportunities. In 2020, we retired our well-loved LondonFuse designed by local artist Billy Bert Young in 2012 to make way for new designs. We’ll be releasing new LondonFuse t-shirts and merchandise later in 2021.
As always, our focus is on creating a sustainable LondonFuse and finding opportunities to pay our contributors and provide training opportunities, especially for those who identify in often overlooked or barriered populations. We have more work to do and we’re ready to do it.
So, here’s to 2021!
To learn more about our 2021 plans, join us virtually on Tuesday, January 26 from 6-8 PM for our Annual General Meeting. Learn more and RSVP here. We hope to see you there!