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Gloucester's 400th anniversary is being celebrated in 2023, and many organizations are coming together to commemorate the 1623 landing of the Dorchester Company expedition on what is now Half Moon Beach in Stage Fort Park. Throughout the year, events - including our September "Walking Gloucester" conference (see below) - are highlighting Gloucester’s rich history, culture, and heritage. The year-long program celebrates the city's diverse community, extraordinary contributions to art and culture, remarkable industrial achievements, and wealth of natural resources. Please visit www.gloucesterma400.org for more information.
As part of the "400 Stories" project, Ken Riaf interviewed Bayliss's friend Jay McLauchlan about Bayliss's life in Gloucester, where he lived from 1956 until his death in 2009. The interview is available here. Another "400 Stories" video, about Bayliss's friends Bill and Peggy Sibley, was taped at the JBS 2021 annual conference and features three Sibley children: George, Liz, and Mern.
Walking Gloucester: In the Footsteps of Anastas Bayliss Ferrini Garland Olson September 2023
Our 2023 annual conference, "Walking Gloucester: In the Footsteps of Anastas Bayliss Ferrini Garland Olson," took place September 8-10. The weekend's events explored some of the city's diverse neighborhoods through talks, walks, and readings highlighting the work of five friends who lived in Gloucester and wrote about its history, its geography, its neighborhoods, and its people: the novelists Peter Anastas and Jonathan Bayliss, poets Vincent Ferrini and Charles Olson, and historian Joseph Garland.
The conference began with a Friday early-evening walk led by John Day exploring sites in the Rocky Neck section of Gloucester of importance to the writers. Viking Gustafson gave a short tour of the Gloucester Marine Railways, a favorite haunt of Bayliss's. Next was a program of readings at the Rocky Neck Cultural Center: "From Rocky Neck to Lane's Cove: Gloucester Neighborhoods in the Writing of Anastas Bayliss Ferrini Garland Olson," introduced by Rocky Neck resident George Sibley, with readings from the five writers' prose and poetry by Benjamin Anastas, Mary John Boylan, Henry Ferrini, Ken Riaf, and Ben Wildrick.
On Saturday at the Lanesville Community Center, short talks about the writers' lives in Gloucester were presented by Benjamin Anastas, John Day, Liz Sibley Fletcher, Peter Littlefield, and Ben Wildrick. These were followed by nearby walks led by Ed Becker of two Greenbelt properties, Kleimola and Harvey reservations. The afternoon began with presentations by Ed Becker ("The Geology of the Kleimola Reservation: Granite, Ice, and Boulders") and Monica Lawton ("100 Years in 20 Minutes: The Story of Quarrying on Cape Ann"). Then Jay McLauchlan shared with Peter Littlefield his memories of the five writers starting in the 1960s. A late afternoon walk led by Chris Leahy explored the "Cut Bridge" area of Gloucester, including Peter Anastas's childhood home and a maze of streets leading up to Governor's Hill, with its view of the city and harbor. After a conference dinner, an informal collection of video clips and photographs were shown highlighting different aspects of the writers' lives.
Sunday morning began with walks through downtown Gloucester: one led by Peter Littlefield which included a stop at Olson's residence at 28 Fort Square and one led by Judith Walcott of side streets known to the five writers but unknown to many current Gloucester residents. The conference ended on Sunday afternoon at Cape Ann Museum with "Anastas, Bayliss, Ferrini, Garland, Olson: Writers Writing to Each Other." CAM Head Librarian & Archivist Trenton Carls provided an overview of the Museum's literary archives, and John Day explored the correspondence among the five writers, with portions read aloud by Sharon Day, Monica Lawton, Theo MacGregor, Mern Sibley, and Suellen Wedmore.
The conference was in partnership with Gloucester 400+, which celebrates Gloucester’s 400+ years of cultural, social, ethnic, and economic diversity. The year 2023 marks four hundred years since English colonizers first attempted to settle in Gloucester. The conference was supported in part by grants from the Gloucester Cultural Council, the Bruce J. Anderson Foundation, and the Mass Cultural Council. We are grateful for the support of conference partners Cape Ann Museum, Common Crow Market, Gloucester 400+, Gloucester Writers Center, Greenbelt, Rocky Neck Art Colony, and Sawyer Free Library. A bibliography of conference-related resources available at the Sawyer Free Library is included here, courtesy of the Library.
Celebrating Dogtown Common: A Special Place Fourth Annual Conference, September 10-11, 2022
Dogtown Common was the theme of the JBS fourth annual conference, held in what Jonathan Bayliss's fiction calls "Cape Gloucester" on the weekend of Saturday-Sunday, September 10-11, 2022.
Dogtown Common ("Purdeyville" and "Tir-na-Dog" in the novels) is a wild area in the middle of Cape Ann, which is, as Bayliss says in Gloucesterbook, "next to the harbor itself our most precious public possession." Check out a trail map.
Dogtown's history, ecology, legends, and influence on writers and painters were the subject of conference walks, talks, readings, and more.
Saturday's talks, lunch, and dinner were held in the beautiful Dogtown-like landscape of the Windhover Center for the Performing Arts, founded by Bayliss's friend Ina Hahn and now run by her daughter, Lisa Hahn. Speakers included Mark Carlotto ("Place and Times: A Spatial History of Dogtown"), John Day ("Dogtown and the Fiction of Jonathan Bayliss"), Cindy Dunn ("Dogtown Preservation"), Chris Leahy ("The Nature of Dogtown"), and Mary Ellen Lepionka ("The Archaeology and Indigenous History of Dogtown"). The Saturday program included options for a guided walk in Dogtown to Whale's Jaw and/or a visit to Sandy Bay Historical Society's "Dogtown Artifacts" with Leslie D. Bartlett.
Saturday evening, after the conference dinner, Windhover Center for the Performing Arts presented an exciting new production based on Percy MacKaye's poem Dogtown Common, adapted and directed by Peter Littlefield - with readings by Peter Berkrot, Judy Brain, Duncan Hollomon, Cass Tunick, Brian Weed, and Deirdre Weed, and music by Kathleen Adams. Grace Schrafft gave an introductory talk about the history of witches in Gloucester.
On Sunday morning, attendees had the option to join one of several Dogtown walks led by experts in various aspects of Dogtown.
Sunday afternoon included a program on Dogtown-inspired art and literature at the Cape Ann Museum. In conjunction with the conference, the Sawyer Free Library produced a bibliography about Dogtown, and the Gloucester Writers Center offered a Friday evening reading and social event to kick off the weekend.
This program was supported in part by a grant from the Gloucester Cultural Council, a local agency which is supported by the Mass Cultural Council, a state agency.
A Cambridge Kid in the '30s and '40s June 17, 2022 Houghton Library, Harvard Yard
"A Cambridge Kid in the '30s and '40s: Scenes from the Life and Work of Jonathan Bayliss" - held at Houghton Library on June 17, 2022 - featured talks and readings about growing up in Cambridge during the Great Depression. A few early papers and drawings from Houghton's Bayliss collection were on display for the event.
John Day, Peter Littlefield, Theo MacGregor, and Victoria Bayliss Mattingly read passages about Cambridge and Harvard from the "Book of Ruth" chapter of Prologos. Leslie Morris, curator of modern books and manuscripts, described Houghton Library's extensive Bayliss collection. Talks were "Cambridge as a Point of Departure" (Paul McGeary); "Bayliss Childhoods in Cambridge" (David Bowditch); and "Jonathan Bayliss at Harvard" (John Day). Attendees gathered outdoors for a box lunch and walked past Lowell House (where Bayliss spent his freshman year during WW2) to the Larz Andersen bridge over the Charles River to see where the fictional Michael Chapman sailed his toy schooner during his Cambridge childhood in the 1930s.
Third Annual Conference September 11-12, 2021
One of the 2021 conference themes was Rocky Neck, the peninsula-island attached to East Gloucester via a causeway. Bayliss lived on Rocky Neck for more than twenty years and did much of his novel-writing there. Conference events are listed here. Recordings:
A PDF booklet (download here) includes speakers' notes: George Sibley (Rocky Neck Memories), Sally Bradshaw and Suzy O'Hara Kadiff (Art Colony), Viking Gustafson (Gloucester Marine Railways), Susan Baker and Paula Parsons (The Rudder), Bishop Terry Brown (Father F. Hastings Smyth and the Society of the Catholic Commonwealth), and John Day (introduction to Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay). It also includes the map of Bayliss's "Mother's Neck" that appeared in the conference program.
Second Annual Conference September 11-12, 2020 (Zoom)
The September 2020 Zoom readings entitled "From Cats to Seagulls: A Bayliss Bestiary" and "Gloucester Quintet: Five Writers, Five Friends" are on YouTube.
First Annual Conference September 7-8, 2019
David Rich and Ken Riaf read passages from the novels Gloucestermas and Gloucesterbook relating to downtown "Dogtown" at the first annual conference in September 2019 - the videotapes are available here.
A video of a September 2015 reading on labor-related themes in the novel Prologos is on YouTube, courtesy of the Gloucester Writers Center. Readers were David Adams, Peter Anastas, Thorpe Feidt, Henry Ferrini, Doug Guidry, Victoria Bayliss Mattingly, Martin Ray, Ken Riaf, and David Rich. On Bayliss's birthday, September 7, 2013, the Gloucester Lyceum and Sawyer Free Library sponsored "Dogtown's Acropolis," a reading with commentary by Peter Anastas and David Rich. See the video recording. A 1990 student production of Bayliss's stage play The Tower of Gilgamesh is available on the JBS YouTube channel.