Have you heard of ELAN?
If not, listen up.
ELAN, the English Language Arts Network, is a Montreal-based non-profit organization that seeks among other goals to build communities, assist the anglophone artistic circle, and forge ties and enduring partnerships among Francophones and Anglophones.
Guy Rogers, founder of this impressive organization, sat down with Montreal Directory to shed some light on the impetus for creating said non-profit. “I was compelled to created ELAN after the second Quebecois referendum,” said Rogers, “when English culture went through a Renaissance period.”
Although English literature, music and theatre flourished, the relationship between Anglophones and Francophones was tense. “There was a lot of friction,” recalled Rogers. “A lot of people were denying they were Anglos and would prefer talking about themselves as Italian-Quebeckers or Scottish-Quebeckers. Stereotypes regarding the Anglos were toxic.” For example, Rogers, who was raised in Australia but moved to Montreal after winning an award for a play he penned, would often sip a beer with Francophone friends after work. “They would get started on the maudits anglais debate again, and I’d butt in and say: “But technically I am an Anglophone too!” And they would typically reply: “Mais non, you’re different.” I couldn’t help thinking: how can we break down these stereotypes?”
But wait a minute, what were the stereotypes being circulated? “Anglophones were being cast as tied to the British empire, unilingual, and utterly ignorant of the French-speaking population.”
Once the particularly tense moments passed, Anglophones had repositioned themselves. By the time Expo 67 rolled around, roughly 95 percent of Anglophones identified as bilingual. In addition, Rogers noticed that more and more Anglophones were investing themselves in serious romantic relationships with Francophones and that, besides, they raised their children to be bilingual. In short, the entire linguistic and cultural phenomenon had changed.
ELAN was meant to be a large arts umbrella group that sought to break the two-solitudes phenomenon and bridge gaps between feuding Anglophones and Francophones.
Rogers specified that ELAN was not and is not political. “I wanted to change and revisit old stereotypes and reconnect community builders to change the general perception of Quebeckers regarding the old rift between Anglophones and Francophones,” explained Rogers. “The period that spanned from 1995 to 2008 was a particularly interesting one, because Montreal flourished as an artistic metropolis. We compared Montreal during that time period to what Manhattan had been in the 1970s.” That golden period was instrumental in helping Rogers and his team connect artists working in various domains, including the visual arts, music, and theatre. “We sought a truly inter-disciplinary approach that also connected artists working in various Montreal districts,” argued Rogers. “We helped connect audiences to artists, support local artistic communities, and promote projects, of small or large nature.”
To spark interest and debate, Rogers set up monthly schmoozes in bars where artists, promoters and agents could establish what would become enduring partnerships.
Flash forward to 2019, and ELAN is now well on its way to securing interesting projects that get substantial funding from the provincial and federal government. For example, Arts Alive, an artistic festival that strengthens business and community-led engagements between regions, will be celebrating its 5th edition.
But Rogers does more than that. “We also help our members with various activities having to do with marketing, grant-application writing, even paying taxes,” said Rogers.
This year, ELAN will be enjoying its 15th anniversary. Its new policy, a pay-what-you-can membership fee, is attracting numerous organizations, be they corporations, non-profit, or start-ups.
To learn more about ELAN, check out their website: https://www.quebec-elan.org