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COLUMN: 'Fascinating' Lakehead series turns spotlight on China

Five-week Third Age Learning series from Lakehead University will also feature former Orillians Derek and Susan Irwin who moved to China 12 years ago
Jan Wong
Journalist and author Jan Wong will be among the speakers at the spring Third Age Learning series from Lakehead University, which starts March 30 and runs for five weeks.

With daylight savings happening this weekend and some sun and sidewalks coming into view, it sure seems like spring is actually on its way - a welcome sight to most of us, I am sure.

Along with the springtime comes the spring Third Age Learning series from Lakehead University’s Office of Community Engagement. This offering comes with the support of the Canadian Federation of University Women Muskoka.

The five-part series is titled “China and the World” and will explore China’s economy, recent history and culture with different experts speaking each week, all via Zoom.

Speakers will include academics and experts in different areas regarding China, as well as journalist and author Jan Wong, who wrote the book Red China Blues: My Long March from Mao to Now, which was named one of Time magazine's top 10 books of 1996. It remains banned in China. Her latest book is Apron Strings: Navigating Food and Family in France, Italy, and China (2017).

Also speaking will be former Orillians Derek and Susan Irwin, who were instrumental in launching the Lakehead Orillia campus in 2006. Twelve years ago, they moved their family to Ningbo, China, where Derek is now Head of School in Education and English at the University of Nottingham Ningbo, and Susan is a doula and a healthcare liaison at a private clinic in Ningbo. They will be joined by their daughter, Georgia, who - after growing up in China and becoming fluent in Mandarin - chose to stay and pursue post-secondary education there.

This will be another fascinating and educational series from Lakehead’s Third Age Learning group. It starts March 30 and runs via Zoom for five Wednesdays at 9:30 a.m. Cost is still $59. For more information and to register, click here.

Also recently announced, and usually a sign of February, but…COVID…is the Mariposa Folk Festival’s Evening of Blues and Gospel, with Lance Anderson and many friends. This year is the tenth anniversary of this incredible show, and it will be April 9 at the Orillia Opera House.

Lance has a lot of very talented friends, and they and he pull out all the stops every year at this amazing event. This year a young and mind-blowingly talented multi-instrumentalist, Quincy Bullen, will headline the show. Also featured are Ryan and Sam Weber, from The Hawks, Selena Evangeline, Andrew Stewart, Kevan McKenzie, and of course, Lance himself.

Tickets are a ridiculously reasonable $30 and are available through the Orillia Opera House box office here. This show will likely sell out, so grab your tickets today.

Another interesting event recently announced comes from the Orillia Centre for Arts and Culture and is entitled “Theatre and Cross-Creativity.” This is a two-day event to bring folks together to imagine a new community theatre project, on April 8 and 9, at the Orillia Opera House.

The event starts Friday night with a wine and cheese and meet and great with special guests. These special guests include Marcia Johnson, recognized as one of the top 10 stage artists for 2021 by Now Magazine; Simon Malbogat, cofounder and artistic director of Mixed Company Theatre; and Desirée Leverenz, founder of “The Orange Girls” and “a passionate artist who finds joy in disrupting western artistic traditions in an attempt to decolonize herself, her art, and the communities where she works. Leverenz says that she’ll ‘never wash the Treaty 6 soil from beneath her feet.’” She sounds quite awesome!

Saturday will be a day of learning, planning, collaborating and workshops, and the event will end with hopefully a plan in place for a new community theatre piece.

All the events are free, but you are asked to make a donation to the wine and cheese, and to please register for the other events, here. This will be a different type of event, and could really be interesting to see what comes of it. Hopefully lots of thespians in our area will come out and get involved.

Couple of reminders, don’t forget Chantal Kreviazuk is at the Orillia Opera House March 10, tickets here.

There is a St. Paddy’s Day breakfast this Sunday, March 13, a fundraiser for the Comfie Cat Shelter, at the Moose Lodge from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Tickets are available at Plum Loco or by emailing

Have a great week and remember, if you have arts news, email it to by Tuesday at noon to be included.