Northern Groove, the northeast’s own music and culture magazine, will publish its final issue in February.
Russell Eggleston, founder of Northern Groove, grew up in Fort St. John, and founded the magazine in the spring of 2006.
While working in a music store, he saw that there were lots of musicians in town passionate about their craft who just weren’t bumping into each other.
Also around this time, Egan’s Restaurant and Irish Pub first opened. At the time, it was the only place in town that would bring in bands.
“There was very little live music,” Eggleston said.
Eggleston began connecting with musicians and people in the entertainment business who were all interested in building up Fort St. John’s music community.
“We were just trying to get people to come out to shows and support what we were doing,” Eggleston said.
Northern Groove humbly started in the pre-Facebook days as a blog with a directory of local musicians, but they found themselves not generating much of a buzz or getting too many page views.
Jason George, the manager of Egan’s at the time, suggested that Eggleston start a music and culture magazine to generate more interest in the burgeoning scene.
“The mission was to get people connected with things they might have been unaware of. If we could change that attitude and represent the community as a vibrant place suddenly people could reconnect with their passions, whether they be music, theatre or the arts,” Eggleston said.
Eggleston says that throughout the years his magazine has featured the work of over 500 different contributors who produced 3,000 individual written pieces.
“It took a the whole community to make Northern Groove work,” Eggleston said
“I think people have bought into the shared dream that this can be a great place to live regardless of what interest your in. If you’re into sports, or theatre, all these things are possible here.”
Bruce Lantz, former mayor and one-time Northern Groove co-partner, says the story of Northern Groove and Fort St. John’s musical and cultural ascendancy go hand-in-hand.
“Russell [Eggleston] himself and Northern Groove probably did as much as anyone to create the music atmosphere that Fort St. John is known for,” Lantz said.
Lantz said that when he first came to the city in 1995 there was one musical event in town that first year.
“I’ve been here seven years and when I arrived I never thought there’d be arts and culture here,” said Marie Mallis, owner of Whole Wheat ‘n’ Honey, who came here from Victoria seven years ago.
“Just at the beginning of Whole Wheat ‘n’ Honey,” in Jan. 2008, she said, “Russ came wandering in there one day – just this little wide-eyed boy. He was way into the arts scene… right around that time all this stuff started to happen.”
Eggleston encouraged Whole Wheat ‘n’ Honey to hold events there and become a music venue.
“Whole Wheat ‘n’ Honey started to host shows and other places were doing it. Egan’s was in full swing,” Mallis said, adding that around that time a number of bars started hosting live music, including JD Fitzgeralds, Jackfish Dundees and Casey’s Neighbourhood Pub.
“For a couple years music was just thriving here and Northern Groove thrived in that environment,” Mallis said.
“A couple of years ago we did hit a peak and maybe now we’ve declined a little bit, but the interest in music is still very much a part of life in this town,” said Lantz.
Henry See, a longtime Northern Groove contributor, says that he feels that the magazine represented the specialness of Fort St. John.
“That a small community like this could have a publication like Northern Groove. There were a lot of people who would come into town and be very, very surprised to find a quality publication like that in a town as far removed from the world as Fort St. John is,” See said.
See enjoyed the opportunity to write a number of articles about his friends who were making big contributions to the music and arts scene.
Having witnessed and been an active participant in the positive effects that a music and culture publication can have on a community, See hopes that somebody in the community could steps up to fill Eggleston’s shoes.
“If Russell can’t do it, it would be nice if somebody else would,” he said.
The thought to sell Northern Groove and pass the torch hadn’t really occurred to Eggleston.
“If somebody wanted to keep it going that would be awesome,” he said.
“It takes people in the community pushing for music and arts and culture in general to create a scene,” Mallis said.
“Without a scene all the musicians, and arts and culture people leave.”
There will not be a December or January issue, as Eggleston said they want lots of time “to make the last one awesome.”
Northern Groove will continue on as a website as a user generated content site. Copies of the magazine are also available at the Fort St. John Public Library