A philanthropic Welsh singer-songwriter returns to Nanaimo for the first time in more than a decade as part of a cross-Canada tour.
Martyn Joseph, whose musical career spans 40 years and who “never comes off the road for more than a month,” doesn’t view himself strictly as just an entertainer.
Joseph said he like to step into narratives “that are of use to people” and that highlight important humanitarian issues.
“The job of art is to make people feel like they’re not alone in the world,” the songwriter said. “It’s meant to take us to a place that reminds us of true value and worth.”
In his efforts, Joseph established a non-profit organization, Let Yourself Trust, which has provided funding and raised awareness of a wide variety of international humanitarian projects. For the past eight years, Let Yourself Trust, which works with grassroots organizations around the world and diversifies its focus every six months, has given away more than half a million British pounds.
In 2018, the organization worked with Ontario’s Grassy Narrows First Nation to help clean mercury contamination out of the river. For one of its latest projects, the organization is working with Cribs International in Greece, which focuses on helping and supporting pregnant women or mothers with infants as they flee conflict and exploitation.
“It’s nice to not just sing about [social issues], but get your hands dirty as well,” Joseph said. “And people feel like when they come on board, that they’re joining a community of like-minded people who are interested in doing some good out there. And that’s just an extension of the music.”
Earlier this year, the songwriter was also commissioned by the BBC to highlight an English soup kitchen “going through a tough time.”
The song, Albert’s Place, narrates the work of Andrea Bell and fellow volunteers of the Sunderland Community Soup Kitchen as they provide food, clothes and shelter to people experiencing homelessness and poverty. A portion of the royalties from the song goes toward supporting and raising awareness for the work there.
“It was lovely to be able to pour some light on some of this great volunteer work that’s happening right now – despite some of the negative headlines,” Joseph said. “There are tremendous amounts of people trying to do good things.”
Throughout the decades, the songwriter said he’s had thousands of people tell him how his work has made huge impacts on various humanitarian initiatives, and has helped open their eyes to issues they weren’t aware of.
“That kind of sustenance makes you want to go and do more … I’ve never really seen myself as an entertainer,” Joseph said. “There was always something more going on for me. And I’m happy to entertain, it’s important that I do. But at the same time, I always felt there was something bigger than that going on.”
For his upcoming performances, the musician said he will “keep fresh” by plugging in locally to curate set lists that range from “the political to the personal.”
He hopes his Celtic-folk musical stylings will have audience members leaving feeling less alone and full of hope.
“I always feel that the potential for any night is enormous,” Joseph said. “I love it when people go home thinking … many things … Maybe it’s been an opportunity for them to reinforce a relationship … Maybe they’re thinking, despite everything, they’re actually not alone.”
The performance happens at the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 256 on East Wellington Road in Nanaimo on Friday, April 14, at 7:30 p.m. Also planned are shows at Victoria’s First Metropolitan United Church on Saturday, April 15, and Pender Island Community Hall on Sunday, April 16. Tickets for the Nanaimo show can be purchased online at www.eventbrite.ca.
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