One of the best things about beer is that it brings people together. At festivals, in kitchens, after playing a game or a rehearsal, or just sitting on a patio or in your backyard – beer is the great social lubricant. At Village, we have made it one of our missions to gather people around community (the other mission is great beer, but that’s pretty much mandatory, isn’t it?). We are very proud of our great city and are working hard to make it even more spectacular, and one of the ways we are trying to do this is by introducing you to some of the people working hard to make this place even cooler every day. Every month, we are going to bring two strangers together and ask them to interview each other. We figured this was a unique way to make new friends for them and for you, the reader. For our first session, we kinda broke the rules and brought Avnish Mehta and Josh Gwilliam together. They know each other through our Village Radio podcasts as Gwilliam is the producer and Mehta is the curator. But, it’s because of their work capturing stories of interesting Calgarians that we thought maybe they would be good to kick start this process. Hope you enjoy.
The most interesting thing happened when Gwilliam and Mehta got together and actually discussed the impact of Village Radio, a project on which they have been working on for the last year. Since its inception, Village Radio was intended to be a platform for interesting Calgarians (and others) to share their narratives, their perspectives and, often, more often than anyone expected, their raw view on the world and how they fit into it.
“Everything changes after the first three minutes,” observes Gwilliam. He speaks about how the interviewees settle in and forget that they are in an interview. “Now, they are just having a conversation.”
With the help and brilliance of Dave Kelly, the guests just open up as if they are sitting in a room of old friends. They often share with us, and the whole world (through the power of podcasting), some deep, dark, interesting facts about themselves. Without limitation or expectation, it is amazing what people choose to share with those around them.
Both Gwilliam and Mehta soon recognized in the deep connection they have with their guests. “We get to meet our guests a handful of times (though sometimes only once) and then we are invested in their success. We follow them and see how they develop and identify opportunities to support them,” explains Mehta. It seems as though neither of them knew the impact that the guests would have on them and their own relationship to the community: whether it is buying tickets for their newest production, buying their latest CD, or simply getting excited to see them on the street, it looks like community development is being facilitated one interview at a time.
The more the two spoke, the more complex the conversation became. They compared their lives and wanted to identify the similarities and embrace the differences. They found that, even though their backgrounds, their upbringings and their life experiences differed, the way they saw the world was congruent. “We can do anything. We can do anything. Truly, anything is possible in this city,” says Gwilliam with raw passion. Coming from a fifth-generation Canadian, it is a complement to the Calgary community and what it stands for. Mehta, the proud born-and-raised Calgarian, couldn’t do anything but proudly nod in agreement. “This city is open, honest and will call out your bullshit. You know where you stand.”
After a moment of silence, Gwilliam says, “One thing I have learned over the last three years is to just ask. It is amazing what can get done if you just ask. At the end of the day, your odds are 50/50. Whether it is the answer you want to hear, at least it is voiced. You just need to ask and you learn how to quickly adapt.”
It doesn’t have to be difficult or complicated. In fact, the original ask is probably going to be enhanced by the people who hear it. They are going to suggest other people, opportunities, thinking, information, content, that is going to move your question forward. The conversation between Gwilliam and Mehta happened because they were asked. They had no idea as to where the conversation was going to go, or what to expect. They let the conversation guide itself and realized how much they learned about each other. Two guys who have known each other for a year, have a better understanding of each other in just 20 minutes. They are both better off for answering “yes.”
Next month the Village Voice will bring two strangers together to interview each other and discover more about being good neighbours and making new friends.
Josh Gwilliam and Avnish Mehta run the Village Radio, a frequent podcast highlighting Calgary’s greatest personalities.
By Jim Button, Avnish Mehta, Josh Gwilliam