Alumna to be honoured with lifetime achievement award

Aug 4th, 2015

By Jeff Green

Alumna to be honoured with lifetime achievement award

At first she thought she was being duped but when the news sunk in, her disbelief quickly turned to delight.

That’s how Faculty of Arts alumna – and Memorial honorary degree recipient – Dr. Anita Best summed up her reaction to learning she is this year’s recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Arts Society.

“I did feel like maybe somebody was playing a joke on me – maybe one of my brothers,” she said with a hearty chuckle from her home in Neddies Harbour – a small scenic “suburb of Norris Point” – on the west coast of the island.

“When I realized the news, I was very happy.”

Dr. Best is being honoured for a career spent cataloguing, celebrating and preserving Newfoundland and Labrador’s rich culture and musical heritage. She’s one of the province’s most prominent traditional singers, storytellers and arts advocates, a founding member of the traditional rock band Figgy Duff, has released and been featured on several recordings and is a former broadcaster with CBC Radio.

A graduate of the Department of Folklore, Dr. Best has worked in Memorial’s School of Music and is the former community co-ordinator with the Community-University Research for Recovery Alliance project headquartered at Memorial’s Bonne Bay Marine Station in Norris Point.

Although she retired from her day job a few years ago, Dr. Best continues to tour, singing at home in Newfoundland and Labrador and abroad.

Each Tuesday during the summer, she performs in Trout River. She also took part in this year’s Trails, Tales and Tunes Festival in Norris Point and is gearing up for a tour of the Northeastern United States, with stops in Maine, New York and Plymouth, Mass., where she will perform at this year’s TradMad, a traditional music and dance camp in late August and early September.

A volunteer and host with Voices of Bonne Bay, the community radio station in Gros Morne National Park, Dr. Best produces a program highlighting folk music from around the world.

Before she hits the road, though, she’ll be in St. John’s for this year’s Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Festival.

Dr. Best says she’s grateful to receive this year’s honour from her peers.

“I’ve been involved off and on with the folk society and the festival itself for more than 30 years,” said Dr. Best, who is also the former chair of the organization. “I am proud of this. My family will be there and all of the people connected with the society are really family to me, so it will be great to have them there, too.

“All sorts of people in the Newfoundland and Labrador music scene have received this award, so it’s nice,” she added.

She’s set to receive her lifetime honour on the main stage during the 39th annual Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Festival on Saturday, Aug. 8. She will also be performing in the Oral Traditions Tent that morning.

“I have a lot of great memories with the folk festival. One year, I can remember Pius Power, my father-in-law, and John White being on stage. The two of them rattled on together. I don’t think five people in the park understood them but they were magnificent.

“This is indeed a nice honour.”