by Debbie Gaylord
It is an age-old question - Who are we?_ Playwright and Creative Director, Ian Mairs and his band of storytellers, musicians, poets and performers has materialized the answer for our community with the live show SWAMP RADIO, a celebration of the culture, arts and history of northeast Florida. This July, Swamp Radio will perform its latest with “Summer in the Ancient City” in St. Augustine at the Lewis Auditorium at Flagler College July 18-19 at 7:30 pm.
Mairs, whose other works have been produced from New York City to Atlanta, is passionate about the project as it centers on his hometown and the people and places that make it one of the best kept secrets on the east coast. He says Swamp Radio was inspired by NPR shows like ‘The Prairie Home Companion’ and ‘Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me’. Ian enjoyed these shows and thought it would be amazing to develop something similar for Northeast Florida, the place where he grew up and which he loves dearly. “I hope Swamp Radio will chronicle the story of our community, and help people celebrate and mythologize where they live”.
Ian moved here as a child and noticed right away that Northeast Florida has what he calls a different flavor. “Overall”, he says, “Floridians are optimistic”. Mairs describes his experience best. “My father moved us to Jacksonville from Los Angeles in 1970. From the minute we crossed the state line, I felt I had set foot on a new planet. The air was hot and wet. The trees were lush and green. Everyone spoke with a funny accent. It didn’t take long for me to be hypnotized by the place. I came to understand folks in North Florida had a certain way of doing everything: cooking vegetables (frying them), making iced tea (with a ton of sugar) and answering your elders (with a “yes ma’am” on the end of every response.)”
The stories and music of Swamp Radio conjure up a lifestyle that weaves together the past and present that is mysteriously just beneath the surface. Our community is a transient one, and Swamp Radio is able to provide a deeply pleasing introduction to newcomers while at the same time providing an accurate reflection to natives with oddly familiar characters like Swamp Lady or the flowing sounds of the Willow Wacks.
The name Swamp Radio first came to Ian about two years ago. He wrote it down on a post it note and stuck it on his refrigerator where it stayed for a while until the ideas began to flow and it gained a momentum of its own. He says the response has been amazing. The idea attracted many unique contributors and Swamp Radio was awarded a Spark Grant from the Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville, allowing them to produce two highly successful shows focusing on Jacksonville this past Spring. The podcast (available on at swampradiojax.com) has listeners from all over the world.
According to Mairs, Swamp Radio will evolve slowly to maintain its integrity. The team of creatives plans to do shows in Brunswick, Georgia and New Orleans after their show in St. Augustine this Summer but there is no clear path other than seeing where the road takes them.
This summer Swamp Radio will turn its attention on St. Augustine:
The best darn day trip you’ll ever take. Gas up the car, grab a Big Gulp, hop on Interstate 95 South and before you know it you’ll be parked in the oldest city in America. In this live episode, Swamp Radio will highlight the winning charms of St. Augustine — checking in with the groovy sounds of The WillowWacks (hometown duo), a quirky and not-so-serious side to the city’s rich history (provided by historian Wayne Wood) and the secret to making a Watermelon Mint popsicle from the folks at the Hyppo. Here’s the lineup:
For more information please visit: http://www.swampradiojax.com/
St. Johns Magazine blog features articles written by & about the people, places and events of St. Johns and the surrounding communities.