Arts community focused on getting Lois Brown back on her feet

Serious accident keeping award-winning filmmaker from work; event designed to help her 'make it through the winter'

Danette Dooley
Published on November 7, 2008
Lois Brown stands on the wooden ramp made for her by former drama students at the Stella Burry Centre. Photo by Danette Dooley/Special to The Telegram

A small, square sign on the inside of Lois Brown's house door in St. John's reads, "Never, Never, Never Give Up!"
It was given to her by a friend, six or seven years ago, she says. Brown had no idea at the time how often she'd draw on those words in the years to come.
The local freelance director/actor was struck by an SUV in British Columbia six months ago.
While she's now out of her wheelchair and has progressed from a walker to a cane, Brown is nowhere near where she needs to be to start working again as an independent artist.
However, on Wednesday morning, as she gets ready to head to an appointment at the Health Sciences Centre, she is excited that the sun is shining and she's feeling good.
Not all days are good days, she says quickly, before moving on to talk about the positives in her life.
"Can I show you how good I can walk down these steps?" Brown asks after walking up the hall stairway that leads from her living room to her bedrooms.
Without waiting for a reply, she's already holding the stair rail and is concentrating on the downward movement of putting one foot in front of the other.
"Pretty good, huh?" Brown smiles, once her feet are on the floor at the bottom of the steps.
Brown's devastating accident happened in June when she was in Vancouver for the Magnetic North Theatre Festival, where she was directing Andy Jones' "An Evening With Uncle Val."
She was on a crosswalk - with the light - when an SUV ran over her left foot and hit her right leg.
"A lot of what I've been through just doesn't seem real to me yet," she says of the June 4 accident. "I guess you can't deal with it all, so you don't."
Brown was taken by ambulance to St. Paul's Hospital in Vancouver where she remained for more than three weeks.
She was then transferred to the Health Sciences Centre in St. John's for another two weeks.
As a single parent to a 13-year-old daughter, Brown is grateful to those who have brought her food, picked up her groceries, took her to doctors' appointments and helped her out in numerous other ways since the accident.
When workers with the Stella Burry Community Services New Beginnings program donated their time to build a long ramp on Brown's house, she was released from the Health Sciences Centre sooner than expected.
"I had actually taught a drama class at Stella Burry, so it was kinda sweet when these guys who I taught built me the ramp. I was able to come home early because I had so many friends willing to care for me," she says.
As she takes one day at a time, Brown admits she often gets frustrated with her progress.
"My doctor tells me that my enthusiasm to get better is both positive and negative. It's positive in a sense that it keeps me working at my recovery. But it's negative because sometimes I don't realize that I'm expecting too much of myself and there can be a bit of a fallout for that," she says.
Brown is now preparing for the fourth surgery since her accident.
Where once she led a hectic life, she's now learning to take pleasure from her small accomplishments.
Lately, she says, she's been walking with her cane the short distance from her home to Georgetown Bakery.
"I sit on the bench and talk to Irene for a while and some of the other people that are there. Then I can walk home again and I've done that by myself," she says.
Like many independent artists, Brown has no insurance or nest egg to fall back on.
Her accident has meant cancelling or postponing a number of projects.
Financially, she's received one-time assistance from the Cultural Artists Plan for Emergencies (CAPE) fund, which is administered by the Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council.
However, because of the extent of her injuries and the uncertainty of when she will be able to return to work, her friends and fellow artists are stepping up to the plate to help her out.
A TIGF (Thank God it's Friday) fundraiser takes place Nov. 14 at Wonderbolt Studio, 72 Harbour Dr. in St. John's.
"The money we raise will help Lois make it through the winter," says Ruth Lawrence, executive director of the Nickel Independent Film Festival.
The event, which includes music and dancing and prize draws, gets underway at 6 p.m.
"We'll keep partying until we think we've got enough money in the pot," Lawrence laughs.
Brown knows a fundraiser is in the works. However, hasn't been told about the details.
What she does know, though, it that she'd "never be able to survive" on her own.
"I'm really, really lucky and thankful that there is such a fantastic arts community here and that I have such fantastic friends and relatives and next door neighbours who taken care of me. I mean, I'd be up shit-creek it wasn't for them," she says.
For further information on the fundraiser call Ruth Lawrence at 576-3378. Donations can be dropped off at the Travel Bug, 155 Water St.