Lecture: The Promise of Paradise

The West has long attracted visionaries and schemers from around the world. And no other region in North America can outstrip British Columbia for the number of utopian or intentional settlement attempts in the past 150 years.

In an illustrated talk based on the expanded edition of his book The Promise of Paradise, Andrew Scott will touch on some of the dramatic stories of these fascinating, but often doomed, communities.

From Doukhobor farmers to Finnish coal miners, Quakers and hippies, many groups have struggled to build idealistic colonies in BC’s inspiring landscape. While most discovered hardship, disillusionment and failure, new groups sprang up—and continue to spring up—to take their place.

Meet the quick-tempered, slave-driving Madame Zee (partner of the infamous Brother XII), who reportedly beat followers with a riding crop. Hear from Ted Sideras, who moved eighty “family members” from Lasqueti Island to remote Calvert Island after being charged with cattle rustling. Congregate with Jerry LeBourdais and fellow members of the Ochiltree Organic Commune, who rebelled from hippie communes by embracing meat eating and coffee drinking.

With careful research and engaging first-person accounts, Andrew Scott sifts through the wreckage of the utopia-seekers’ dreams and delves into the practices and philosophies of contemporary intentional communities. The Promise of Paradise is a compendium of astounding misadventures as well as an intriguing analysis of what moves people to search for paradise.

Photo by Katherine Johnston

Andrew Scott is an author, journalist, editor and photographer whose non-fiction work has appeared in publications worldwide. He is the author of six books including the award-winning Encyclopedia of Raincoast Place Names (Harbour Publishing, 2009). He was also a contributing editor, subject consultant and writer for the Encyclopedia of British Columbia (Harbour Publishing, 2000).

Andrew’s presentation will begin at 7 pm. Copies of The Promise of Paradise will be available for purchase ($24.95, Harbour Publishing) and signing after the talk.

Admission to the evening is $5 for Historical Society members; $6 for non-members (plus GST). Advance tickets are recommended and can be purchased by phone: 250-334-0686 ext. 5.

The Courtenay and District Museum is located at 207 Fourth Street in downtown Courtenay.