Conversation Works & Mike Russell

Mike Russell speaking about the Kidical Mass Bike Parade at FernFest 2012.


Jack Derricourt
Published June 2013
Village Vibe Newspaper

Christopher Bowers is an artist of conversation. He is a lifelong advocate of the relaxing quality of a fresh question: “What’s the twist?” “What is a moment that stood out in your enterprise?” “What is your opening line?” These are the kinds of direct, inspiration-seeking queries that he will bring to the people at this year’s Fern Fest — along with some slick looking, pro-conversation buttons.

While some may shake their heads and mourn the transition towards tweets and blogs in this digital age, there are signs that the art of conversation is alive and kicking harder than ever. The overwhelming popularity of story and conversation-based podcasts like This American Life or The Moth demonstrates that people want to branch out from their understanding of the world by hearing different experiences and perspectives. The Fernwood community is lucky to have their own digital conversation champion in Bowers.

As a hardworking school teacher bound in weary marking and testing, Bowers says he fell under the “tyranny of the immediate,” and was unable to give his students a full picture of the real world. To remedy this, he sought out community members to contribute to the classroom with their thoughts on life. Bowers found the process so enlightening that he started hosting courses on the power of personal story for adults.

Now, out of the classroom and accompanied by a digital camera, Bowers looks to record controlled moments of conversation, whether it be at a music festival or an art crawl. He has captured the thoughts of aboriginal elders, chocolatiers, urban sketchers, the genius behind Star Wars (the one-man version), and so many more. Each clip is a restrained — under two minutes — exploration of a person, a moment, plain and simple, but full of insight.


Conversation Works and Bubble Man

Converationworks capturing Terry, The Bubble Man, in front of The Cornerstone Cafe.


It’s not always easy. Bowers is quick to praise Fernwood’s wonderful atmosphere of conversation, but he sees room for improvement. When it comes to the average person on the street, he says, “It’s pretty hard to access them.”

To make it easier on attendees at this year’s Fern Fest, Bowers has organized a delightful solution. Buttons will be on hand, ready for would-be conversationalists. They read simply “Open to a Conversation.” Bowers wants to help people indicate that they are “safe and ready to go” for hearty talks, stories, and thought-sharing. It’s another small gesture in Bowers’ long career of moving people towards a central realization: “The solution to your challenge is often one conversation away.”

Check out more of Christopher Bowers’ clips at — and don’t miss out on the wonderful conversations at this year’s Fern Fest, Friday June 21st.


© Copyright 2013