Who is Allan, a radio documentary I produced for CBC Radio kicked off the summer season a couple years ago on Canada Day. It tells the story of the stories people made up about a man they didn’t understand: Allan, a seemingly educated, sophisticated man who appears homeless, well-known to many in his community of Guelph, Ontario. What’s his real story? And what are all the myths?
“Since fear and social norms often forbid us to ask a stranger questions, people have made up stories to try to understand how Allan came to be. Often great big dramatic stories! In this doc, I seek out those stories, then ask Allen himself for his ‘real’ story.”
And Here’s a little blurb the local paper wrote:
CBC Radio to feature Guelph producer’s documentary on Canada Day
By Mercury staff
GUELPH — A radio documentary by multimedia journalist Dawn Matheson will bring a story about Guelph to people across the country on Canada Day.
The story of a longtime Guelph character known as Allen will kick off CBC’s national Summer Radio Season on Canada Day as part of a new program called The Doc Project.
Matheson’s radio documentary, titled “Who is Allen?,” will air on Canada Day, July 1 at 7:30 p.m. and be repeated Thursday at 9:30 a.m. on CBC Radio One.
Matheson was one of about 20 producers chosen in a countrywide call to create radio documentary for CBC in a ‘boot camp’ held in Toronto over the past winter.
The documentary, featuring dozens of Guelph residents and Allen himself, explores the nature of story creation, Matheson says.
“Allen is a well-known figure on Guelph’s streets for the past 35 years, but most don’t really know him,” she says. “He appears to be a lonely mystery with a long tangled beard and torn clothing happily reading the New York Times at Guelph’s Welcome In drop-in centre, park benches throughout downtown and many cafes.
“Many Guelphites assume he is homeless, or that a tragedy has struck him to put him out on the streets. Others say the very literate Allen is a professor performing an elaborate social experiment. Nonetheless, he has fascinated the townsfolk for years, including me,” Matheson says.
“Since fear and social norms often forbid us to ask a stranger questions, people have made up stories to try to understand how Allen came to be. Often great big dramatic stories! In this doc, I seek out those stories, then ask Allen himself for his ‘real’ story.”