February 17 – Sting Sails ‘The Last Ship’ Into Canada’s Car Capital

Some Canadian factory workers got a Valentine’s gift from an unlikely source last week – Sting. The aging British rocker took the cast of his stage show The Last Ship to Oshawa, Ontario to perform a show for GM factory workers about to lose their jobs in the one-time center of the Canadian auto industry.

The Last Ship is a musical Sting created that roughly tells the story of his youth, growing up near Newcastle, England and the devastating effects the closing of the once mighty Swan Hunters Shipyards had on the community. The parallels weren’t lost on the former-Police frontman.

We wanted to come here and express our solidarity, and our support for (the workers’) struggle. It’s quite uncanny the parallel of what we’re doing on stage every night and what we’re seeing here,” he said. “It should be a moral support system. It’s about loyalty. These workers have loyally given their lives to the company. It’s a two-way street…you can’t just walk away.

I can see the worry on their faces,” he added, “That was very moving. This is not a game. … this is financial jiggery-pokery. They just want to pay workers less somewhere else. That’s not right.”

He was dressed casually in old jeans and a gray sweatshirt, and played acoustic versions of Police hits like “Every Breath You Take” and “Message in A Bottle” as well as the The Last Ship, with some of the cast wearing “Save Oshawa GM” shirts. He invited one factory worker up on stage to address the crowd in the Tribute Communties Centre (not that coincidentally, the 3000 seat arena was until recently the “General Motors Centre” ) about the effects the factory closings would have on her family. The city about 30 miles from Toronto was once almost entirely-based on GM factory jobs, with the downtown featuring old car factories and sprawling plants producing cars, trucks and car batteries near the lake. In its heyday in the ’70s, they employed well over 20 000. Today one factory is open, with fewer than 3000 workers and that is scheduled to shut later this year. Sting urged them to fight and not let it be “The Last Car.”

The Last Ship opened in Chicago in 2014, and then played on Broadway, toured England and recently has played in Toronto (with Sting himself playing a lead character, something he generally hadn’t done before.) The 2013 soundtrack album from it was Sting’s 12th solo (and 17th including The Police) top 20 album in the U.S. despite sounding both more “mature” and more folk-oriented than most of his work. Surprisingly, it went double platinum in Poland where it topped the charts.

Perhaps Sting’s fondness for Oshawa might reflect his memory of the early days of The Police. They played their first truly large North American concert – better than 50 000 people in fact- only a few miles away at Mosport Park nearly 40 years ago.

6 thoughts on “February 17 – Sting Sails ‘The Last Ship’ Into Canada’s Car Capital

  1. badfinger20

    This is a sad story. Some people wonder why families just don’t move to somewhere else…it’s hard when some have been there for generations and their home is there.
    That is good of Sting to do that.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It was good of him, rather surprised me. Oshawa’s comparatively lucky because of proximity to Toronto, plus country’ s newest university is there so there are jobs. But loss of 3000 well-paid jobs will still have big negative impact on economy, not to mention all the related jobs in the railyards, truck drivers, little restaurants right near the factory gates and so on. Just like a Springsteen or Mellencamp song setting.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Is there any hope the workers can take it over and run it? Sting has called attention to their plight as other musicians have, like you said. That’s saying a lot, but it needs to go farther. I’m sick of corporations calling the shots.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think we all are tired of those Too Big To Fail corporations. Canadian, as well as American governments bailed out GM with billions & this is how they repay us all. My dad worked there over 30 years…he got a job when he was relatively young, spoke almost no English at the time & was new to continent. He worked hard, make no mistake, but raised my bro & I with little outside help from my mom, had a nice house and so on. That type of life does not exist anymore for young people.
      I doubt the workers can do much but there are hundreds of acres of factory land some company may take over…to create lower paid jobs.
      I like Sting’s music but was indifferent to the man. My asessment of him rose with this. Good job, Sting

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: October 2 – Mr. Sumner’s Busy Day – A Sound Day

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