The Big Idea

Some years ago I had the good fortune of meeting Pierre Elliot Trudeau, then Prime Minister of Canada. Though our chat was brief, his words left a deep impression on me – words that still resonate to this day; “Great minds discuss ideas, average minds converse events, while small minds talk about other people…”

And while, in principle, I continue to hold this maxim to be true – ask anyone who knows me and they will tell you how much I abhor gossip – the foundation upon which Celtic Life International now exists is…people.

Upon taking the magazine’s helm in early 2012, I made two simple suggestions: first, we rebrand from Celtic Life to Celtic Life International to better reflect our growing global audience, and second; to subtly shift our focus towards becoming a publication about people.

My reasoning on the latter was this; in our media-rich culture, one in which we are bombarded with stories, statistics, sound bites, video clips, images, etc, on a nearly minute-by-minute basis, audiences are ultimately looking for some sort of connection with what they are absorbing.

And, whether it is online, in a book, at the movies, on the radio, upon a theatre stage, through a television screen, or – in our case – via a bi-monthly print publication, people relate first and foremost with other people.

Like a mirror, contemporary media reflects our collective ideas, emotions, experiences, perspectives and opinions. To that end, we are no longer awash in Andy Warhol’s world of “Pop Culture” – instead, with so many windows open to the lives of others, we now experience the perks, and perils, of living in “Peep Culture”.

That said, Celtic Life International’s success and significance over the last half-decade has come from getting to the heart of the “stories behind the story.” While we may publish pieces about travel, cuisine, culture and our robust Celtic heritage, ultimately our readers connect with the people involved, be it a piper, a Highland dancer, an historian, a chef or a small business owner.

Thankfully, the vast Celtic world has no shortage of interesting people with incredible stories to tell, and I am grateful for having the opportunity to speak with them each day – in person, by phone, and via email. My life is deeply enriched by these discussions, most of which involve the sharing of ideas.

Similarly, I am blessed to be surrounded by the best crew in the business; our small staff is never short of big ideas on how to better serve our Celtic community. Their commitment to the Japanese business concept of Kaizen – the idea of continuous, daily improvements – has been central to our evolution.

Enough can’t be said about our contributors, also; be they professional writers or passionate Celts, their dedication to detail makes my daily duties that much easier.

I am appreciative, as well, for the many wonderful relationships we have developed with our partners over the years; artists, advertisers, promoters, event organizers, schools, societies, organizations, and the like – each of whom work with us to help create win-win-win scenarios for the Celtic Diaspora.

That Diaspora, it should be noted, is made up of unique, hard-working individuals who make all kinds of vital and creative contributions to Celtic culture. Today, I am both proud and honoured to call some of these good folks my friends; Eleanor McGrath in Toronto, Lisa Risley in Halifax, Bob Currie in New Jersey, Sarah Nagle in California, Michael Davies and Annie Wealleans in Wales, Lisa Butchart in Ontario, Ken McIlroy in Northern Ireland, and too many more to mention.

And then, of course, there are the Macquarries – Marcie and Cabrini and their kids – who have been like family to me over the last five years, welcoming me into their world with open arms.

All of this leads me to our readers, without whom I would have lesser reason to get up each morning – especially during the long Canadian winters! Of all the rewards that come with the gig, none are greater than the feedback I receive about the magazine. While we do get the occasional brick (one elderly woman wrote to me, complaining that our fashion pages constituted “Celtic porn”), the bouquets have been overwhelming. Recently, an email from 15-year-old Rebecca Shea of Boston reminded me why I do what I do each day.

“I never really thought about where I come from before I read your magazine,” she wrote. “I love the idea that I am a part of one big Celtic family.”

~Stephen Patrick Clare, Managing Editor