Roy Mitchell

Image © Roy Mitchell, 2020. Courtesy of the artist.


Roy Mitchell’s artistic practice encompasses media arts, performance, community organizing, curation, podcasting, writing and more. He holds an Honours Degree in Social/Cultural Anthropology from the University of Toronto (1986). Between 1996 and into the 2000s, Mitchell created over 16 short videos and films. These mostly personal, documentary pieces have been screened locally, nationally and internationally at film festivals, galleries and artist-run events. His art writing has appeared in various magazines and publications including (Xtra, and he was the Executive Director of Trinity Square Video in Toronto from 2001-2013. 

Before moving to the small hamlet of Hybla near Bancroft, Ontario in 2013, Mitchell created several interventions in public space inspired by Toronto Mayor Rob Ford and other local politicians. Drawing The Line was a performance-intervention that started with a free-to-all figuring drawing class in the square outside of Toronto City Hall. After some instruction, the participants moved en masse into the council chambers where participants sketched the councillors during a public meeting. The drawings that were created were later exhibited at Toronto Free Gallery. Many of the participants in Drawing the Line had never been to city hall or a council meeting before, and some had never been inside a gallery. Drawing The Line was a remarkable convergence of art and politics that insprised much of Mitchell’s current artistic interests. Mitchell later created the Embarrassing Mayor Tour Public Art Tour where he lead people on tours of city hall to talk about the public art there and weave in embarrassing stories about Toronto’s most embarrassing mayor, Rob Ford.

Mitchell’s work continues to be deeply informed by his politics, and tends to focus on community politics at a municipal level. He approaches all of his work an earnest criticality and a large dose of humour. He uses social media as a platform to create wry commentary on local activities, playing around the edges of journalism, performance, persona and parody. His first podcast, Roy Nation, focussed on Mayor Rob Ford and the happenings of the Toronto art community. His current project, the Hybla Minute is a weekly podcast that was created to address the dearth of local broadcast and print media in Hybla. Launched specifically to bring COVID-19 information to the local community, the podcast has grown to feature interviews and music from artists, activists and community leaders. Guests have included: performance artists/activists Shawna Dempsey and Lorri Millan; comedians Paul Bellini and Martha Chavez; Glad Day Bookshop owner Michael Erickson; local mayors, Vic Bodnar and Paul Jenkins; and many young people starting out their careers in opera and journalism. Between 2015‚Äď2017 Mitchell published and was the sole writer for Bancroft This Week, a news-zine that covered news stories happening in Bancroft.

Roy Mitchell and collaborator Ken Fraser share the 100-acre homestead they own with the many artists that visit to participate in their home-grown community and arts initiatives. Each summer they hold a garlic festival on their land, and have started Hybla’s first Pride Parade. In 2017, they created the first Hybla Comedy Workshop. Paul Bellini, writer and performer from Kids in the Hall and This Hour has 22 Minutes, was organized to present a masterclass in standup comedy. Participants took an intensive all-day workshop with Paul and then presented their work to a full house at The Arlington Hotel in Maynooth.

Mitchell is the Director of the Hybla Academy, where area- and away-artists are invited to present workshops for locals. Workshop have been presented by Lise Beaudry, Keith Cole, Joey Shulman. Mitchell has also facilitated workshops for the Hybla Academy including Keto and the Keto Pizza and Trimming Your Bush: How to Harvest Cannabis. Mitchell and Fraser have also created the Hybla Residency, which offers artists a place to come and contemplate their practice and present new works or talks to local community. Some projects have been presented in partnership with the Art Gallery of Bancroft. Past residents include Keith Cole, Penny McCann, Laurie Townshend, Lise Beaudry, and Madi Piller. 

Mitchell’s show Hybla Minute can be listened to on, and his cultural content can be viewed on his Facebook page.

Tiger Beat by Roy Mitchell

SPOILER ALERT: Hasting Highland eventually got their bylaw, but you don’t want to miss a (Hybla) minute of the whole story.

In response to FADO’s Performance Resolution(s), at-home residency project call for submissions, Roy Mitchell’s tongue-in-cheek proposal was to go to Algonquin Big Cat Adventures, a roadside zoo about 15 kilometres from where he lives, and “take a tiger away. And then another.”

At the time, Mitchell was preoccupied with so-called ‘big cats’ because of this roadside zoo, that had set up business in his community and Mark Drysdale, the owner of the zoo, was exhibiting lions and tigers without a permit. Soon after learning of Drysdale’s plans to open this zoo in Hastings Highlands, Roy Mitchell started a group‚ÄĒCitizens for a Safe and Humane Hastings Highlands‚ÄĒwith the express purpose of lobbying for an exotic animal bylaw in the municipality. 

So began a very long journey for Mitchell and members of his community. Much of it is documented as a part of Mitchell’s art practice‚ÄĒin writing, on podcasts and as content for his journalism-cum-art talk show, the Hybla Minute. The story, and Mitchell’s part in it, even made the CBC news. Is Mark Drysdale Ontario’s own Tiger King? Not if Roy Mitchell has anything to say about it.

This incredible tale covers lions, tigers, and much much more, OH MY!

Read¬†They Fought a Zoo¬†by Joan Webber and then listen to The Doc Project’s audio documentary, Of Towns and Tigers, featuring Roy Mitchell to get the full scoop on this incredible story.

The beginning, the middle and the end. In that order! Roy’s Side of the Story. There will be guests, there will be mud flung on Instagram Live. You can ask questions. It’ll be very interactive!

Instagram Live @roybruno

When: November 2 @ 5pm
Topic: The Beginning
Content: Background and how we found out about the zoo coming to town. 
Guest: Julie Woodyer, Zoocheck

When: November 3 @ 5 pm
Topic: The Middle
Content: Organizing, Drama on Council and the bylaw comes to town
Guest: Nate Smelle, local journalist

When: November 4 @ 5 pm
Topic: The End
Content: The Bylaw, the Drama, Cops and what next and can Politics be Art
Guest: Shannon Cochrane, FADO Performance Art Centre Director

BONUS MEDIA: DOWNLOAD The Lion Ate His Tiger by Grant LaFleche, Toronto Star (2022)

Performance Yellow

This fragrance opens us to the question, has the show started? It's winter, the theatre is colder than the street and the room is filled with people and all their winter smells: wet faux leather, down, too much shampoo, and beer breath. The atmosphere is a trickster. Am I late, am I early?

Top Notes

yellow mandarin, mimosa

Middle Notes

honey, chamomile, salt

Base Notes

narcissus, guaiac wood, piss, beer