Raging Grannies, bold and bare, fight fire with tears of laughter

Old Bold and BeautifulOld Bold and Beautiful
Photo: Isabella Rosa Arnodei, Ella Photography

Photo: Isabella Rosa Arnodei, Ella Photography


Contrary to what many believe, it is not having grandchildren the Raging Grannies have in common, since being a grandmother is not a prerequisite for membership.

What they share is an unyielding belief in certain values, the courage to fight for them and a great sense of humour. “The important thing is you care passionately about the issues we protest,” says Joan Hadrill, who has raged with the Montreal “gaggle” of Grannies for 23 years. “You have to care so much you don’t mind looking ridiculous when you’re out singing in the street.”

The Grannies protest against war and the arms race, land mines, pollution, bottled water, climate change, fracking and the exporting of asbestos while promoting human rights and social justice. However, they do not fight fire with fire, but with tears—of laughter. Through street theatre and satirical songs, dressed in flowery shawls and enormous floppy hats of all colours, the grannies have made their voices heard at key events since the first “gaggle” was founded in Victoria, B.C., in 1987.

When the Montreal chapter recently heard that film-maker Magnus Isacsson needed financial support to complete his feature-length documentary chronicling the Grannies’ history and activities, they rallied and decided to go boldly where few grannies have gone before: They have published a 2013 calendar featuring the Grannies in their birthday suits ou presque, strategically posed behind the props they use when protesting.

The 2003 film Calendar Girls, starring Helen Mirren, was the inspiration, Hadrill said, noting that taking their clothes off was less difficult for the grannies than putting on high heels.

The calendar is a crash course in issues of concern, with each page featuring a humorous photograph with a serious message, and a “quick response” symbol leading the reader to a relevant website.

“Magnus has spent eight years filming the Grannies in Canada and the States, and he has a lot of footage,” Hadrill said. “Apart from the cost of the printer, all the proceeds go to him.”

With recent government cuts in art funding, $45,000 is still needed to complete the project. There are a few more scenes to shoot, including the Grannies’ “UN-convention” to be held in Victoria in August and which will also mark their 25th anniversary.

The calendar is available in N.D.G. at Maison Verte, at 10,000 Villages in Pointe Claire, by calling 514-697-4195, or at grannypowerthefilm.com $20.