I’d first interview Waterdown native Terra Lightfoot for her punk band before she made home in downtown Hamilton so she could take her music across the world. Sarah Beatty has dual citizenship Bridging her homes between Rochester, New York and Parry Sound, Ontario, Beatty made Hamilton home to study earth science at McMaster University but has released two albums as well. Heather Valley came from up north to Brantford before making Hamilton home, works in two musical projects and tends bar at the Casbah... Brennagh Burns came from Cayuga... and it was fifteen plus years ago that we documented Oshawa’s Lori Yates and her move to downtown Toronto which she walked away from to live in Hamilton. But the story you’re about to read is not about Toronto sky high cost of living, or gentrification in Hamilton. All the above musical women came to Hamilton to find themselves in music and have not only done that but made the city much richer for their choices.
Holly Ellsworth Clark reportedly made a similar choice to move to Hamilton. The six foot, 200 lb woman had made a name for her self in sports but she was a budding musician in her native Calgary. She reportedly left her home, her band and a bad relationship to make a life in music in Hamilton but tragically, I am not interviewing Holly to learn about her music. Police report that Holly Clark disappeared on January 11 around 4 p.m. after she walked out of her Sanford Avenue North home and headed north toward Barton Street East. She was in distress and left a phone message to her parents that she wanted to go home. Some three weeks later, we still don’t know what happened or where Holly is but a large community is gathering to help find Holly with an event in her name to raise funds and awareness.
“Holly frequented the open mic that I host at the Corktown Pub every Wednesday and I got to back her up on drums a couple of times,” recalls local musician Dave Gould. “She was an incredible performer. Her music at the time was very much like the Velvet Underground meets Neil Young with a breathy expressive vocal. It had great guitar playing — just incredible.
“She stopped coming and then we started to see the news,” adds Gould. “She was very extroverted, bubbly, cheerful — there was no strange behavior that might have thought could lead to stuff like this. That was a total surprise.”
I’d love to be speaking to Holly about her music but can only watch YouTube for videos Clark had previously uploaded. Gould offers opportunity for those that feel they want to do more in the search for Holly,
“The news developed and we were part of the first searches but, I don’t know, it’s a strange place to be,” says Gould. “There are an overwhelming number of people coming out as part of these searches where they put boots on the ground, sectioning off areas of Hamilton. They’ve had hundreds of volunteers – even people that Holly didn’t even know. There are all of these people coming out of the woodwork trying to help find her. There’s been lots of postering.
“A new thing is the family just put up a website that has all of the news articles, posters to print and put up — everything all in one spot at BringHollyHome2020.com,” adds Gould. “After talking to her family to make sure it was cool with them, I put the word out on Facebook to invite people to be a part of a fundraiser. I was flooded with responses from musicians that had met her and a lot that hadn’t met her — she seems to have made quite the impact on those that she did meet. The generosity of the Hamilton musical community has been incredible.”
While the Hamilton music community and more rally to help in this tragic situation, it has become national news. A new billboard has been erected in Holly’s neighborhood pleading for information and if you want to get involved, there are people that will help guide you through the process.
“One of the organizations that has been helping out has been Guardians of Our Angels — Missing Persons Canada — it’s a non–profit organization that helps organize and get publicity to the missing person’s face out there,” says Gould. “They’ve been working with the family and so I offered the funds from this event to the family and they’re going to give the money to charities that support missing persons and homeless people. We hope everyone comes to help support the search for Holly Clark and one hundred percent of the funds will be going for services that support missing persons and homeless folks.
“A lot of local artists have come forward to donate items for the silent auction and Jessie Golem is helping to organize the silent auction,” adds Gould. “Funds are not as important as raising awareness about Holly. We want to keep the awareness out there and we want people to keep looking for Holly. If you see her, the instructions are not to engage her and simply call 911. The Hamilton community has been extraordinarily great to work with and has been very supportive of the efforts. It's heart warming to see a city come together for this and we only hope for the best outcome.”
The Holly Clark Search Fundraiser happens February 6 at the Corktown with performances from Brennagh Burns, Hanna Bech, Union and Kay, Olivia Brown, Sarah Beatty and Raging Chimera, as well as a 50/50 draw and silent auction and more. Doors open at 8pm and it's a pay-what-you-can cover with a suggested $20 donation. Click on BringHollyHome2020.com.