Stage director finds reclusive happiness writing kids’ book after music festival’s cancellation

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Robbie Campbell had a hectic career as the main stage director of the annual Shambhala Music Festival, but turned to a quieter pursuit after the event was postponed in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Campbell used the extra time at home in the West Kootenay city of Nelson, B.C., to find joy in drawing and writing Tulip, a 32-page graphic novel that builds on the experiences he observed while raising a son with autism.

The book tells the tale of a T-Rex dinosaur egg accidentally falling onto a bird’s nest, then hatching and growing up to feel comfortable about being different from her avian siblings and ultimately becoming an amazing dancer.

“Sometimes, discovering who you are is learning who you are not,” the book reads. “Stay true to yourself, follow your dreams and you can accomplish a lot.”

Campbell, a father of four, self-published the book in December.

He says his son, now 17, is a highly functioning person with autism who had difficulties with writing as a boy, but now excels in foreign exchange trading as a young man.

Tulip, a graphic novel about a baby dinosaur, is based on the experience of Robbie Campbell’s son who has autism. (Submitted by Robbie Campbell)

“Every kid has their strong suits, and I feel like our society, especially in schools, they’re all meant to fit within the parameters,” Campbell said.

As a graphic designer before taking up the Shambhala gig, Campbell says he found writing much more challenging than drawing pictures, but his hard work eventually paid off.

“It’s been unbelievable. I literally get pictures of children smiling, hugging the [Tulip] book three or four times a day,” Campbell said.

Shambhala, which takes place near Salmo in southeastern B.C., has been part of the province’s live music scene every summer since 1998. It was cancelled for 2020 due to the pandemic as well as sexual violence allegations against one of its performers

“It [the Shambhala] is a magical place,” Campbell said to Sarah Penton, host of CBC’s Radio West. “To have it just torn away is devastating.”

The Shambhala Music Festival, hosted every summer since 1998 near Salmo in B.C.’s Kootenay region, is tentatively scheduled to open on Aug. 20-23, 2021. (Shambhala music festival)

The Shambhala Music Festival has announced it’s cautiously planning to hold the event on Aug. 20-23, 2021.  

Campbell says he has no crystal ball to foresee Shambhala’s fate this summer, but knows at least one thing for sure.

“I’ve already got an idea for a new one,” he said. “I’ll definitely be making another kids’ book.”

Tap the link below to hear Robbie Campbell’s interview on Radio West:

Radio West10:16Shambhala Music Festival stage director turns to kids’ book writing when out of work in 2020

Robbie Campbell, main stage director of Shambhala Music Festival, speaks to Sarah Penton about the solitary project he developed after Shambhala Music Festival was postponed last year due to COVID. 10:16

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