Distinguished alumnus Lucky Budd stays true to his vision


Robert “Lucky” Budd could claim any number of titles to describe his eclectic career—musician, audio preservationist, digital archivist, oral historian, producer, author and storyteller.

Regardless of the project he’s working on, a desire to tell stories has been central to his work.

“The more we can share our stories, the more we learn about one another,” Budd says.

The philosophy, Greek and Roman Studies and history alumnus will receive this year’s Distinguished Alumni Award for the Faculty of Humanities on Feb. 4 during UVic Alumni Week.

Budd considers himself an unusual candidate for the honour. His career has been circuitous, with a dash of the luck his brother gave him at birth. (The youngest of four children, Budd says his brother called him “Lucky” because he was happy to have a baby brother. The name stuck.)

After graduating in 2000 with a double minor in Philosophy and Greek and Roman Studies, Budd’s break came when the Royal BC Museum and BC Archives hired him as a digital archivist. At the time, Budd played in a rock band and had become known around town as “the guy good at recording things.”

Budd was tasked with digitizing CBC Radio journalist Imbert Orchard’s collection of 998 interviews with First Nations and first-generation British Columbians, recorded from 1959 to 1966.

“I started working on one of the largest oral history collections in world,” Budd recalls. “I got an education on the history of BC that nobody will ever have again.”

It took four-and-a-half years to listen to 2700 hours of material. Budd was so captivated by the interviews, he wanted to share them beyond the archives. He felt he needed training as a historian to do justice to the collection, and so applied for a MA in History at UVic.

“The whole focus of my [master’s] work was how to bring this material to as many people as possible, not to be an academic historian,” he says. “My whole thing is how to bring storytelling back into the teaching of history. To me, facts and values are always embedded in the narrative of a good story.”

Ahead of the curve—UVic introduced the MA in Public History in 2017—Budd focused on honing his academic skills but remained committed to his goal of writing a book that would have popular appeal.

“Without incredible teachers, mentors, professors and colleagues there is no way I would have been able to achieve my degree,” he says. “There were many at the university who believed in me and trusted in my drive and vision.”

In 2010, Budd released his first book, Voices of British Columbia, which became a national bestseller, followed four years later by a companion volume, Echoes of British Columbia: Voices from the Frontier, both of which explored the remarkable stories contained within the Orchard Collection. The latter book was awarded second prize for the 2015 Lieutenant-Governor of British Columbia’s Historical Writing Award.

A slot on CBC Radio led to an unexpected connection with BC artist and storyteller Roy Henry Vickers. The two became friends. Since 2013, Budd and Vickers have collaborated to produce a series of nine illustrated children’s books, including Hello Humpback, Orca Chief and Cloudwalker. The books have been nominated for 30 awards (winning 14) and have become national best-sellers.

Budd, meanwhile, launched his own company, Memories to Memoirs, which helps people record and preserve their stories. He has worked on other high-profile projects, including the oral history collection of the Nisga’a First Nation and the Grateful Dead’s audiovisual archive.

For Budd, his career has focused on remaining faithful to what he is passionate about.

“I encourage people to do what you love and stay true to your vision. If you have the drive and passion, don’t stop,” he says. “There have been lots of obstacles along the way but I’ve always kept going.”