by Brent Belsher
As many of you will have already heard, Westside Church, which is currently using Granville Island Stage for their worship services, is in the process of buying the Centre in Vancouver for Performing Arts. This represents a huge loss to our city and, while I'm not sure what can be done, I hope that the arts community will speak up and voice their concerns about what is happening.
Vancouver is lacking in cultural spaces and, after the Queen Elizabeth Theatre with its near 2800 seats, the Centre is the next theatre in line in terms of seating capacity, with 1800 seats. Following that in size we slide down to the Playhouse with 650 seats. Yes, the Orpheum also is a large hall with over 2800 seats, but the stage size eliminates it from use for most productions.
While no one thought that the Centre was a perfect theatre, it has certainly filled gaps in the cultural landscape of this city over the years. For all its imperfections it was a theatre that was available and more affordable than the QET across the street.
I saw a number of performances at the Centre that might not have come to our city if not for this space. To name just a few over the past year or so: Dance House's presentation of La La La Human Steps, Vancouver International Dance Festival's Lines Dance of San Francisco, Goh Ballet's Nutcracker, various performances of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, PuSh Festival's King Lear, the Jazz Festival and various other musical groups passing through our city. (And my own presentation of Rock the Ballet last December).
While nothing has been confirmed by the soon-to-be new owners, all current bookings beyond August 3 appear to have been cancelled. I am convinced that the Westside Church doesn't realize the damage that this move could do to the community. The loss of another venue is absolutely not what this city needs. It has been a rough year with the closing of the Playhouse Theatre Company, the Waldorf Hotel, The Ridge, and now this.
I hope that the arts community doesn't simply stand by and watch this event unfold. I would encourage all of us to voice our concern to both Vancouver City Hall and to Westside Church. Let them know that you want to make sure that the Centre remains a place in our city in which to the public can still attend cultural events. The church could maintain a rental program allowing the space to be used as a theatre. But I fear this is not going to happen.
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Brent Belsher is a Vancouver based Arts Consultant working mostly with dance companies. Among the companies he works with he is the tour manager for Kidd Pivot and RUBBERRBANDance Group. He has also started producing shows bringing the National Ballet of Cuba to Vancouver, as well as Rasta Thomas' Bad Boys of Dance last year.
Opinions expressed in Viewpoint blog items are those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect those of the Alliance, its staff, board, or membership.