COLUMN: Grand plans, elections and perspective at Nelson’s Civic Theatre

Brian May on the Civic’s plans for the future

By Brian May

Twenty years ago, maybe 21, who can remember, I found myself involved in an interesting moment. It was 1997 and I was with a ragtag group in the plush chambers of the old City Hall. At the time I had been working with a wonderful and naïve team steering our centennial project. If you lived here 21 years ago you may remember it.

A collective of clubs, businesses, and fire centre crews looking for something to do joined with the city to build a pathway to nowhere. Benches, landscaping, and statues meandered 200 metres out into Kootenay Lake with a big water hole in the middle. Nobody knew how long it would stay like that but the bagpipers had played and our job was done.

Then the mayor of the day asked an unrelated few to join him. He had access to funds and he had an idea but he knew not everyone would appreciate it. He wanted to take all the funding and fill in that big water hole and he wanted to know if we could support it. I guess we recognized that if he didn’t take that step it could sit there for 10 years protected by cheap fencing and worried parents. Today that hole is the Lakeside soccer pitch that has been core to thousands of players and years of successful Nelson teams.

Now I don’t think it was election time but I’ve seen that elections offer good opportunities for big ideas, projects, and attitudes to surface and take hold. This year with over 20 candidates it reminds me of elections two decades ago when a spectrum of passions and people enlivened the landscape. People got involved, listened, learned and voted.

But enough of my idle reminiscences of a bygone era. Let me get back on track.

A few months ago the Civic Theatre Society produced a grand plan with 39 pages and a dozen addenda. This business plan can overwhelm anyone who doesn’t have a good mug of coffee but maybe that’s the idea. No, I’m kidding. It’s good reading and sound analysis that’s intended to tell a story with a clear conclusion to captivate an exclusive audience: fundraising partners who share Nelson’s vision.

As you’d expect, the business plan talks about the 4,000 people who signed up to save the theatre and what has been invested in the facility and the organization to get us ready for today. What the statements, projections, risk management, operational goals, market strategies, graphs, tables, bells and whistles spell out is that to become a dynamic center for the community it has to expand. A second theatre means more audiences can be engaged and profits can be consistent. With a sound business behind it a third theatre then guarantees a facility for dialogue, education, film industry support, music recording and diverse film content. All the stuff that a unique community expects from 1,100 members.

Now comes the fun part, getting potential partners to come to the table and make a commitment. One group wants to support artist development, another wants to fund specific items, a third wants to loan you money … once the program is worked out, maybe. That’s all okay. People have questions and the grand business plan or abbreviated documents provide answers.

That brings us back to elections. As much as they involve fresh people and fresh ideas they can also slow things down while old projects get tidied up and new projects get prioritized. In the meantime we keep moving. Our plan and proposals are being reviewed by potential supporters and this month we’re excited about a particular program that is completely geared to help everyone in the Nelson area develop a media arts economic development incubator dialogue centre and forum for the celebration of cinema with great popcorn. The application deadline is in a month or two.

Anyone who has been involved with a community group that has worked hard to build the framework for something great knows there is a moment when you need to hear “now let’s just fill in that big puddle in the middle.” That’s why I love big community projects. They take a lot of work and you’re never sure where the leadership or ideas will emerge but they can change the landscape for the long term in ways you never fully envision.

So, while we keep working quietly in the background, you should go hear a debate, talk to neighbours, and read the paper and if you still have time, we’ll see you at The Civic.

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