Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Themes of a "Second Home" dominate presentation for Council on latest Lester Centre notes

Lester Centre GM Michal Gurney outlined some of the recent developments
and future plans for they City owned facility

The attachment that the community has towards the Lester Centre made for a good portion of a presentation to Prince Rupert City Council on Monday evening, as Lester Centre General Manager Michael Gurney provided for a range of items of interest when it comes to the cultural centre for the city.

The first portion of his Monday night commentary provided an overview of the workings of the Society that runs the facility and its relationship with a range of partners around the community.

The Lester GM also provided for a short review of some of work of the members of the Lester Centre Board and the nature of their commitment to the Arts in the community.

On operational notes Gurney ran through the list of key notes on the facility usage, a string of statistics that included:

Over 100 volunteers served the facility over the course of the last year, 4,009 hours of bookings, the equivalent of 167, 24 hour days during the last season. 

Between 10 and 12 thousand audience members, performers and workshop participants visited the Lester Centre since August of 2018. 

Hundreds of them visitors from out of town participating or attending Dance competitions, while others came to town to see some of the high profile productions at the Centre. 

As well, Mr. Gurney offered up a snapshot of some of the many high profile presentations that made for the Lester Centre schedule, including a number of local productions both from community groups, School District 52 and Dance events to name a few.

The opportunity to bring the Arts to SD52 and Annunciation School also made for some of the narrative and to highlight how every student in Prince Rupert passes through the doors of the Lester Centre.

To help improve on attendance the Lester Centre will take on a wider outreach to local media and other options to promote the range of productions that are put on over the year.

Towards that goal, the Lester Centre hopes to become a place active engagement with the community through such ventures as the TED X conference and outreach to Indigenous groups to showcase the arts and culture and opportunities for community learning.

They also hope to use technology to reach out to other regional First Nation communities around the North Coast, as well as communities on Haida Gwaii.

The upcoming play bill for the 2019-2020 season was also outlined for Council members, with the range of productions to take to the stage providing a cross section of music, dance, comedy and theatre. Included in the season ahead is the always popular Community production, which this year will feature the work of a Broadway musical

Bringing the presentation to an end, Mr. Gurney spoke of the dedication of the staff of the Lester Centre, he then touched on the new arrangement with the City of Prince Rupert, with the three year operating contract concept one that they are looking to renew later this year when the current arrangement comes to an end.

February 2017 -- A Big Cheque for a Big Announcement; City of Prince Rupert and Lester Centre sign Three year funding agreement

He also made note of the recent Redesign Rupert sessions, noting how the four days of conversation provided strong evidence for the affection for the Arts that is found in the community and how it can fit into the design of the city in the future.

"What surprised me most, was the fact that even in a town where industrial developments dominate the news, the architects of the future understand the vitality that the arts and culture bring. It seemed to be a given that gathering places like the Lester Centre, play and will play a critical role in defining our regional identity and providing the social cohesion that underpins increasing opportunity and prosperity. 

Of course this shouldn't have been  a surprise, when visitors such as Alison O'Toole's students move into the Centre for their rehearsals, they immediately feel at home, comfortable and inspired. When it comes to creativity, expression and ideas the Lester Centre is like a second home for thousands of our neighbours"

In a follow up inquiry, Mayor Brain tried to solicit the name of the Broadway musical that the Lester Centre will be taking on, with Mr. Gurney noting that it will be revealed later this week.

As for questions, Councillor Randhawa inquired about revenue streams and attendance projections, Councillor Adey commented on the nature of the building and how Gurney had described it as 'our house' a sentiment that he concurred with, having had opportunities both as a teacher, performer and audience member.

Councillor Cunningham had words of praise for the work that the General Manager has done through the year and paid tribute to the volunteers that give of their time at the Centre. Councillor Skelton-Morven echoed many of the same themes as those of Councillor Cunningham

You can review his full presentation to Council from the City's Video Archive starting at the seven minute mark.

We outlined some of the highlights for the 2019-2020 season back in July, you can review some of those notes here.

As well you can access the Lester Centre through its website and Facebook page, portals which provide the latest notes on the city's entertainment complex.

We also highlight the upcoming shows as part of our Community Arts events page here, as well as on our Community Notes page.

Further notes related to Monday's council session can be examined from Council Timeline Feature and Council archive page.

To view the most recent blog posting of the day, click here.

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