Due to a lack of rental venues in Surrey, and thanks to the new 200 seat space featuring professional calibre audio visual equipment and easy access to transit, the City has prepared a plan to accomodate live performances in the new Council Chambers. This will be accomplished through the inclusion of theatre standard lighting and sound systems, theatrical draping and masking, a lighted cat walk, an elevated stage, and a system to remove staff desks if needed. The City Hall Atrium is also being designed to include plug-and-play infrastructure for events, while an on-site cafe is expected to provide catering services. Challenges include limited back stage space, no direct loading access to the performance space, limited dressing room capacity, lack of storage space for tables and chairs and the installation of a box office at City Hall. However, according to the City, Port Moody and Abbotsford both currently host their council meetings in flexible performance auditoriums.
The City is hoping to raise awareness of the new venue by hosting some events in 2013 to act as a “cultural primer”. They intend for the space to be used for chamber music ensembles, author readings, film and lecture series, small theatre performances, Pecha Kucha presentations or small choral groups.
We applaud the City for making proactive steps to accomodate multiple uses in the Chamber. Planning for the Performing Arts Centre has stalled, meaning it is likely that this space, along with SFU Surrey’s Westminster Savings Theatre, will remain the only two mid-size performance venues in the Downtown for at least the next five years.
SFU Surrey’s next expansion is expected to include a 400 seat lecture theatre, Century Group’s 3 Civic Plaza will include a hotel ballroom, and the Performing Arts Centre was said to host a 250 seat and a 1600 seat theatre. Provision of these flexible cultural spaces is a key pre-requisite to the growth of civic events and arts performances in Surrey.
While this option is not the prime solution, and will not deliver the venue the City’s growth requires, it is a pragmatic and efficient use of resources that will bridge the gap between the construction of larger, purpose-built infrastructure and the status quo. Kudos to Council and staff for undertaking this effort.