Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson, The Cultch's Heather Redfern and architect Gregory Henriquez gathered at the York Theatre today (December 5) to mark the opening of the restored, century-old building.
A day ahead of the official grand opening of the East Vancouver theatre, the speakers recognized the efforts of community activists and the late former city councillor Jim Green to preserve the historic site.
“This was the first project that Jim came to me with after I was elected in 2008,” said Robertson.
“He was so passionate about the potential to save this theatre, and the importance of saving this theatre and investing and putting together one of the most innovative deals to this day for the city to save an arts and cultural icon.”
Henriquez acknowledged the “20 years of activists who never lost hope that there could be a real community theatre on the site”.
Redfern noted the theatre is intended as a community space. While some Cultch productions will take place at the venue, it will primarily be rented out to artists and community groups.
“This is such an incredible opportunity for East Vancouver to really take this gem of a building and create something really special in terms of a cultural hub here,” she said during a press conference.
“We already are a cultural hub, but this building is a great big statement about that, and I really want to see that expand…It’s about developing this part of the neighbourhood in a way that really honours the cultural roots of this community.”
Redfern noted that a mix of various kinds of performance will take place at the theatre.
“I’m hoping there’s a lot of music, because we’re finding that the acoustics are fantastic,” she noted.
Christopher Gaze, the artistic director of Bard on the Beach, agreed, after testing out the sound with some Gilbert and Sullivan and Shakespeare from the stage.
"The acoustics are excellent," he told reporters. "The colours, the redness, the plushness, in a contemporary sort of way, is very evocative of what theatres used to be, so I think they’ve really held on to that."
An opening gala will take place at the York Theatre on Friday (December 6) at 7 p.m.