Sunday, December 27, 2009

Spending in New Westminster school district - Report Card

Spending in New Westminster school district - Report Card

The above article from the Vancouver Sun, December 21, 2009, outlines the expenses of School District 40, (who owns the Massey Theatre) for the year 2008-2009. This information is provided here to give context to decisions that the School District may make with regards to the future of the Massey Theatre.
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Thursday, December 10, 2009

Trustee is sorry meeting cancelled

Trustee is sorry meeting cancelled


Trustee Casey Cook opposes the cancellation of last night's public meeting on the long-awaited replacement high school and says waiting until after the holidays means another month of "inactivity."

Cook, along with the district parent advisory council, had been calling for a public meeting to discuss where to build a replacement high school on a limited site, which includes an old cemetery.

"I don't agree with the direction we are going," Cook told The Record. "I think it's an opportunity missed."

Cook said a number of people made arrangements to attend the meeting, which was cancelled Monday - just a day before the meeting was supposed to take place.

The Vancouver Sun ran a front-page story on Monday on the ongoing saga to build a replacement high school in the district, which began almost a decade ago.

Cancelling the meeting after the Sun's story ran made the district look bad, in Cook's view.

"It's a decision that makes us look questionable," he said. "It helps people come to the conclusion that we need to do better preparation."

New Westminster News Leader - High school project meeting delayed to January

New Westminster News Leader - High school project meeting delayed to January


The New Westminster school board decided to postpone Tuesday's capital project information session and workshop because of lack of interest.

Just 30 people had pre-registered by noon Tuesday, said school board chair James Janzen.
"So it wasn't worth it," he said. "I'm disappointed but we're not going to put it on if we can't reach a large group of people."

According to school district consultant Jeff Malmgren, who was to moderate the meeting, the board felt too many parents weren't able to attend because two school Christmas concerts were scheduled for the same evening.

It will be postponed until January when three meetings will deal with the issue. The meetings are tentatively scheduled for Jan. 9, 13 and 16.

New Westminster school trustee Casey Cook wants Massey Theatre saved | Vancouver, Canada |

New Westminster school trustee Casey Cook wants Massey Theatre saved | Vancouver, Canada |


New Westminster school trustee Casey Cook told the Straight the arts community and local businesses have sent a clear message regarding the fate of the 60-year-old Massey Theatre: “Keep that theatre.”

“I don’t think we’ve heard a single voice that has advocated that we tear down the Massey,” Cook said following the school board’s December 8 meeting. “I think there has been almost, if not unanimous, almost unanimous support for the Massey from the community. That message has been heard very loud and clear.”

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

CANCELLED: New Westminster School District Information Session

The Board of Education of School District 40 has announced the postponement of the first Public Information and Workshop Session scheduled for Tuesday, December 8, 2009 in order to ensure that full community involvement can be achieved. The proposed date conflicts with school and community seasonal events which has resulted in low registration for the workshop. In order to achieve effective public engagement the Board decided it was appropriate to postpone the first workshop to January 9, 2010. The 2nd and 3rd workshops will proceed on January 13th and January 16th so the decision of the Board is not delayed by this postponement. Additional information on registration and the workshop plan will follow. Information on the process will be posted on the School District website:

Monday, December 7, 2009

Six years, millions of dollars later, still no school

Six years, millions of dollars later, still no school


But Margot Barton of the district parent advisory council (DPAC) is not optimistic.

She said parents have been frustrated over the years by the district's unwillingness to share information about the project, and she's not convinced that's about to change, even though a meeting might help move things along.

"Inevitably, there will have to be compromises, but people will not buy into compromises unless they know the reasons for the compromises," she said. "That information has not been forthcoming."

The parent council recently joined with other community organizations in a determined effort to get answers. "We're saying, 'Look, involve us in the process.' We want to be at the table with the city and the school board. We want all the information to make a meaningful contribution."

Interested in saving Massey Theatre? Attend Tuesday's meeting | Vancouver, Canada |

Interested in saving Massey Theatre? Attend Tuesday's meeting | Vancouver, Canada |


On Tuesday (December 8), the New Westminster school district will host a workshop to "present issues relating to capital projects and the location of the new secondary school".  

It's at Century House, Douglas Fir Room, 620 Eighth Street, New Westminster. For information, call the school board office at 604-517-6240.

You can confirm your appearance by e-mailing

Friday, December 4, 2009

BCTC | Newsletter | 2009

from BCTC | Newsletter | 2009


A Vital Piece of Cultural Heritage - Planning is underway for a new secondary school in New Westminster. This is great news. But, the future of the Massey Theatre is now threatened by site selection proposals for the new school. The landmark Massey Theatre is a unique and valuable asset to New Westminster. At 1260 seats, it is the largest theatre outside Vancouver filling the gap in available venues between 800 and 2000 seats. The theatre hosts 200 performances and events each year. It has been an inspiration and home to generations of artists, students and community members for 60 years now. The loss of the Massey Theatre would be a huge loss.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Black raises New Westminster education issues in Legislature

Education Minister Margaret McDiarmid is recovering from a serious illness so Advanced Education Minister Moira Stilwell is filling in for her at present.  During the Ministry of Education budget estimates debate last Wednesday in the Legislature, Dawn Black raised New Westminster education issues and received a commitment from Minister Stilwell that she was willing to meet “with anyone” to discuss the New Westminster Secondary School replacement project.  The Hansard transcript is printed below.


Afternoon Sitting


Committee of Supply

D. Black: It's a pleasure once again to stand across from the minister, who is doing double duty for her government. I'm pleased to be here and ask some questions about my district of New Westminster, which is a smaller district in the province and faces some unique challenges. Just as my colleague mentioned earlier about Vancouver, New Westminster also faces unique challenges because of its geographic land space and some other challenges that we face in New Westminster. 
The cuts that have come to education have a very negative impact, but it's not just the cuts. We have seen cuts in New Westminster to three programs –– the loss of the annual facilities grant for New Westminster alone, which, as I said earlier, is a small district with a smaller budget. It means a $1.1 million cut to our annual facilities grants. 
The other cuts that have come in –– actually with no notice and are quite a shock to elected school trustees who try to manage with long-term planning…. Then when these cuts come, it is a real shock to them, and they have to adjust all of their funding. 
The other cut, of course, is the cut to B.C. School Sports, which will have a negative impact on the students at New Westminster senior secondary, at Queensborough school and at Glenbrook school. Then, of course, there's the cut to the PAC funding, which will impact on all the student bodies in New Westminster. 
But besides just the actual cuts to funding from the government, what we've also seen is a downloading onto school boards for outgoing costs that are mandated by the government. In fact, the wage increments for teachers…. They're legislated, but they have not been properly funded. We've seen the impact when the government chose to increase the MSP premiums –– the Medical Services Plan's premiums. This will have, again on New Westminster, a small school district, an impact of $45,000 a year. 
The impact of the HST that the government brought in after the last election. After promising they wouldn't do that, as a matter of fact, they did it. The HST will have an impact of $240,000 to $250,000 a year in increased costs — again, to a small board like New Westminster. 
There's also the climate action initiative. The impact on New Westminster for the climate action initiative will probably be in the range of $100,000 a year. So again, we're not just seeing cuts to funding for school programs. What we're seeing is downloading of costs and legislated costs that the government is not assisting the school district with. 
I just wanted to give one example of what some of these cuts mean. In New Westminster in September — in fact, I think it was on September 22…. Because they had to lay off a custodian, there was a very unfortunate incident that happened at F.W. Howay school, where a young student — this is an elementary school in New Westminster —  was ill and vomited. 
There was no custodian on staff. There had been in previous years a custodian at the school who came at 10 a.m. every day. There was no one there to help clean up, and they had to shut the bathroom down, lock it down. There was a lot of concern by parents around, of course, the talk then about H1N1 — and this child was sick — and the health implications of not having staff on hand who could help to clean this up. 
Now the district, in an attempt to deal with the shortages of support staff and custodial staff, had put together what they called a fly crew, which the district could call upon in an emergency when there was no custodian on staff. Unfortunately, on that day the fly crew wasn't available to come, so it really meant that the school was in an unsafe and unclean condition for a full day. 
I would like to ask the minister: do parents in British Columbia and parents in my community of New Westminster not have a right to expect that their schools will be clean and that their children will be in a safe and healthy and clean environment for the day when they're sent to school? 
Hon. M. Stilwell: Certainly, as a mom and a concerned parent I can understand that parents would be upset at hearing the story that came home from school. I am relieved that on that day the people at the school did exactly the right thing in the face of handling body fluids and shut the washroom down. I do also understand that there were extenuating circumstances that particular day with janitorial staff being ill and so on. 
The school boards do have the responsibility to provide a safe and healthy environment for all students. Our expectation is that they do, and in my experience they do work to the highest and best purposes of the students to, in fact, do that. 
D. Black: Well, I agree that the school boards have that responsibility, Minister, but I would also say that the B.C. government has a responsibility to ensure that school districts have the funding in place to allow them to do what they want to do and what they are elected to do. That is to provide safe schools for our children and to provide the kind of education that parents have a right to expect for their children. 
The other issue that I wanted to ask the minister about today is the long-awaited new high school in New Westminster. This has gone on for a long, long time. The high school in New Westminster was built in 1948. As I mentioned earlier, there are a number of significant challenges in New Westminster because it is the oldest city not just in the province, but in western Canada. That results in some particular challenges in our community. 
One of them is that the site where the high school is now is built on a graveyard, a cemetery. The nature of the city is that it's a compact space, and there's not a lot of land available. So the challenge for the board and for the community is in building a new high school on a site…. Where the high school sits now you cannot build on because of the graveyard. 
There are two other community features on that site. One is Massey Theatre, which has been in place there for 60 years and was part of an initiative across Canada, I think, highlighted by a past Governor General to ensure that there was an opportunity for arts to work as part of a unification of Canada. So we have Massey Theatre on the site. We have the old high school on the site, which is in deplorable condition, and I would invite the minister to come and see just how deplorable it is. I really believe that there are some real safety issues there as well. 
Then we also have on the site Mercer Stadium, which is the stadium that the school uses and that community organizations use. The other complication is that the city owns some of the land and the school board owns some of the land. So it has been very challenging not just for the school board but for the city and for community organizations to come up with a plan that meets the needs of all of the community in building the new high school. 
City council passed a resolution recently asking that the Minister of Education meet with the two locally elected boards, the city council and the school board, to discuss the challenges that they're facing and also to perhaps ask the government, ask the minister, if they would consider that it's not just New Westminster Secondary School that needs to be replaced. 
There are two other schools being built in New Westminster, one on the site of the old St. Mary's Hospital, which will be an elementary school, and one at the John Robson site where there is a school presently, which will be a middle school. But my understanding is that the three schools are presented to the school board as a package and that all the ducks have to be lined up in a row for one to go ahead. 
So what the city council is asking is: would the minister meet with them and with the school board to discuss the challenges they're facing at the site of the New Westminster senior secondary? And would they consider decoupling, if you like, allowing the middle school and the elementary school to go ahead while the city works together to work out the obvious challenges around building on a site that has a graveyard, that has two other facilities on it that the community would like to be able to maintain, but knowing that they need very badly a new high school in New Westminster? Would the minister consider that? 
Hon. M. Stilwell:
There are three points. I want to go back to your first question and highlight — I think that you have been here when we have been talking about it — that we have a trend of declining enrolment in the face of what I think has been a true commitment to education, and that is increasing budgets. 
When I look at the school district of New Westminster, in five years the enrolment has decreased by 3.6 percent; the budget went up approximately 20 percent. More impressively, in ten years the enrolment overall went up 10 percent, but the budget went up by 50 percent. Again, I think those are pretty impressive numbers against a trend of broadly declining enrolment. 
I want to speak to the issue of safety, because I think it's important. As a mother I certainly understand that we want our children to be the best educated. But the truth is that when you send your child to school every morning, your fundamental concern is that they will be safe. It is of paramount concern. Where schools or school districts have issues that they think are related to safety, we are committed to trying to work with them to find a solution that keeps the children safe. I want to make that clear. 
With respect to the new high school, three new schools, ministry officials have met with city officials and school district officials and are aware of the constellation of factors that you've described. In terms of your question, I am happy to meet with anyone to hear about whatever situation is in your school district that they want to make the government aware of. I'm happy to learn more about what sounds like a slightly complicated situation but, I'm sure, solvable.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009 - Community coalition sends open letter to city, school board - Community coalition sends open letter to city, school board

From the New Westminster News Leader, December 1, 2009


We understand that meetings between the city and school district staffers have been taking place over the past few weeks. We look forward to hearing a full report at the information session on any developments that have arisen from these meetings. Further, we respectfully suggest formal recognition and inclusion of this coalition in future discussions related to this site.

Collaborative planning of this nature is not only desirable, but in 2009 we feel it is crucial to responsible planning and balancing all the interests of the multiple users of this dynamic part of Royal City heritage and daily life.

We deeply believe that the decisions surrounding this site are far too important to take place behind closed doors. We urge you to throw open those doors and consult with the multiple community stakeholders dependent upon the site who also work in service of our youth.

We believe that real, informed public consultation will lead to a more diligent and responsible decision-making process. Besides, we know that in the absence of real information, further delays and costly assumptions will fill its place.

A never-ending construction project in New Westminster - Report Card

A never-ending construction project in New Westminster - Report Card

Excerpt from the original article published in the Vancouver Sun:

A newly formed coalition, which includes the District Parent Advisory Council (DPAC), is pleased the board is seeking public input but has sent an open letter to trustees indicating that its members expect answers to a lot of questions.

Here is the list of people the coalition wants to hear from at the Tuesday meeting (taken directly from its letter):

- The regulator of cemeteries, to speak to what can and can’t be done on a de-commissioned graveyard.
- Golder and Associates, to answer geotechnical questions about site buildability and anthropological issues.
- Jim Wolf, to speak to the history of the site.
- A provincial government representative, to talk about regulations and expectations around school construction.
- Staff members from the city, including the heads of Development Services, Engineering, Parks Culture and Recreation and Traffic Planning, plus the City Manager.
Should these people be unavailable, we request the presence of their deputies or at least access to the unredacted documents they produced in coming to their conclusions.

We understand that meetings between the City and School District staffers have been taking place over the past few weeks. We look forward to hearing a full report at the Information Session on any developments that have arisen from these meetings. Further, we respectfully suggest formal recognition and inclusion of this coalition in future discussions related to this site.

The letter is signed by Margot Barton from the DPAC executive; Don Ellam, DPAC capital project subcommittee; Jessica Schneider, Massey Theatre Society; Shawn Cody, Royal City Youth Soccer, and Casey Lazecki, Royal City Track and Field Club.

The meeting starts at 6:30 p.m. at Century House.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Will city take over Massey?

Will city take over Massey?

Royal City Record


Massey Theatre executive director Jessica Schneider said their first choice would be to have the city own the theatre, but the society but would be willing to own initially to give the city a sense of security, she said.

"It's an option for the short term," said Schneider.

Board of education chair James Janzen said the district couldn't just give away the Massey Theatre to the society because it's public property the district holds in trust.

If the city took over ownership of the Massey, it could be arranged through a land exchange between the city and the district, he said.

McEvoy said he would personally support the city owning the Massey if it were "financially doable."

New Westminster News Leader - Public to have say in schools capital project

New Westminster News Leader - Public to have say in schools capital project


The biggest roadblock is where to locate the secondary school. There are many constraints on the Mercer block site, including a large portion of land where the school currently sits that is being dedicated as a cemetery.

That leaves the properties currently occupied by Mercer Stadium, Massey Theatre and the skateboard park as options. The district owns the theatre while the stadium and skateboard park are city-owned.
Jeff Melgram will moderate the workshop. He was also involved in the community workshops earlier this year that helped generate the locations for the new middle and elementary schools.

The information meeting and workshop is scheduled for Tuesday, Dec. 8 starting at 6:30 p.m. at Century House. The public is asked to pre-register for the meeting. Further information will be available on the district's website (

Phone: 604-519-1066 Fax: 604-526-6358

A School District 40 public information session regarding NWSS site selection

on December 8 at 7pm at Century House 620 Eighth Street

The public is asked to pre-register for the meeting. Further information will be available on the district's website (

Phone: 604-519-1066 Fax: 604-526-6358

Monday, November 23, 2009

Massey Theatre ‘the heart of a community’ | Tenth To The Fraser

Massey Theatre ‘the heart of a community’ | Tenth To The Fraser

This is a guest post by Frances Monteleone, drama teacher at New Westminster Senior Secondary from the Tenth to the Fraser blog. [Click title to go to the original post.]

A theatre represents the heart of a community; a single performance can unite strangers and evoke a sense of belonging and understanding. New Westminster cannot lose its beloved Massey Theatre.

During this period of economic breakdown and resulting budget cuts, we must continue to recognize what is integral to our city’s livelihood. Moreover, we cannot turn a blind eye to the many benefits this particular stage has provided to the students in our district. We must make every effort to preserve and save an aging building that has presented its users with so many opportunities throughout its sixty years of history.

I have had the privilege of directing numerous shows on the Massey Stage, including sold-out performances of Annie and Bye Bye Birdie. It is imperative that the students continue to have access to this particular theatre. Anything smaller would not suffice.

The more we work together the happier we’ll be. Let’s find a solution so that everyone can stand up and applaud.
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Saturday, November 21, 2009 - There are alternatives to demolishing Massey Theatre, Mercer Stadium - There are alternatives to demolishing Massey Theatre, Mercer Stadium


We believe that not all high school siting options have been properly explored. We urge you to consider a public consultation process.

We are proud of our city. These facilities and amenities are not only physical assets, but are a vital piece of our cultural heritage, with many service organizations having donated tens of thousands of dollars towards enhancements at these facilities. The memories and legacy of past games, performances, competitions and championships infuses and enhances the fans and participants in today’s games, performances, competitions and championships at these venues—and makes them that much more meaningful and memorable.

We urge you to make the planning and construction of the new high school an opportunity for a community building process instead of one that could fracture and damage our community spirit.

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Massey Victory Heights Residents hosts Massey Theatre Society presentation

On Thursday, November 26th., 7:00pm, at the Glenbrook Middle School, 701 Park Crescent, Rm. 208, Massey Victory Heights Residents Association will be having a presentation from the Massey Theatre Society on why it is critical to save the Massey Theatre.

All residents of New Westminster are welcome.
Thank you

Bill Radbourne

Saturday, November 14, 2009

School board ready to meet with city

School board ready to meet with city


Speaking to the city's suggestion that the district needs to bring more details about the district's potential plans for the long-overdue replacement high school, Janzen said the district needs to know what options the city is willing to discuss before it wastes staff time and spends a lot of money on options that the city might not be willing to explore.

"What we need from the city is some information about what they are prepared to do. ... We haven't heard from the city yet on what options they are prepared to look at," said Janzen. "(The district) doesn't want to spend $50,000 on a consultant to say this is how much it will cost to replace the track, if the city has no interest in doing a land swap with us. That would just be a waste of money."


Fine and good: let the finger-pointing stop and collaboration begin!
- John Oliver

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Friday, November 13, 2009

City of New Westminster resolution to seek consensus with School District 40

Resolution passed at Closed Meeting of New Westminster City Council on Nov. 9/09, re: Massey Theatre & School Site Options

THAT the City of New Westminster, in conjunction with New Westminster School District 40, seek a meeting with the Minister of Education to discuss the separation of the New Westminster Secondary School site from the construction of the Saint Mary’s site and the Robson site, to allow for more thoughtful discussion and negotiation between the City and School District 40 officials with respect to the location of the secondary school on the existing secondary school site/city property;

THAT School District 40 be requested to initiate a joint public consultation process regarding options for future uses of land on the cemetery site;

THAT technical work on all secondary school site options will continue by staff and that these options be brought forward for Council review;
AND THAT City staff meet with School District 40 staff to review the options that may be considered by both parties, regarding the secondary school site with a view to reaching consensus.

THAT the City is prepared to participate in public consultation once the City and the School District 40 agree on feasible site plan options that can be taken to a public consultation process.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Massey is crucial to the city

Massey is crucial to the city

Letter to the Editor, Royal City Record
by Susan Wandell


It would be a mistake to compare the Massey Theatre to the Burr or to the new multi-use theatre that the city is proposing in its yet-to-be-constructed civic centre. Each venue has completely different purposes. The fact is, the Massey Theatre is to the arts community what the wooden floor is to the lacrosse community - that is, irreplaceable. Further, the Massey Theatre could not be rebuilt for the cost of the required upgrades.

The Georgia Straight reports that the mayor suggests the school district needs to find the answers for the Massey. That comment is not helpful.

The city needs to take some responsibility. It was the city who swapped the land with the school district 50 years ago and did not decommission the existing cemetery, thereby resulting in today's capital project complexities. To resolve today's situation, there needs to be a renewed partnership to resolve school and community need, especially considering that the school district will continue to grow because of the city's approved new developments.
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Theatre fans pack council

Theatre fans pack council

Report by Theresa McManus
Royal City Record


"Could we ever know each other in the slightest without the arts," said New Westminster Secondary School student Krista Gibbard, reading the quote by Gabrielle Roy that appears on the Canadian $20 bill.

Mike Redmond, chair of the Massey Theatre Society, said the future of Massey Theatre isn't in jeopardy because it's old, uneconomical or unused.

He said it is threatened only because the school board appears to be ready to throw up its hands and deem that the easiest and cheapest way to build a new high school is to tear down Massey Theatre.

"You have to work together with us to ensure any decision about the Massey are informed decisions," he said. "We are not asking you to write a blank cheque."
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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Support for the Massey Theatre from Tom Durrie of ArtsAdvocacyBC

Support for the Massey Theatre

Tom Durrie spoke eloquently at the City Council meeting on November 9. Tom spearheaded the movement to save the York Theatre from demolition last year. It was great to hear him voice his support and give context to the value of the Massey theatre to the entire region.

Monday, November 9, 2009

YouTube - Save the Massey

YouTube - Save the Massey

BCIT Magazine short video reporting the Massey Theatre situation. - Who is running the show? - Who is running the show?


Cities all over our country would love to have a large theatre like the Massey in their community. People spend years lobbying and fundraising in the hopes of one day having a theatre like the Massey. In New Westminster, we already have this wonderful theatre. And it is run efficiently with minimal taypayer support. Why in the world would we even think about demolishing it?

We need leadership from our school district officials. We need them to:

• Recognize that Massey Theatre is a valued asset to the community, and in fact, to the region, and that it is an integral part of what makes New Westminster a complete community.

• Send a clear signal to Massey Theatre that its future is secure, and that its lease will be extended, so that the Massey Theatre Society can get on with serving and supporting the arts community, instead of spending its energy on fighting for its survival;

• Work with the education ministry and the city to develop a new plan for the high school that builds around Massey Theatre and Mercer Stadium, so that the arts and sports communities are not negatively affected.

Friday, November 6, 2009

MASSEY THEATRE item on new Arts Advocacy BC blog

Click on the title to read the article.


Blog entry about saving the Massey Theatre on the brand new site of the newly-established Arts Advocacy BC organization.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

NWSS & Massey Theatre - separate issues.

Excuse me for sounding bitter, but………

I have begun several times over the years to write a letter to the school board and city councilors of New Westminster out of sheer frustration and bewilderment, but I have always curbed my desire by thinking “It’s ok, they’ll get it together”. In the last municipal election I felt strongly that New Westminster residents would vote in new representation on the board and in the city in hopes of making some positive changes, but again (“the nice New Westminster residents that we are”) we re-elected virtually the exact same people who have made extremely bad or NO decisions that have greatly affected our wonderful city.

I do not like confrontation, which is another reason I have not spoken up publicly, but really…. “What is going on!?!?!?!?!?!?!“ 

I do not know my facts as to when, how and why things have taken place, but what I do know is my eldest son was supposed to be the first graduating class from the ‘NEW HIGH SCHOOL’…. He is now in his second year of post secondary education (the school was to be completed in 2007).   I know that before a contract was secured for construction of the new high school, demolition began!!!!!!!!!!  I know that my son was one of many students that were exposed to asbestos when demolition of the high school was underway….I know that NWSS has been deemed essential to tear down and rebuild for years.  I don’t know if his brother who is in grade 9 this year will see completion of the new high school before he graduates.

I know that Massey Theatre was closed down during the NWSS demolish fiasco, and continued to be closed pending a decision on new construction of the still un-built, undecided NEW high school.  I know that while Massey Theatre was closed, my son, among the many other music students and staff left school property each day to attend their classes at the generously provided space at the Royal City Christian Centre.  I know that a lot of inconvenience was endured and great revenue was lost due to the closure of Massey Theatre.  I know that Massey Theatre now faces a possible wrecking ball because it doesn’t meet today’s building codes. “How many of our solid, old, ‘non-leaky’, heritage and non-heritage homes and public buildings in New Westminster do meet up to present day building codes? Do we tear down our solid structures or do we repair them as needed!?”  I know that Massey Theatre is a major part of our heritage and culture and is of exceptional value and significance in our ‘RoyalCity’. We need to realize the difference between what is of value to keep and what must be replaced.  We need the art in New Westminster and we are proud to show case them in the beautiful Massey Theatre. We also desperately need a newly constructed high school – one we can be proud of too.

I know excessive money and endless time has already been spent on analyzing and re-analyzing a new high school location.  Let’s not make foolish decisions.  Who out there has sound, workable solutions?  We need a new high school and we need to keep Massey Theatre.

Now I am only left with questions. Can the cemetery be decommissioned and the high school built there? Can the skate park soil be stabilized and the new school built there? Can we demo and build in stages on the existing site?  I’m sure many people have questions, ideas and suggestions.

It is truly far beyond time that New Westminster got it together!!!!  I don’t know about every other New Westminster resident, but I am exasperated and embarrassed with the grasping at straws, backward thinking and impulsive ideas and inactions that continue to plague us.  I can truly see why many students have left the New Westminster school district to attend school in other well-operating districts.

When can we expect viable solutions and see positive actions in this City of New Westminster that we want to be proud of?

Pat Kaufhold
New Westminster, B.C.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Facebook | Save Massey Theatre | Best part of high school experience

Concert band, jazz band and getting the opportunity to perform on Massey's stage was the BEST part of high school. I cannot believe they're thinking of tearing down this beautiful theatre. New West loves it's heritage buildings so why wouldn't the city step up and take this one under its wing?

Katherine Vreugde, NWSS alumni
Facebook | Save Massey Theatre
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New Westminster NewsLeader poll supports the City taking over Massey Theatre

The poll conducted by the New Westminster Newsleader newspaper on Saturday October 24 asked the following question:

"Should the City of New Westminster take over the Massey Theatre." 88% of respondents voted YES to 12% voting NO.

Yet another overwhelming indication from the citizens of New Westminster what they would like their Civic government to do about the Massey situation.

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Facebook | Save Massey Theatre | School Board meeting

How do the performing arts, and the arts in general, benefit our kids?

The proof was in the pudding last night [October 27] (at the school board meeting) as to how having had a performing arts component in their education/lives leads to confidence and innovative thinking in children. The kids who came to speak last night, (most performed on stage in one capacity or other) spoke eloquently, clearly, and brimmed with confidence. Many spoke on the spot without the help of any pre-written speech in hand. Many adults would freak at attempting that. More corporations are beginning to recognize the value of 'design thinking' -that is the abliity to think outside the box. Creative people have the edge in that department. The arts in education fosters that ability that not only serves them well in their future careers but also brings joy into their lives.
Facebook | Save Massey Theatre
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Facebook | Save Massey Theatre | Halifax's Capitol Theatre

Thanks to Hammy McClymont (facebook) for pointing out that indeed another functioning theatre in Canada has been destroyed in the past, the Capitol Theatre in Halifax. Read on to learn how things should not be done.

The Save the Massey Theatre blog has a statement which is an error."No functioning theatre has been intentionally demolished in Canadian History!" The Capitol Theatre in Halifax, a lovely "atmospheric" (medieval theme, complete with castle bits and suits of armour), built in 1930, was demolished in 1...974 to make way for the Maritime Tel and Tel building. At 1,984 seats, the Capitol was Halifax's opera house. Many famous people played there (the Italian baritone Tito Gobbi, for example), and many not so famous (myself included). It was the regular home of the Canadian Opera Company, the National Ballet and Canadian Players on tour, as well as Stratford. Gone for more than a generation now, the Capitol has never been replaced. Theatre goers have to make do with either the 1,100 seat Rebecca Cohn (a university concert hall) or the concert configuration at Metro Centre, the city's hockey rink.I believe the chair of MT&T is burning in hell for his decision not to try to incorporate the Capitol into his new concrete headquarters.

Actress Colleen Winton noted that the source for our quote was the Alliance for Arts and Culture (in BC), and added "Halifax has done a pretty good job of sweeping its dirty little secret under the carpet. Or maybe in the last 35 years, people have learned the lesson. Let's hope."
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Friday, October 30, 2009

Facebook | Save Massey Theatre

I live about 10 minutes' drive from the Chan Recital Hall at UBC; it's nice, but it's at the end of the earth--well, the western end of Point Grey, anyway. Massey, on the other hand, is in the middle of the urban agglomeration now forming around New West, the Coquitlams, and eastward. It is perfectly pla...ced to serve the arts and artists of our urban region. It makes no sense to pull it down. It makes lots of sense to renovate the thing, as necessary.My grandchildren have danced in the Massey. I've heard several recitals in it. My wife and I have seen musical theatre in it. It works. It should be kept.

William A. Bruneau, Professor of History (retired), UBC
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Facebook group hits 2000 members!!!

Membership in the facebook group "Save Massey Theatre" just broke the 2000 member mark. Clearly, there are a lot of people upset with the idea that the Massey Theatre could be torn down. The group is populated by a lot of New Westminster Secondary School students, as well as some famous theatre folks, and concerned musicians, actors, dancers, artists, readers… people from around the province and across the country.

If you're a member of facebook (and if you're not, it's very easy to sign up - go for it), you can go directly to the group page by clicking here.

Speakers plead with trustees to save New Westminster's Massey Theatre

Speakers plead with trustees to save New Westminster's Massey Theatre

This is Niki Hope's report in The Record about the School Board meeting of October 27.


Fionna Bayley, a former high school drama teacher and theatre manager, who was involved in the efforts to refurbish the auditorium in the 1980s admitted the theatre building has its problems but noted that it was unique theatre.
It fills a gap in the Lower Mainland between theatres in the 600-seat and those in the 2,000-seat range. She said longtime trustees Michael Ewen and Brent Atkinson, know how much money and effort went into the theatre.
"To tear the theatre down, to do away with it, would negate all the work over the years,' she said. "If the city says it will build another (theatre) space, I would say don't believe them. We have a good theatre. Please keep it. Let it be New Westminster's theatre to carry on into the future."

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Thursday, October 29, 2009 - They don't make them like they used to - They don't make them like they used to


I think building codes should be brought up to Massey’s standards. If all our major structures that are only 20 to 40 years old are thought to be falling apart, then I think our craftsmanship should be rethought.

The craftsmanship of today is nowhere near the craftsmanship of back then.

These days, people don’t build for the love of it—to be proud of their craft.

They don’t build homes anymore, they just build bank accounts.

Leave Massey as it is, and for its purpose.

It’s a treasure worth keeping.

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56 year old public building, never had refit, suitable tear-down. Location ideal for high school with room for future expansion. Kids would love the view! Drive by and have a look, corner of Royal Avenue & 6th St. Currently in use as New Westminster City Hall, but workers could be moved out to other vacant office space on short notice to provide quick possession for purchaser.

Massey Theatre built 1949
City Hall built 1953

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

New Westminster News Leader - MP hopefuls weigh in on Massey Theatre

New Westminster News Leader - MP hopefuls weigh in on Massey Theatre

So ALL of the candidates in the Federal by-election in New Westminster say they believe the Massey should be saved and protected.

The proof is in the pudding.
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Board Meeting tonight - October 27th at F.W. Howay Elementary, 91 Courtney Crescent 7:30pm.

Attend the School Board Meeting tonight - October 27th at F.W. Howay Elementary, 91 Courtney Crescent 7:30pm. I have learned that the Massey theatre is not on the public section of the agenda but that they may discuss Massey in a private meeting afterward. However, you may speak to the School Board during item #4 "Visitors". Please come to the meeting and plan to speak about Massey. It is your right. Download the agenda for the meeting: click here.

Please come early to receive placards to make clear why you are there, even if you do not speak during the "Visitors" section of the agenda.


New Westminster News Leader - COLUMN: Massey Theatre a victim of ageism

New Westminster News Leader - COLUMN: Massey Theatre a victim of ageism


No surprise then that the consultant’s final tally is about $18 million to get the job done—too rich for anyone’s blood, and leading some to conclude the wrecking ball is the only option.

Asked what he thought of assessing the Massey in this way, Frank Durante, the City of New Westminster’s manager of building inspections, called it “odd.”

“They say you can skew numbers to your benefit no matter what,” he told me. “Comparing to a new building, obviously nothing would comply.”

As the man in charge of ensuring the city’s buildings are safe and sound, Durante has no issues with the Massey. There are no orders requiring work from him.

“Most buildings are built to survive 50 years, but we have a lot of buildings older than that,” he said. “If it’s sealed and watertight, there’s no reason it can’t go on.”

Jim Alkins, the project manager for the school construction program, has pinpointed the Massey site as ideal for the new high school, but said the Mercer Stadium site is the second choice.

That, along with the cemetery land under NWSS, forms the basis of a current discussion between the school district and the city about a land swap.

If the city takes over the Massey, it’s important to note that the theatre doesn’t need $18 million in upgrades today, or anytime soon.

And like me with my old house, it’s unlikely anyone involved is going to have the cash, time, or audacity to try to turn back the clock and make it new once again.

[COMMENT: Jim Alkins is not an elected official. He is hired to oversee the building of the school. It is the duty of elected officials to act as caretakers of our civic assets for future generations. An asset such as the Massey theatre should be discussed as a public good, not as a property asset of one level of government or another. All levels of government are responsible to work together to represent the will of the people.]

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Sunday, October 25, 2009

Please vote yes to "Should the City of New Westminster take over the Massey Theatre"

Members of the Save the Massey coalition believe the theatre is – at the very least – a civic asset. We happen to believe it is an asset for all of Metro Vancouver. Please vote YES to this week's poll on the New Westminster News Leader web site. The poll question appears down the page to the right of the calendar.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Sid Theatre (Courtenay) speaks out against tearing down Massey

To New Westminster Mayor and Council, New Westminster School Board Chair James Janzen,

Dear Mayor and Council, Dear Mr. Janzen,

I have just learned (via our Board Chair) of your plans to tear down the Massey Theatre.
This is shocking and deeply dismaying news to the whole theatre community in British Columbia.

I have worked in this profession for over 20 years and have attended many meetings, seminars, and training sessions at the Massey Theatre. This wonderful facility is not only a perfectly functional theatre and a very beautiful theatre, it is also a piece of history in many ways; in particular the architectural style in which it was constructed, and the fact that it is one of (I believe) only 2 functional rope-rigged theatres in the Province (the other being the Royal Theatre in Victoria). The other way in which it is a piece of history is, of course, the legions of not only performers, but also technicians and other performing-arts professionals who have done training at the Massey. The Massey Theatre is indeed the Grande Dame of New Westminster and I simply cannot believe that any group of elected representatives who understood their community and who cared at all about the performing arts would consider, for a moment, its demolition.

To my recollection, it was not long ago that the facility was closed for renovations for an extended period. Where will this investment go if the theatre is bulldozed?

Another consideration, as it is my understanding that a 500 seat (multi-purpose) theatre will be its replacement. I currently manage a 500 seat facility in a community that is half New Westminster’s size. We have been struggling for years to fundraise and plan with the hopes of one day building a 1200-1500 seat facility because our 500 seater is increasingly inadequate to serve the needs of our community. The thought that another larger community would be tearing down just such a facility is mind-boggling. Incidentally, one of our main rental user groups is our school district because the smaller “multi-purpose” theatre spaces at the high schools are often inadequate for their needs.

On behalf of myself and my colleagues I urge you to reconsider your decision to commit this outrage. It would be, I think, a social and economic catastrophe not only for your community, but also for the whole performing arts community in BC.


Deborah A. Renz
General Manager
Sid Williams Theatre Society, Courtenay, BC
Stimulating and enhancing cultural opportunities
in the Comox Valley and Surrounding Region

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Destruction of Massey will chase artists from New Westminster


     It is with sadness and incredulity that I learned today that the New Westminster school district is questioning the validity and necessity of maintaining the Massey Theatre, and instead would rather see it demolished.  After a recent about-face by the B.C. provincial government during the budget announcement which saw artists' voices become very important in the process, it is beyond me why the school district would take any action that would deter its city's artists.  Of Canada's major cities, B.C.'s lower mainland has the most disappointing showing when it comes to feasible theatre venues.  With the demolishing of the Massey Theatre, we would be giving our artists even less options, and force them to move to other cities (Edmonton, Calgary, Toronto, etc.) that have chosen to make it a priority to provide their artists with high-quality, affordable theatre venues.  I hope that you will take the time to consider the profound and devastating effects that this action will create.  Thank you.

     Steven Greenfield

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Facebook group tops 1700 members

The social networking site Facebook allows members to interact, send personal messages, and discuss their concerns. Groups are a major feature of the service. Membership in the group "Save Massey Theatre" broke the 1700 member mark yesterday, 2 weeks and a day after it was established. Clearly, there are a lot of people upset with the idea that the Massey Theatre could be torn down. The group is populated by a lot of New Westminster Secondary School students, as well as some famous theatre folks.

If you're a member of facebook (and if you're not, it's very easy to sign up - go for it), you can go directly to the group page by clicking here.

NWSS Music Auxiliary deeply concerned about Massey Theatre future

[The following article also appeared in the Georgia Straight newspaper on October 22 and The Royal City Record on October 24 (with salutation to Government removed). You can read the Straight version here.]

Dear Government representatives and School Trustees,

The NWSS Music Auxiliary is deeply concerned over the proposition brought forward by the school board that the only way to build a new secondary school is to tear down Massey Theatre.

Massey Theatre is an integral part of the Music Program at NWSS. The commitment of the youth of our community, together with that of their music teachers and mentors, has culminated in consistently high quality productions and concerts in Massey Theatre. The grandeur of the theatre has inspired maturity and dedication at a level not reached by many secondary music programs. Access to professional stage management, lighting, sound, and props in a professional venue has resulted in higher quality performances, providing an exceptional experience for the audiences and a greater sense of accomplishment for student musicians.

Our youth deserve to have access to a venue that they can shine in; a collective meeting place for their concerts, plays, celebration of traditions, assemblies, and award ceremonies. Our high school students, as young citizens of New Westminster, understand the importance of the history of the theatre, and the great responsibility they assume as performers in such a venue. With a different, new or smaller facility this will be lost. The students deserve a place that will be able to seat the very people who love and support them every day; their families, friends, neighbours and members of the community around them. Massey Theatre with its 1,260 seats is filled to capacity on concert and musical nights, with between 650 and 1260 audience members in attendance at any given performance.

The quality of performances increases in a professional theatre, and supported by lighting and sound provides a positive, entertaining and satisfying experience for both the audience and the performers. Massey Theatre has the flexibility to create either intimacy or grandeur depending on the needs of the performance; for example, we have had musical performances where the musicians played in the aisles of the theatre, creating an all-around sound and experience. This could not be done to that scale and effect in a smaller theatre. In recent years, some ensembles at NWSS have exceeded 75 students. A concert band of that size would not fit onto a smaller stage. With a smaller performance venue, larger ensembles that would not fit may have to be split. Departmental concerts featuring all performing ensembles would become a thing of the past. Our current concerts help to create community by bringing all students from grades 8 to 12 together for a shared performance experience. Separate concerts would fracture the community and make it harder to maintain the musical “family” that currently exists at NWSS. This family is the support network for students, and for some at-risk students a large reason they continue to come to school.

Massey Theatre is a fully functioning theatre with all its growing pains worked out. It has a professional, supportive staff, so productions run smoothly. Massey is a comfortable theatre to sit in with each seat having a good view of the stage. It has the atmosphere of a space that has been around for sixty years and is part of the heritage of this area. Although intangible this atmosphere cannot be replaced or transferred. What has happened in a space over years adds to the collective experience in it. Nostalgia and heritage are also part of the reason people enjoy going to performances at Massey Theatre.

What are the needs versus the wants in the suggested $18 million upgrade? We should solicit proposals for Massey Theatre focusing on just the essentials. We hope the school board will work hard towards finding solutions for the capital project that would see the current NWSS site have a new secondary school building, along with Mercer stadium and Massey Theatre. As parents, citizens and taxpayers of New Westminster, we urge the board and the city to negotiate and enter into discussions that will find a solution to the current impasse. We will campaign to ensure that any future plans will include an agreement to maintain the current level of the NWSS performing arts department’s educational use of Massey Theatre.

Our youth are citizens of our city and they deserve to be heard, to have their needs met and to have the opportunity to contribute within their community. They deserve the best our city has to offer them, and the best is Massey Theatre.


NWSS Music Auxiliary

Jane Popowich

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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

SuperBlog!: Save Massey Theatre!

I just wanted to talk a bit more about by experience. I'm a performer. I love it! It's just great to be on a proper stage performing in front of so many people! I have performed in gyms, halls, conference rooms, and best of all.. real stages. Two of which are the Massey Theatre and the Bell Center in Surrey. It's an amazing rush that I get! It's a mixture of anxiety, excitedness, fear, and happiness, but that's what makes it special! I get this feeling NO WHERE ELSE. It's a unique experience to be on a stage performing music with friends. If they take the Massey Theatre building away from us, it would have a major impact. Our band rooms are just beside the theatre, and if they tear it down, our band rooms go away too. I shudder to think our school may go without a band program for my final senior year. If they tear it down now, and the new school isn't built right away (which obviously it won't be. We don't live in a world of magic.), we will be without a place to practice or passion. Please help.
SuperBlog!: Save Massey Theatre!
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Sunday, October 18, 2009

Society refuses 'offer'

Click on the title to read the article.


The school district wants the Massey Theatre Society to abandon the Massey and run a new 500-seat theatre at the proposed replacement high school.

Massey Theatre executive director Jessica Schneider said the board of education made the offer to the society at a joint meeting between the society and the school district.

The answer was a resounding no.

"The Massey Theatre Society will not participate in any proposal that sees the demolition of the Massey Theatre," said society chairperson Mike Redmond.

The proposal wasn't a "real" proposal anyway because there's no guarantee the theatre will be built, Redmond told The Record Thursday.

Schneider cited a number of other reasons that the society wouldn't want to leave the Massey, saying the city's major artistic organizations, such as the Royal City Musical Theatre Society, would not survive in a smaller theatre. The society wouldn't make enough money to cover its costs and would require more funding from the school district.

Also, any new space would not have the same quality and capabilities as the historic 1,260-seat theatre, Schneider said.

Schneider was "frustrated" by the meeting, which she thought would provide the society and the board a chance to talk.

The society had been calling for a meeting for some time, she said.

Instead, the district's capital project manager, Jim Alkins, spent much of the time talking about the district's proposal to have them operate the new theatre.

There was no discussion on the Massey's lease with the district, which ends in June. The society does the bulk of its booking well in advance of shows. If a new lease agreement isn't reached soon, the society may not be able to book any more performances, which could effectively mean an end to theatre operations at Massey.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Massey’s salvation requires only a little faith

Click on the title to read the article.


I am told that New Westminster has produced more artists than any city in Canada.

The list of those artists is long, and includes distinguished people who have been part of our thriving arts community—all nurtured by an amazing home base—the Massey Theatre.

There are so many reasons to cherish this important structure, and it is inconceivable that anyone could think of destroying it.

It can never be replaced, so—it must be saved!

We are ready to lead the way to solve any obstacles that those of little faith could possibly entertain.

Dolores Kirkwood, OBC

New Westminster

Friday, October 16, 2009

Save Massey (and Mercer) and Build a New School Now!

Click on the title to read the article.

EXCERPT: New Westminster can build a Brand New High School (and a brand new road) right now! And we don't need to tear down either Mercer Stadium or Massey Theatre to do it...

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

MLA says Massey can be saved

Click on the title to read the article.


"It's a facility that has a long and proud tradition in New Westminster but meets the needs of more than just our city. It fills the needs for the whole region," said Black.

"The important thing, in my view, is to ensure we save this very important facility for our community. In fact for more than our community, for the surrounding area. I'm going to see what I can do from this end."

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Massey Theatre can be saved

Click on the title to read the article.


 I for one am highly suspicious of the high number of $ 18 million quoted to bring the theatre "up to code."

Is this quote intentionally high so that the school board can point to the engineer’s report and say, “See, this report says so much is needed, but we cannot afford to upgrade for this much"?

The darned theatre was just renovated!

How many buildings in this city are not up to code? Many houses and buildings were built decades ago that do not meet the new code. They are still being used despite this. Heck, the high school that was supposed to have been replaced years ago is practically falling apart around the students. So why is it such a pressing issue all of a sudden to bring Massey Theatre up to code? I have never heard of any problems with it. And who says the upgrade has to happen overnight? It can take place over several years.

I suggest city council and the school board stop playing political hot potato with Massey Theatre and step up to the plate. There is no reason why this theatre should be torn down.

There seems to be enough money for developments such as Plaza 88 and the waterfront park. Surely, some money from infrastructure grants can be redirected to save Massey.

Annette Simpson

New Westmintser

Joyce Jackson speaks out against destruction of the Massey Theatre

To  Mayor Wayne Wright and members of the New Westminster City Council; James Jansen and members of the New Westminster School Board; James Goring, trustee in charge of the High School; Dawn Black, MLA for New Westminster


I feel compelled to write to you after hearing that there is a possibility that the Massey Theatre in New Westminster might be lost to the community for good. That this is even a possibility seems unbelievable to me.

I have lived in New Westminster since 1974, my children grew up and went to school here and the Massey has been an important part of our lives in so many ways. It has been important for high quality, professional productions as well as for local events of different kinds. Over the years we have enjoyed the many wonderful musical theatre productions; with my choir I have sung on the Massey stage several times, once with the Vancouver Symphony; as well as numerous musical events Massey has been the venue for New Westminster School District Professional Development events, as well as for many other graduation ceremonies and school concerts. These are just a fraction of the ways in which the Massey is integrated into the fabric of our city. Massey Theatre is a thriving, well-managed theatre and should be allowed to continue to thrive. It's success is the envy of many other theatres across the rest of Canada.

I understand that we have to be realistic in these days of financial insecurity. However, it would seem that the Engineer's report citing a figure of $18 million is out of line considering it includes unnecessary and contrived features not necessary to maintain the theatre.  Moreover, I understand that this report was compiled without any input from the Massey Theatre Society.  A more accurate figure of $4-$5 million has been quoted by an architect. Surely this option should also be considered.

We have a theatre which would be the envy of most other communities. It just doesn't make sense to pull it down. I understand that a 250 seat theatre is planned but that simply does not remotely compare to what we have now. 

In the Massey Theatre we have a wonderful asset, beneficial in so many ways that it would seem a mistake of boundless proportions should it be intentionally torn down.The simple fact is that once destroyed it will be gone for good. I hope that the people we have voted to be guardians of our city will not have as their legacy the fact that they oversaw the destruction of an invaluable community resource; one that should be used and enjoyed by generations to come.


Joyce Jackson

Citizen, New Westminster

Monday, October 12, 2009

Actor Jay Brazeau's call for protest against demolishing the Massey Theatre

at 10:51am on October 10th, 2009, Jay Brazeau wrote, on the facebook group Save Massey Theatre:

What is happening in this town is a cultural holocaust. It's bad enough they are cutting away 90% per cent of the funding. Yesterday I saw that they were trying to eliminate all our local authors. Now today I find them trying to eliminate our place of worship. So they have stolen our food and now they are throwing us out into the streets. I am embarrassed by this government and the dirty dealings that have been happening these last months. Something has to be done. You can take everything from us but...YOU CANNOT TAKE AWAY OUR ART! We have to FIGHT BACK WITH EVERYTHING WE GOT!

[Used with permission.]

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Several city heritage sites with uncertain future

by Archie and Dale Miller.
Click on the title to read the article.

It is a challenging time for the city with many difficult decisions to be made because all of these have some degree of heritage links and historical connection of merit.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Mayor Wayne Wright opposes spending millions of city tax dollars to upgrade Massey Theatre

COMMENT: Now the gloves are off! Now the protests should start.

Click on the title to read the article.


In a phone interview with the Georgia Straight, Wright said the 1,260-seat venue's future is in the hands of its owner, the New Westminster school district.

"They have to come up with some solutions," Wright said.

The mayor also mentioned that the operators of the Massey Theatre have suggested that the $18-million cost of upgrading the building is an exaggeration. Wright added that he doesn't expect that the city would spend even $9 million to save the building…

A new civic centre in downtown New Westminster will include a theatre with 400 to 500 seats, Wright said. (A 2008 city-commissioned report mentioned that the civic centre would have a theatre with 300 to 400 seats. That report also emphasized the importance of retaining the Massey Theatre.)

Wright noted that the new high school, which could be built on the Massey Theatre site, will include a 600-seat theatre. "So we're actually going to have two brand-new theatres in the city," he said.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Massey’s future merits thoughtful response

Click on the title to read the article.


Ask someone to name five defining features of the Royal City, and along with Queen’s Park and the Fraser River, you’d likely hear them ring off the theatre named for Canada’s first Governor General.

The 60-year-old Massey has a magnetic appeal, drawing thousands who see our city as something more than a patch of pavement separating their home in Surrey from their work in Burnaby.

(Though the Massey Theatre Society’s economic impact stats aren’t too impressive. They say 100,000 people come each year, and spend an average $3 each. That only totals $300,000)

The theatre also charms by pretty much paying its own way—ticket sales alone cover 82 per cent of operating costs. By contrast, the Burr was a sinkhole that depended upon city bailouts.

In Vancouver, theatres of the same vintage were saved for the same reasons the Massey should be saved. Think of the Orpheum Theatre and the Stanley Theatre. These two theatres were saved because of their unique size, theatre production amenities and acoustical properties. These are the reasons to save the Massey Theatre. Old things are not inherently bad and outdated. There must be proof. The reports say that the theatre is in very good repair. As heritage expert Don Luxton has said: Luxton also scoffed at the $18-million figure, and thinks the theatre could be upgraded for far less. He argued that engineers’ reports vary wildly according to their terms of reference.  “If you say, ‘Make this theatre into a state of the art blah blah blah, and make sure it’s high because we really want to tear it down,’ [it would be high]. Go to someone else and say, ‘Maybe we don’t have to replace the seats, and maybe it just needs a coat of paint,’ [it would be lower].” – John Oliver

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Why not decommission cemetery - letter to The Record

Click on the title to read the article.

Reprinted below for convenience.

The Record

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Dear Editor:

Did I miss the answer to this question, or has no one asked it?

I've lived in New Westminster for almost 10 years, and the ongoing news story has been the saga of replacing the worn-out high school.

In the meantime, the old Woodlands school/hospital is gone, its cemetery turned into a nice little memorial garden, with names on stone pillars. Decommissioned, I suppose? So what is the problem with the newly discovered ancient cemetery on the high school property? We don't even have names. Just vague ethnic references.

How can Woodlands be so easily decommissioned and the New Westminster Secondary School site not? Politics? Political correctness? Value of certain remains and not others? Big business or big money? Have I missed something?

I'm currently taking a class at the high school and am appalled at the conditions in the outdated, cramped and inadequate classrooms. I can't imagine 30 students, plus backpacks, and a teacher in these tiny rooms.

I think I heard an elected official say that it costs too much to have the cemetery decommissioned. How does that compare with the talked-about loss of the Massey Theatre? (If they don't decommission the cemetery, they need the theatre property to build the new school.)

Very confusing. Anybody got answers?

Barbara Hilstad, New Westminster

© The Record (New Westminster) 2009

Massey Theatre has a friend in Victoria, Dawn Black

Click on the title to read the article.

The fight to save Massey Theatre has found a friend in New Westminster MLA Dawn Black.

The recently elected MLA believes the Massey could be saved if all levels of government were onboard to help cover the costs of the 1,260-seat theatre.

"It's a facility that has a long and proud tradition in New Westminster but meets the needs of more than just our city. It fills the needs for the whole region," said Black.

"The important thing, in my view, is to ensure we save this very important facility for our community. In fact for more than our community, for the surrounding area. I'm going to see what I can do from this end."

Massey Theatre Society plans anniversary party for building under threat

Click on the title to read the article from the Georgia Straight newspaper.

Regular readers of are probably aware that the 60-year-old Massey Theatre in New Westminster could be demolished to make room for a new high school.

That hasn't stopped the Massey Theatre Society from holding a 60th-anniversary celebration on October 24th for the building. "This is an opportunity for the public to celebrate a glorious past and show support for the next chapter in the story of this unique cultural institution," says the society in a news release.

Only 200 tickets will be sold for the event, which will include six dances created and performed by dancers and choreographers with Dance With Me Studios. 

Each dance will represent one of the six decades that the Massey Theatre has been open. Tickets cost $60 and are available at the Massey Ticket Centre at 604-521-5050.

Massey Theatre is Imperative to our Multicultural Example

by Cassius Khan

My name is Cassius Khan, and I am an internationally recognized Indian
Classical Musician who plays Tabla and is a vocalist of the rather
difficult styles of Ghazals, poetry in the lunguage of Hindi and Urdu
set to Indian Classical Music.

I have made New Westminster my home, because of the warmth of our
mayor, the Honourable Wayne Wright, the beautiful city and the Massey

As a musician who performs and teaches for a living, it is imperative
that we keep the Arts and Culture alive in our city. The Government
has already cut so much funding to World Musicians such as myself,
that we need to have an Artistic, Cultural, and Musical outlet in our

To tear down a facility which is worth over $100 Million for the sake
of a school is ridiculous, never in the history of any thriving city
has a fully functioning and respectable theatre been torn down.

The Massey is a major contributor in Theatre, Dance, Music and Art.
Communities are joined together thanks to the Massey Theatre. The
Theatre is well known around the world as well, in my international
touring work, I have come across a lot of musicians who have worked
with the Massey and have always praised the dynamics, the ambience,
staff and sound engineering of the Theatre.

This Theatre also brings in a lot of business, and tourism. The Massey
is a Heritage Landmark, an icon that has nurtured the Arts and Music.
Not only do people from all over Vancouver come to this theatre to
indulge in wonderful programming, people all over the world come as
well. And that too, of all world cultures.

Without this facility, the Arts here will die!

We must save our Theatre. If The Massey is torn down, it will be a
symbolic teardown of our Cultural and Artistic identity as well.

It is a shame that the City of New Westminster and the public school
board would even consider tearing down a facility of this sheer size
and reputation.

Money talks. What is the fine print on our $20.00 bill? Look closely
and read it, it says:

"Nous connatrions-nous seulement un peu nous- memes, sans les arts?"-
( Gabrielle Roy, 1909-1983)

in 2007, the Arts contributed $84.6 Billion to Canada's GNP. That's
1.1 million jobs or 7.2% of Canada's employment. ( The Conference
Board of Canada, August 26th 2008 report)

Please save this Theatre! As a Musician and proud citizen of New
Westminster, this is all we have left in our beautiful city. Please
don't tear it down!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

New West school board chair suggests city could save Massey Theatre

Click on the title to read the article.


Dolores Kirkwood, founder of the Kirkwood Academy of Performing Arts and the only dancer awarded the Order of British Columbia, told the Straight by phone that she thinks it's essential to save the Massey Theatre.

She pointed out that there are no other theatres of its size in the region outside of downtown Vancouver.

"I feel sure that if it was a sports venue, they would never tear it down," Kirkwood said. "Over the years, the arts and sports have gone hand-in-hand in this city, and they've got to keep doing that."

The city is planning to build a 300-to-400-seat theatre as part of a civic complex downtown. Kirkwood said that this can't compare with the Massey Theatre—which she claimed is still a well-functioning venue.

She noted that a traditional theatre, such as the Massey, has a proscenium and has sufficient space to hang sets and provide proper lighting. She said that a smaller theatre won't offer nearly as much to the performers or the audiences.

Future of Massey Theatre in limbo - Globe and Mail article

Click on the title to read the article.


“Building on the cemetery is not an option for us,” [school board chair James Janzen] said. He does say, however, that it is possible to keep the theatre and rebuild the school. “We could swap the theatre site for other land on the site and build in other places.”

The Massey Theatre is a 1,260-seat venue that hosts more than 200 events a year. The Massey Theatre Society, which operates it, generates 82 per cent of its revenues.

Ms. Schneider [executive director of the theatre] says that makes the theatre attractive for the city to take on…

Ms. Schneider has her fingers crossed. “We recognize it's complicated. Just because it's complicated doesn't mean the theatre should go.”

Sunday, October 4, 2009

City seeking more information about Massey Theatre - News Leader

Click on the title to read the article.

Susan Wandell correctly asserts that the theatre is self-sufficient. Other reports show that 85% of the theatre's expenses are covered by income. It would be economically and socially irresponsible of any level of government to remove such a clearly essential community asset that is run in a responsible manner and serves so many community and arts groups, as well as bringing in touring shows.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Playing Smart, together

In the discussions around building a new high school in New Westminster, will politicians ask the community to choose between the Mercer Stadium site and the Massey Theatre site as the location for the new high school, suggesting that we must choose between sports and cultural facilities? Here is one writer's response to this notion.

Playing Smart
                               by Sandra Bruneau
When she was in grade ten, everyone in her class wanted to play
softball, especially on warm, spring Fridays. Students knew the
drill: they would stand around the classroom’s perimeter, waiting
to be picked for one team or the other. She and a boy with bad
eyesight would always be the last ones to be picked, which
embarrassed them both. She rationalized her status by saying that,
although she thought the game was fascinating, softball was likely
not her forte since she played classical piano and her mother was
fearful she would hurt her hands playing ball. She knew she stood
outside the softball-obsessed clique, but that was that. Once on
the playing field, she would be relegated to an outfielder’s position,
not a worthy pitcher, catcher, first baseman, or shortstop. She
would wait, meditating on her gavottes, while batters struck out
or hit the ball inside the diamond. Occasionally, a ball would visit
her in the outfield and she would wait for it to land rather than
jeopardize the condition of her hands by trying to catch it. This did
not endear her to her team. Sometimes, with no one to tend it, the
ball would get lost in the tall grass, and with bases loaded, the
opponents would score big with a home run. She’d be blamed and
would again be the brunt of school jokes.

One day, a batter hit a ball particularly well and straight towards her.
One instinct told her to catch it; the other told her to get out of its
way. She did the latter, in the midst of howling and derisive comment
by teammates and opponents alike.

The next day, she sat her piano exam at a nearby centre, and she
scored higher than anyone ever had in the history of those exams.
She went on to six more piano competitions, eventually taking the
Montreal International Piano Competition. By chance one day, she
met a baseball player in a glove shop. They chatted and he reported
his father was an accomplished tenor. Their friendship developed
and eventually they married. In due course, they gave birth to two
children, one a musician, the other, a baseball player. The children
never ever played catch with each other, but they always played
smart and their mother never ceased worrying about their hands.

© Sandra Bruneau
public educator.…