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
Blogged with the Flock Browser

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.

Blogged with the Flock Browser

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
Blogged with the Flock Browser

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."
Facebook | Save Massey Theatre
Blogged with the Flock Browser

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
Facebook | Save Massey Theatre
Blogged with the Flock Browser

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."

Blogged with the Flock Browser

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.

Blogged with the Flock Browser


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.
Blogged with the Flock Browser

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.]

Blogged with the Flock Browser

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

Blogged with the Flock Browser

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!
Blogged with the Flock Browser

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.…

Friday, October 2, 2009

Massey Theatre may face final curtain as it hits age 60 - Vancouver Sun

Click on the title to read this Vancouver Sun article.


Heritage expert Don Luxton thinks it would be “ludicrous” to tear down the theatre, given the replacement cost is estimated at $100 million.

“You will never get that back,” he stated.

“Right now, who has the money to build a theatre? Nobody. Vancouver has been trying to build a theatre this size for 20 years. The Coal Harbour [Arts Complex] was supposed to have 1,200 to 1,400 seats because it’s an ideal size for community organizations.”

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].”

Thursday, October 1, 2009

New West Coun. Bill Harper won't promise Massey Theatre will be saved

Click on the title to read this Georgia Straight article.

New Westminster's Massey Theatre faces uncertain future

Click on the title to read this Georgia Straight article.

Massey Theatre’s future in limbo - New West News Leader

This article – click here or on the title above to read it – reports that School Trustees say there is no money to underwrite upgrades to the Massey Theatre and City Councillors are also not saying much yet as they have plans for quite a different theatre space downtown.

Do the School Trustees and the City Council care about our community? We sure hope they do. And we hope they will think about the community they serve and dedicate serious time and effort to find a way to keep a theatre the size of which is the envy of most other municipalities. Journalists too should spend some serious time reading the reports and discussing the details of these reports in public.

My 10-year old just said: "I love that theatre."



At the School District 40 Board meeting on September 29, 2009, an Engineer’s report was presented to the Board of Trustees detailing the potential cost of improvements to the Massey Theatre at a price tag of $18,000,000. The replacement cost of the busy 1260 seat, largely self-funded theatre is estimated at $100,000,000.

Massey Theatre Society, the theatre’s operator for the past twenty five years had no opportunity to contribute to the report or provide their professional perspective on the issues detailed in it. Items such as replacement of seats are included within the estimate. Such a project, while it may be desirable, is by no means imperative to the ongoing operation of the theatre which provides a variety of programs to support community and professional arts groups and other large scale gatherings.

“There are a number of ways to perceive the engineer’s recommendations and develop a plan to complete the upgrades over a realistic period of time. This report provides no good reason for the theatre to suddenly be viewed as a burden on the community, when, in fact it is a tremendous asset,” said Michael Redmond, Chair of the Massey Theatre Society Board of Directors.

Most Western governments are recognizing the importance of investing in the arts and cultural sector as a significant element of economic stimulus strategies. In fact no functioning live theatre has yet been intentionally torn down in Canadian history. The Arts and Cultural sector provides many of the skills and professional training to serve the needs of the creative industries.

The School District is facing a land shortage crisis. A land swap with the City of New Westminster has been proposed wherein the Massey Theatre would transfer into the City’s hands while the Mercer Stadium would transfer to the School District as a future school site.

The City of New Westminster commissioned and adopted a Theatre Study in 2008 which included the following recommendations:

Massey is one of only two theatres of its size in Metro Vancouver. It is vital to large scale producers like the Royal City Musical Theatre, Royal City Youth Ballet and New Westminster Symphony and to regional producers and presenters due to its size and capabilities. It also serves a growing community of diverse cultural producers and audiences. It has capable professional management and stable, committed board governance. There is a strong community commitment to preserve, protect and reassert the Massey’s position as a premier regional theatre facility. The community looks to the City to provide leadership and stability for what is regarded as a civic asset.

Gaining long term certainty for Massey is a necessary and wise course of action. There is the potential of creative redevelopment of the “small gym” into a black box rehearsal and performance space of about 160 seats. The Society is also negotiating with the School District to take responsibility for additional space adjacent to the theatre. Combined with existing space already operated by the Society, it totals 63,600 square feet of programmable, community service space. This potential can be regarded as a unique opportunity for the City. The issue that must be resolved is the ownership of the building and the land it sits on. Until that is resolved between the City of New Westminster and School District #40, the Massey Theatre Society cannot plan the future of this civic asset and the community has no certainty. The study team leaves to the City the manner in which the civic “ownership” or trusteeship of Massey Theatre will be achieved but it recommends that this question be addressed in a timely fashion and, in any case, in no more than three years.


  1. The City of New Westminster to take the initiative and proactively negotiate community ownership or trusteeship of Massey Theatre and adjacent facilities if they become available.
  2. Capital funds will be invested to address the functional and cosmetic needs of the facility. In excess of one million dollars in Provincial Infrastructure funding was granted to create civic arts related facilities at 8th Street and 8th Avenue. The funds are site specific. It may be appropriate to use this funding for Massey allowing additional funds to be leveraged from senior levels of government. This would enable improvements more quickly.
  3. Access to the theatre is a challenge for many users who require a lower rental cost to support their endeavours. Programming for local audiences is also a challenge. Increased operating funds should be provided to build and sustain professional programming, market the venue to local and regional audiences and allow greater access to the facility.
  4. The Massey Theatre should be designated as the Civic Theatre of New Westminster and the City should become a strong partner, on behalf of its citizens, in this community asset.

The City of New Westminster has remained silent on the emerging risk to the theatre, perhaps because its current focus is on developing a new civic centre for 2013. The entire report can be read at:

“There is no reasonable comparison between Massey Theatre and the proposed new space. Anyone who thinks there is simply has not considered the matter from an informed perspective,” said Redmond.

With a population of 58,000 citizens, it is unlikely another purpose built theatre will ever be planned for New Westminster effectively putting an end to the community’s long held artistic traditions significant successes in the performing arts. The loss of economic generation provided by the large theatre through the over 225 well attended annual events would further deplete the community’s economy.

“A decision to demolish a thriving arts facility such as the Massey Theatre would lead to a loss of civic pride and the erosion of the distinct character of our community. When the imagination of our citizens fails to be expressed the appeal of living in this City is stripped away. The notion that the costs of improving Massey Theatre are too high is, frankly, ludicrous given the theatre’s obvious value,” said Jessica Schneider, Massey Theatre’s Executive Director.

The Massey Theatre Society earns 82% of its operating revenues through its activities and attracts an average 100,000 audience members annually from throughout the region.

The Massey Theatre opened on December 16, 1949 as the largest theatre on the B.C. mainland. It will celebrate its 60th anniversary this winter, likely in the midst of a campaign for its preservation.

To get involved contact the theatre at



Massey Theatre’s Programs

  • Resident Company Rental Subsidy
  • Imagination, Arts & Media Youth Program (I AM)
  • Event Marketing and Ticket Centre Services
  • Artistic Presentations
  • Winter Spectacular – Community / Professional Production
  • Massey Helps Rental Grants

Economic Impact

  • Massey Theatre and its key local arts groups alone generate combined revenues of over $2 million dollars per year which are infused directly into the local and regional economies.
  • $1.5 million dollars in ticket sales were processed through Massey Theatre’s Ticket Centre last year.
  • Vancouver recently completed a study concluding that for every $1 the municipality invests in arts and culture almost $12 is generated in economic activity.
  • Each visitor to the theatre can be expected to spend an average $3 in the area surrounding it.
  • Massey Theatre attracts an average 100,000 visitors annually.

Employment – Massey Theatre Society directly employs 6 full time and 50 part time and casual employees. Most of them are New Westminster citizens.

Resident Companies – the New Westminster Theatre Study states that the high quality and large scale of New Westminster’s arts groups exist as a direct result of the theatre’s existence and accessibility to its students and citizens. No other city in the region boasts a community ballet, symphony, show choir and large scale musical theatre company.

High Calibre Performances - Massey Theatre provides access to diverse entertainment for many cultures and entertainment interests. It is the only facility in the City capable of hosting high profile acts due to its design and seating capacity.

Community and Personal Development - The act of working with a group of people towards a common goal that will be shared with an audience is a remarkable motivator. There is a heightened sense of expectation from participants when they know they will be performing in a proper theatre. All the lessons in the rehearsal room are illuminated on the stage. The most profound growing and inter-connecting experiences happen as a result. The experience of performing on a stage has transformed lives, and is irreplaceable.