Reflecting on an event tailored for a small-town heritage hall
Andrea Cordonier, former host at Burritt’s Rapids Community Hall: “I remember the moment I first saw a brochure for Festival of Small Halls. As a community organizer my reaction was simultaneously visceral and intellectual. Here was an event that was made – literally – for our 100-person community-owned and -run heritage hall, in our teeny-tiny historical village in the farthest reaches of the City of Ottawa.
From the beginning, Small Halls in Burritt’s Rapids was a community-centered event based on the belief that anything that brings people together positively is a good thing. It would be a co-production between FOSH and local organizers and an effective model for bringing high-calibre cultural events into small communities that rely on volunteer labour. It answered the question: How could we do more with less?
FOSH would stage a concert, sell tickets online, and a portion of the proceeds would go towards hall maintenance. Relieved of the hassle of selling tickets, collecting money and finding artists, we focused on grassroots promotion and tailoring the thematic details of the event (décor, art installations, regional handcrafts for sale, door prizes, etc.). We paired with, and promoted, a creative local food partner for a post-concert supper, which removed a significant organizational detail from our plate.
We rooted through local barns and basements to find old window panes, which we framed together and hung on the rear wall of the stage to match the Small Halls backdrop panel featuring windows. In fact, the backdrop was so popular, the hall’s Board of Directors asked that it remain in place after the show.
And, for many in the audience, the event was walkable. Living semi-rurally, ditching the car is a rare benefit! It was delightful watching neighbours stream across the bridges and down the main street towards the hall; it speaks to the intimacy of the village, of the choices we made to live here and for creating inclusive events for seniors and others who don’t want to go too far from home.
The fall weather always seemed to cooperate, so we swung open the rear doors of the hall and the music spilled onto the main street. Although many in the audience were local, many more were not. It’s always a pleasure to meet new people and provide a taste of local.”
This is the second in a mini series reflecting on what Small Halls means to several of the beloved hosting venues for the Ontario Festival of Small Halls.