Arts featured Inclusion

Paul Vienneau: Dreaming a new Pavilion on the Halifax Common

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – The Pavilion, the city-owned and youth-run all ages music venue on the Halifax Common, has been a place for youth from all over to play or watch music for years now. It has been very successful at times, a bit harder to keep going at others, but throughout the Pav has been a much loved venue for many of our younger musicians and music fans. The passion and desire to keep it going is definitely there.

Back in the mid 80s my friends and I took the bus from Bedford to the Dal SUB or to the Club Flamingo to see visiting punk bands, like Skinny Puppy or The Asexuals. These venues gave us a place to see live music and dance, and left memories to last a lifetime.

Beheading of a King @ The Pavilion, Halifax Nova Scotia March 2, 2013. YouTube

For quite awhile now the Pavilion has been serving that role.

Brycen, one of my former bass students, is a booker for the Pavilion, together with his good friend CJ. Last year I approached them to see if they would like me to help them get the City to build a ramp, so that the Pav could also be an accessible venue.

Brycen was studying with me when I shovelled the curbcuts on Spring Garden Road in the Winter of 2015, so he had already been thinking about this. We went to the Board, and they were also excited about this becoming a reality. I asked my councillor Waye Mason if this was a possibility, while also emailing the city department responsible. Councillor Mason told me it was a great idea, but don’t be disappointed if it takes a few years to come to pass, as the wheels of the machine turn slowly.

So I was very happily surprised when I was informed last fall that a tender had been put out to ramp the Pavilion. The work was done just before Christmas, I believe. It’s a good ramp. We were hoping to get the stage ramped and the washrooms modified, to make the entire venue accessible, but getting in the door is huge. Everything else we can figure out.

But the building itself may not last. The City is currently going through public consultations for a new masterplan for the Commons. I have heard the wading pool behind the Pav is going to be removed and redone as a proper pool and that the Pavilion itself is going to be redeveloped in some shape or form.

Given the history of the venue, I believe that the Pavilion should be rebuilt in the footprint of the current one. I believe the Pavilion that is to come should be a splendid expression of what we value as a community. No half measures around accessibility. This facility will be there for many years. Accessibility and inclusiveness should be as tangible a foundation as the concrete that will be poured.

The current entrance is some five feet above the ground, which is why we needed that ramp. Unless there is a reason to need the venue that high off the ground, ground level entrance, with automatic door opener buttons will do the job just fine for every single patron of the new Pavilion.  

I also strongly believe there should be no obstacles stopping a disabled person from working any job there. With awareness and planning we can have a sound and lightboard area that is accessible to someone in a wheelchair. The stage needs to be easily accessed as well. When I moved home from Toronto in 2001 one of the first venues I played was the Harbourfront Room at the Casino. I remember being impressed they had a ramp that wrapped around the back of the stage. When it was built, they planned it as a way to get a piano or road cases up onto the stage. It also made a smashing wheelchair ramp!

Just as with curbcuts and automatic door opener buttons, any tech that makes my life easier ends up being a huge convenience to everyone else. The ramp for the stage will be  great for loading gear on and off the stage, as well as any disabled artist who is going to perform.

The measure of value of a place like the Pav isn’t just in how many professional musicians we grow there. Being an artist has made my life so much better, and I still look back fondly on the variety shows, battles of the bands, and coffee houses I played as a young bassist. These experiences I shared with my friends and peers made me the better man I am today.

My dream as the bass teacher at NSCC was to pass on my love of music to my students, and to show them that the reward of making music  isn’t fame, but friendship and experience. If fame never came(as it never did for me), we are still better for these times. I see the value in an accessible new Pav as being a truly inclusive place for all youth of our city to come to, and have these great experiences that may well in some way shape their lives.

The new Pavilion should be more than a music venue, the space should be suitable for arts events and gatherings. I’ve already been diverting friends’ events to the Pav because of the new accessibility. It could be an arts hub, an incubator, a place for arts and lovers of the arts.

Too often work is done on behalf of people with disabilities, but without our input. That typically doesn’t work. I understand there is an architect already looking into the design of the new Pav. I would like to offer myself, as a lifelong musician, 24 of them from a wheelchair, as a resource to to make sure there are no glaring omissions or issues.

This is an opportunity to show the people who come after that we took into account the needs and wishes of all citizens. What a legacy! What an opportunity!

June 8 we are holding a relaunch show at the Pavilion, as an accessible venue. My band will be on the bill with younger bands. Please come out and support live music.

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