On Thursday, November 12, 2015 a meeting hosted by the “Edmonton Arts Council” took place at the Armoury.
One bittersweet note, is that in attendance were a lot of people from the local indie music community whose venues don’t exist anymore.
Not sure if they were there to vent, or as part of a “hopeful” (if also skeptical) desire to hear something about a “plan” for keeping the indie music venue community alive in Edmonton.
In my opinion, one of the things that has contributed to the downfall of the scene in E-town is no “plan” or “area” for the music as a distinct “district”.
For example, Granville island has been designated as a rather eclectic artsy community – with independent businesses being the only allowed shops and venues.
No chains, no mega-conglomerates. Face it, in order to have an actually vibrant “scene” you need the small independents who are brave / off-center enough to have everything from a local band, spoken word or guy juggling potatoes on their stage.
It seems (other than the hastily concocted “104 St. entertainment district”) that our downtown “plan” consists of a new 711 every 5 or 6 blocks or so (enter the latest on 112 and jasper, and soon-to-be 119th St.).
Corporate businesses and franchises seem to be the order of the day.
Again, in my opinion, to have a vibrant local music scene (or “any” music scene actually) there needs to be an actual plan.
After 20,000 people see a game at the downtown arena, they aren’t going to be sticking around. They will want to get in their cars and get out.
We need an area “out of” downtown – maybe like 124 street, or perhaps the many industrial buildings north of the arena, or in “the quarters” to be designated as available for small locally-owned venues. Indeed, a place that can become a local “walking” area – head to a coffee joint, then out for a drink to hear some music etc.
Fear not big business – there would be plenty of opportunities for local developers to “put their name” on areas and buildings.
However it has to be regulated – in that only non-chain, local businesses and venues are allowed – doesn’t matter if it’s music, or shops selling local products.
It’s nice if the Edmonton Arts Council wants to give you a grant, it means nothing if there is no place to “go”.
Edmonton wants to be a big, cosmopolitan city with a reputation in the arts community – but if there’s no place in the grand “plan” for small local venues then the local scene ceases to exist.
Make no mistake – it’s currently on life support.
As proven in Granville Island, and with the spaces in Edmonton, there is plenty of opportunity for that to happen – there just needs to be a plan, and it has to be implemented, and controlled.
Otherwise, with only a few venues left, we’d better be prepared for 711’s and Starbucks everywhere.