Hi. Kelly Hughes, Mayor of Winnipeg’s Cultural City Hall here.
On August 11, 2011, we announced that Aqua Books would be closing its doors forever. A groundswell of public support followed, and we have spent the intervening months working on just the right plan. A new non-profit called Winnipeg’s Cultural City Hall Inc. was eventually set up, to take over operations and help usher in the next phase of our existence. After weeks of putting our heads together, negotiations, meetings, paperwork, and tears (from putting our heads together too hard), the wait is over.
The sale of 274 Garry Street is being finalized, and on June 16 2012, the New Aqua Books will be rocking our new space at 123 Princess Street. This leaner, meaner (okay I’ll try to be less mean) version of Winnipeg’s Cultural City Hall will feature a larger theatre, workshop space, books, full bar, and food service. More details will be released in the weeks to come.
When we moved out of The Exchange in 2008 to rehabilitate an old tumble-down Chinese restaurant, our goal was to help revitalize Downtown Winnipeg. Well we did it! We moved downtown and then The Jets came back. Now that our work downtown is done, we’re moving back to the city’s artists village that nurtured us for so long. Finding a wonderful building a mere block up from where we spent five years (at 89 Princess) feels like a real homecoming. What better place for us than a former warehouse for printers and bookbinders?
Transitioning from this big building we’ve been in, into a wonderful but smaller space is really making us be creative. (You’re right, we’re always creative.) And I know you’re going to love what we do with the place. Imagine yourself walking down the street in 1920s Paris or Berlin. You see a lit doorway ahead. You enter, walk down the stairs. This place has been taken over by actors and musicians and artists. Are they supposed to be here, or have they broken in and beckoned you inside? But don’t worry that you might not be cool enough. It’s inclusive, not exclusive. As soon as you’re inside, you’re in. Like it so far?
We will be working intensely over the next two months with building owner Pat Hitchcock, who has been blazing his own trail for years. Pat bought the building in 1999 and started turning it into condos. (That’s the year we started selling books, two and a half blocks away.) We’re really excited about working with an independent-minded person who has overcome red tape and circumstance to get things done. An anecdote. When asked about his big 90th birthday, Pete Seeger said, Normally, I’m against big things. I think the world’s going to be solved by millions of small things. Well it’s not The Jets or big projects that make our city great. It’s people like Pat, pouring his blood, sweat and tears into making The Exchange so killin’ (as the jazz kids would say). We’re super chuffed (as the English would say) to be part of that great energy again.
We’re taking the best of what we’ve been doing at 274 Garry Street and creating something the same, only different. At 274, we started doing our events (at least partly) as a way to get people into the bookstore and the restaurant. At 123, the stage is now the main event. The room is very open. You will know exactly what’s going on the moment you walk in the door. What a great way to showcase all of the creative things that our friends and partners are doing. Producer Larry Roy will be creating an acoustic architecture for us that will blow the old theatre away. Comedy Fest is coming. Jazz Fest. Six shows a day for Fringe, plus Kelly Hughes Live! Fringe of the Night. And all of this just a mini-donut’s throw from the awesome and hated Cube. You know this is where you’ll be able to find your favourite writers, actors, musicians, artists.…interesting people, movers and shakers. You probably will not see Sam Katz here.
Much more to come in the weeks ahead. I’ve been saying Watch the Skies, but I think now I should say Watch the Streets, ‘cuz all roads lead to 123 Princess…