Rollin’ to the arts

Arts & Entertainment Featured

The Bay City Rollers are helping to break down barriers and bring arts to everyone in Pictou County.

The famed 70s teenaged heartthrob Scottish rock band, featuring original singer Les McKeown, are set to perform at the deCoste Performing Arts Centre on March 5 for the centre’s annual gala. Proceeds from the gala go to support the facility’s Arts Are For Everyone Program.

The facility will be decked out with balloons and décor in the colours of the Royal Stewart tartan – red, blue, yellow, white – to make the ‘Rollers feel at home on gala night. To add to the fun and excitement of the festive event, members of the Kickin’ Vixens roller derby team will be rolling through the deCoste serving guests a complimentary cocktail reception with hors d’oeuvres supplied by Harbour House. A silent auction will be set up with items valued anywhere from $250 and up, and the Balloon Blast will also be a part of the celebration. A set number of balloons will be sold for $20 apiece. Each balloon holds a prize with a value of at least $20 or more — for example, tickets to a future show or shows. During intermission, purchasers break their balloons to reveal their prize. Last year, a piece of jewelry donated by Inglis Jewellers and valued at more than $1,000 was the main prize.

A photo booth — designed by Advocate Media which sponsors the deCoste’s Winter Blast — will also be set up for party-goers to preserve the occasion.

It is this attention to detail and fun that contributes to the success of the event. Last year, the gala was enjoyed by a sold-out crowd.

Jennifer MacLennan, marketing and communications for the deCoste stresses, “It will be a really fun atmosphere. A lot of people get worried when they hear ‘gala’ — they expect dressing up. But it’s more business casual. You can dress up for the occasion or wear your blue jeans — just come and have fun. We want people to be comfortable.”

By having a great time at the gala, it means more arts can be brought to more people in Pictou County through the Arts Are For Everyone program which benefits anyone in the community who may have a barrier that would prevent them from enjoying a show at the deCoste.

“Last year we were able to establish our wheelchair accessible lift that enables us to get patrons with mobility issues onto the floor. We also now have the hearing aid loop installed that allows patrons with hearing issues or hearing aids to come in and if they have the T-coil in their hearing aid they are able to turn it on to get the sounds from the performance directed to their hearing aid so it blocks out the additional noise. We also have receivers so if they brought in their hearing buds they can plug into that as well.”

The gala has also generated funds for the deCoste to offer Arts Are For Everyone passes through the Pictou-Antigonish Regional Library. These passes allow a local resident (and their guest) to enjoy an evening of entertainment at the deCoste free of charge with their library card. Each of the seven library branches in Pictou County has a pass which can be exchanged at the deCoste Centre box office for two general admission tickets for the show printed on the back of the pass.

“These passes are being utilized quite a bit,” MacLennan says. “It’s really designed to help those who may not be in a financial position to be able to attend a show. The other thing is people may be hesitant to come to a show because they’re not sure if they’ll enjoy that genre of music, for example classical music.”

And since students can enjoy the deCoste’s classical performances free of charge MacLennan says, “I often recommend for parents whose students are taking music instruments lessons — violin, piano or something like that — it’s a great opportunity to take them in to see the performance so they can see that if they practise enough what the potential could be.”

Crystal Murray, vice-chair of the deCoste Performing Arts Centre Board, lauds the program. “The Arts are For Everyone mandate is a game changing program for the deCoste and the entire community. I am proud and humbled by the work being done by our board of directors and our staff who understand the importance of creating a venue that is welcoming to all people.”

She notes, “Access to the arts should not have any barriers. We all know how aging, physical and mental health challenges, culture and finances can be isolating factors. We still have a lot of work to do and this different approach to program delivery will have costs associated with the innovation. The Gala fundraiser will help us expand our program delivery in the coming year and make a difference in the lives of many in our amazing community.”

Arts Are For Everyone will focus on two areas in 2020: seniors and mental health.

For now, the program is working wonders at the deCoste.

Music lover Trevor Murray Tattrie is frequently in the audience at the deCoste. He travels from Harmony, Colchester County. Before the wheelchair ramp and lift were installed at the deCoste, thanks to the Arts Are For Everyone program, he would roll in his wheelchair and bump down backwards until he hit the bottom level of the Pictou facility. Now, he is able to access the shows on the wheelchair lift.

Not much holds him back. Being in a wheelchair, he reasons, just gives him the ability to do things in a different way.

“The deCoste goes above and beyond in giving wheelchair users the ability to see some of the amazing shows that come to town,” he says.

All of that and more are thanks to the deCoste’s Arts Are For Everyone Program. And this year, the Bay City Rollers are helping fund these programs. Be a part of it by getting tickets to the gala on March 5.

Rebecca Battist is ready to ‘roll’ into the deCoste Performing Arts Centre to serve refreshments at the annual Gala, which is a fundraiser for the deCoste’s Arts Are For Everyone Program. The Kickin’ Vixen is dressed in Royal Stewart tartan, in honour of the Bay City Rollers who are playing the Gala. (Photo by Steve Smith, VisionFire)