“The Music Makers Theatre is an important community asset that provides many benefits to those living in the area,” said Tom Greenaway, regional director for the Bulkley Nechako Regional District Area ‘C’. “This welcoming and updated space, where people living rurally can come together to socialize, share their talents and enjoy the arts, improves the quality of life for all people. Having lived in Fort St. James for 45 years, I have enjoyed many performances in this theatre. I have witnessed many very talented actors and feel fortunate to have this theatre in our town.”
The Music Makers Theatre has been hosting performances since 1973, but the building has a much longer history than that. To ensure the building remains usable by the community, the society decided the floors needed to be replaced. Northern Development stepped in and provided 70 per cent of the required funding for the $24,372 project.
“It’s an undesignated heritage building,” said Charlett Diston, secretary with the Fort St. James Music Makers. “Its history in the Fort St. James area begins in the early 1940’s, when it was transported to the community on skids. It became a school, and then a hall for scouts. There was a gap in usage until the Music Makers began renting it from the district for $1 a year.”
Once the funding was approved in January 2018, work swiftly got underway and new vinyl flooring was laid throughout the theatre, including in the entryway, auditorium, stage, bathrooms and kitchen. These upgrades dramatically increase the attractiveness of the facility.
“We’re about including everyone and ensuring everyone has fun,” Diston explained. “It’s a great community service building used by a variety of groups. Since the renovation, revenue has increased, and we’ve received more donations and more volunteering. We had a group rent the building then come back with cans of paint to paint the inside.”
Investing in the Music Makers Theatre in Fort St. James aligns strongly with the goals of the Community Halls and Recreation Facilities funding program. Through the program, financial support is given to organizations to improve and develop facilities in order to increase the number of events held annually in the community, contributing to hospitality, tourism and service sector revenues locally. This program also helps rural areas access funding for their community assets that would not usually have an opportunity to apply for a larger economic development grant to assist with necessary upgrades.