Aqua Books was, and still plans to be, a staple in Winnipeg’s creative community. With venues in Winnipeg closing one by one, it is time for the community to step up and lend a hand.
In its time at its 8,400 square foot home at 274 Garry Street, Aqua Books hosted over 350 live events every year and claimed to be the second biggest arts and culture centre in Western Canada. The used bookstore that provided a venue for music, theatre and book launches closed its doors last year and ever since there has been talk of keeping the dream alive.
Owner Kelly Hughes mentioned that the reduction of book sales was a contributing factor when making the decision to close. Book sales at Aqua Books had dropped 30 per cent in the year before their closing. Hughes has made the decision to change Aqua Books into a non-profit venue and move it to a smaller location at 123 Princess Street in the Exchange District.
Hughes had nicknamed the theatre at Aqua Books “Winnipeg’s Cultural City Hall” (WCCH) in an attempt to describe the diversity of events that occurred there. In heart of its inclusive agenda, the new space has adopted that name formally.
“[We’re calling it] Winnipeg’s Cultural City Hall [Inc.] because it’s not just a music venue, it’s not just a theatre venue – really, we want to encompass all the creative things that people are doing,” says Hughes.
While the 2,400 square foot basement space is a considerable downsize, the new venue will still house a bar, a stage for theatre, music, poetry and stand up comedy – as well as space for workshops and meetings.
“This is a community that is filled with incredibly talented people. Winnipeg has more artists and musicians per capita than anywhere else. They need a venue like this and this is a perfect place for them,” says WCCH board member, Karen Naylor.
WCCH hopes to open their doors soon and have already begun planning programming. The space will host new works of theatre and comedy by Carolyn Gray, Bruce Clark, and Daniel Thau-Eleff. WCCH will also host the new Aboriginal Writers Festival and the University of Manitoba’s jazz studies master classes.
“We can hardly wait to open and get started, this is your place, this is your organization,” adds Naylor.
Winnipeg’s Cultural City Hall Inc. is looking for a last push of funding to finish renovations, get an occupancy permit, and open their doors. To contribute, visit http://www.indiegogo.com/AquaBooks.