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Lyric Theatre AGM reflects on past year and way forward to reopen

Posted on 29 February 2024 by Ryan Dahlman
The Lyric Theatre annual general meeting under way at the Swift Current Museum, Feb. 13. Seated at the table, from left to right, Bruce McArthur, Kirk Allison, Bob Jamieson and Georgia Graham.

By Matthew Liebenberg

The meeting was all about the Lyric Theatre, but the ongoing closure of Swift Current’s historic theatre for renovations meant the discussions took place at a different location.

The annual general meeting of the Southwest Cultural Development Group Inc. (SCDG), a volunteer non-profit organization responsible for the Lyric Theatre, was held at the Swift Current Museum, Feb. 13.

The presentation of reports during the meeting gave an overview of activities and the changing situation during the past year, the progress with building renovations and plans for when theatre doors can open again.

Kirk Allison presented the president’s report. This was his sixth and final year on the board. He expressed appreciation for the good turnout at the annual general meeting.

“Usually, it’s the board and two or three members,” he said. “So it’s good that there’s this much interest.”

He took on the role of acting board chair in January after Georgia Graham stepped down from the board. She was the board chair for the past year, but has now taken on the role of interim general manager.

This was a board decision and it became necessary due to the resignation of Gordon McCall as executive and artistic director last summer. It left a gap in administration that the members of the volunteer board could not fill on an ongoing basis, which resulted in the interim arrangement with Graham as a paid administrator for one year.

The Lyric Theatre has been closed since late May 2023 due to the need for renovations to ensure compliance with fire and safety requirements. Graham presented the building report during the meeting.

A four-phase plan was developed for the building renovations, but the cost of the final phase has not been determined yet. The cost of phase one to three will be about $250,000.

Phase one of the renovations is focusing on the main floor. The cost of this work will be about $45,000 and the SCDG has already got the full amount for this phase. These renovations are well underway and their hope is to reopen the main floor once the work is done, but it will need approval from the Swift Current Fire Department.

Under this scenario the other floors of the building will still remain off-limits until the remaining phases of the renovations are completed.

Nominations for directors took place during the meeting and three new board members were appointed. The returning board members are Bob Jamieson, Larry Lamont and Bruce McArthur. The new board members are Trish Ayrey, Hugh Henry and Gwen Uher.

Returning board members Bob Jamieson and Bruce McArthur shared their impressions about the past year and the work ahead during a media interview after the annual general meeting. They were pleased with the addition of three new directors to the board.

“One of the beautiful parts of the three that are coming on the board now is they’ve all been on the board before,” Jamieson said. “So they’re seasoned. These are veteran people that are coming on and I look forward to a very effective board.”

The board has been functioning as a working board due to the need to deal with day-to-day issues associated with the Lyric Theatre, but it aims to transition to a governance board.

“It’s been a blessing for sure to see three more people come onto the board,” McArthur said. “So our numbers are increasing, but nevertheless the board can’t both deal with the governance plus doing the day-to-day business activities. We were doing the hands-on versus looking at the direction.”

They felt the reopening of the Lyric Theatre will certainly create an exciting year with the prospect of resuming activities and looking at new opportunities for events.

“For me the excitement will be the reopening of the theatre and the celebration of its reopening,” McArthur said. “We’ll be looking at some special events. I don’t know what that means right now, because we don’t know exactly when we’re going to open, but we want to truly bring in some sort of great celebration to announce our reopening. So that’ll be an exciting aspect of us going forward in the next three to six months.”

They felt the Lyric Theatre had a successful year with a variety of events before it closed for renovations.

“We had an awful lot of events up until that time,” McArthur noted. “People were coming back after COVID. It started off slow and we were just really rolling until we ended up getting closed down again. So we had a really good run and we saw a lot of people coming out to the theatre for those events and hopefully in a couple of months we’ll be able to pull those people back into the theatre.”

Jamieson felt the way people rallied behind the theatre after the closure for renovations was another highlight of the past year.

“People have really come up to support us and it also brings to light the importance of this theatre in the community and what a vital role it fills in the arts community in Swift Current and area,” he said. “It’s a vital function and we’ve really been missing it now. More than anything that’s brought it home that we really need to revive this place and get that function back into to the lives of the people of this community.”

The Give a Sheet for the Lyric renovation campaign is aiming to raise $250,000 to cover the cost of sheets of fireproof drywall, regulation fire doors, other required materials and labour. Jamieson felt it will be feasible to reach this fundraising goal by the end of 2024 with some concerted effort.

“We need to do some serious door knocking though,” he said. “It’s just a matter of we have to knock on the right door and ask the question. I think anyone that has an eye or a heart for the arts in this community will want to participate in our reopening and in the rebuilding of the Lyric Theatre.”

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