BROCKTON – A delegation consisting of Bob McCulloch and members of the Victoria Jubilee Hall (VJH) committee (Henry Simpson, Bill Carroll, Jim Bohnert) provided council with their annual update on Jan. 12.
McCulloch said VJH came up against “the COVID brick wall” in 2020.
Revenues dropped, showing a deficit of around $24,000 in December. The situation wasn’t any different from what other theatres were facing, except VJH has a fixed overhead that’s smaller than Blyth’s or Drayton’s, and VJH has income from its long-term tenants.
When it became obvious the pandemic wasn’t going away anytime soon, and in-person shows weren’t going to happen, the Jubilee Arts and Music committee (JAM) began looking at other ways to keep VJH in the public eye.
Songs by the Gazebo on Sept. 13 attracted a large, socially distanced crowd. VJH was back! Next came the online Christmas Concert, streamed on Wightman and Facebook. The opera hall was silent, but JAM kept things going.
Despite the lack of income-generating events and the trials and tribulations of COVID-19, VJH managed to accomplish a lot during 2020, in a large part thanks to grants from the Walkerton Rotary Club, Spruce the Bruce, Brockton council and individual donors.
Among the continuing projects at VJH are eliminating water and dampness from the VJH basement, stopping water penetration from the east porch roof into the building and down through the upper deck, doing a full repair on the east columns (as one would repair structural bridge concrete), and providing outside security for the safety of staff, patrons and tenants.
Repairs accomplished in 2020 included raising and sealing the remaining eight of 10 basement windows to keep water out of the building. The other two were done two years ago. The grade was raised to run rainwater away from the building.
The east porch roof catches a lot of water, and the windowsill above the porch was raised to prevent water from running into the hall. A high-tech product called RhinoLiner was applied to the concrete porch decking. This project was paid for through a Rotary grant of $6,800.
The front columns have been patched over the years, but with the help of a Spruce the Bruce grant, a bridge-style repair was completed.
As for security, the installation of motion activated cameras will enhance the safety of anyone using the building.
VJH was the recipient in 2020 of a prestigious Cornerstone Award, one of 11 heritage sites nationally to be so honoured. The Ecclesiastical Insurance Cornerstone Awards bring to national attention exemplary projects that illustrate the viability of heritage buildings for traditional or new uses.
Dedicated volunteers are always busy tending gardens, painting, shoveling snow, installing new taps, sinks and hand-washing stations ($1,500 PPE grant) as well as doing the constant minor repairs and maintenance the magnificent building needs and deserves.
The VJH delegation ended its presentation with words of gratitude for council’s moral and financial support, and asked that council continue to support the hall with the same amount as last year, $10,000. The money will go to general operations.
Deputy Mayor Dan Gieruszak commented on the “20-year commitment” made by the volunteers to the building and congratulated them on their efforts.
Coun. Dean Leifso made special mention of the heritage award the group received. “It was well deserved.”
Mayor Chris Peabody thanked the volunteers for their “great work.”
Pauline Kerr, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Walkerton Herald Times