Longevity John Falkner is still determined to continue presenting ‘accessible theatre’ at his Duncan Showroom. (Citizen file)

Duncan Showroom still needed: Longevity John Falkner

He may sport a half-beard but there’s nothing half-hearted about his support for performers

The fight to keep the Duncan Showroom alive still goes on, even though the unusual nightclub has managed to live another day.

Word that the Station Street venue was again facing the axe was rife in Duncan last week because of long-overdue rent and Showroom owner Longevity John Falkner took to social media to spread the word.

On Saturday, May 11, Falkner said on his Facebook page, “I announced on Thursday that a call to the landlord had taken place and that yes the locks were being changed on the Friday. We were fortunate that some people came forward with donations and some personal loans to cover the $12,600 the landlord wanted paid by Friday. It took us four and a half hours. Wow, I was in shock. Now, although we escaped this time, we needs more peeps to come to concerts, to get out their house and experience fine Canadian talent that tours our country.”

The gofundme page at https://www.gofundme.com/keeping-the-duncan-showroom-alive?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=fb_u_g&fbclid=IwAR1STHjEDjWmBwc9LyY1KRjC77s84AtqVMktG640hYQ-WIJ3dbssYE09YGs is still up and at ‘em but it shows only $6,403 raised towards its $48,000 goal.

Falkner said on that site recently, “Why do we continue what seems an endless up hill battle? Watch some of our Youtube videos of concerts at the Showroom, discover the varied styles/genres of music we present, listen to their nightly comments about the Showroom, how it needs to remain open, see the ages of the musicians, a mecca for touring bands, a creative force for locals, a place that actually cares about the music and how it is presented. We believe in what we do and its benefits to our community and the Canadian music scene.”

He also added, “We are looking for more sustainable ways to stay open but yes, we do need a ‘tax’ base to help keep the small independents open.”

Falkner had been originally trying to raise enough money to actually buy the building, and on the gofundme page, he answered a question about that.

“Why is our new goal so much smaller at $48,000 than the $485,000 originally requested? Because the offer on the building fell through and the pressure is somewhat off us to buy the building ASAP. $48,000 would be enough to pay our rent for a year, one of the main rules if we want to stay in this location. We do presently bring in enough to cover utilities but not the rent as well. So, we shift our attention to just finding people to aid in the subsidizing of our performing arts programming.

“Our original goal was to raise enough funds to buy this building that we have occupied for four years so as to continue presenting performing arts and musical appreciation to the community in the Cowichan Valley and the wide world web via Youtube with almost daily broadcasts and archives of local as well as touring musical acts. “

Trying to keep the Duncan Showroom viable is a stiff challenge for anyone, but Falkner wants to offer Valley music lovers a wider range of entertainment offerings.

“The acts that we bring in would not fill a 730-seat theatre but they’re great,” he said in an interview outside the Showroom Sunday night, May 12, just before a performance by renowned Montreal bluesman Michael Jerome Browne.

“There’s a thing called the folk circuit in Canada. In Winnipeg you might be able to play for 200 people at the West End Cultural Centre, that would be a big house, but you often play to smaller crowds, all appreciative of what’s going on.

“I just went to Montreal to the Folk Alliance International Festival conference. I represented Duncan, with my half beard and all. It worked. We were able to attract a lot of attention due to the fact that we run a 39 day festival. When you tell people about it and they find it’s free access for everybody, they’re amazed.

“The 39 Days of July serves its purpose so well to show that music is a healing agent. I saw an article the other day about the loss of intimate family encounters as a result of Netflix and our telephones. We’re not concentrating on each other any more. It goes ‘ding’ and you know that their attention isn’t there. What that’s created is that a whole bunch of people in the entertainment sector are having to re-adjust how they work.”

This change doesn’t just affect small venues like his, but movie theatres, and other places that try to attract people out of their houses for entertainment.

Falkner says he receives lots of free advice.

“One of the biggest things I get in this town is: ‘You’ve got to change up your business plan’. To that I say: ‘No, you’ve got to change up your cultural life, how much you commit to the arts and cultural sector’.

“And those naysayers, who keep telling me this should be a licensed venue: I don’t see them ever showing up to see what this experience is like. I’m not trying to negate anybody, but if you come in you can have a really wonderful experience.”

Falkner said that years ago, he, himself might have been one of those people who were drunk and loud at a venue that was supposed to be presenting entertainment. And he’s spoken to people attending shows who, like the notorious overseas soccer fans, only want to cause a disturbance and are proud of that.

In the intervening years, with an alcohol problem left long behind, he’s realized that what he’s offering is “accessible theatre” to all ages.

“I was talking to Michael [Jerome Browne] and [told him a 10-year-old was coming to the show] and he says: ‘You see, that’s the difference, he doesn’t come to see me in a setting where he couldn’t appreciate it’.”

Asked how many more people would come out to see and hear Browne if they could get alcohol, Falkner replied, “Not many.”

There is a big gap between a performer who can fill a 700-seat theatre and one who can fill a 100-seat venue, and that gap doesn’t always involve the quality of the performer.

“I’d rather be in a place where from the get-go there’s no alcohol. Here, that’s a given. There are also a lot of cool things to look at, but they’re not for sale either. So what is for sale? What’s up for grabs is the music; you get to go on a journey. The person on that stage can take you there if you pay attention, where it’s so quiet you can hear popcorn hit the floor.”

Falkner is hoping that eventually some way is found to help a venue that offers opportunities not only to well-known smaller acts, but also to young performers.

“Most of the arts are subsidized to some degree. All the private messages we get in support of what we do show us we have to try to remain open,” he said.

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