VIDEO: Afternoon of emotion remembers Cowichan Valley’s Roger Sparkes

Singer/ songwriter Deb Maike, another of the Melaque colony, explains how much impact Roger Sparkes had on her life. (Lexi Bainas/Citizen)

More than a hundred friends, fans, and family members of the late Roger Sparkes gathered in the Cowichan Performing Arts Centre on Saturday afternoon, June 22.

Longtime friend Paul Douville acted as emcee in an emotional afternoon that included a pictorial presentation of Sparkes’s life, and oral and written eulogies from such friends as Tony Kant, Deb Maike, Leslie Sjoberg, and Ron Austin.

Performances by Steve McKinnon and Bill Levity added to the afternoon.

Sparkes attained a Masters of Education degree, taught English and drama, worked for many years for the Canadian National Film Board and managed and brought the Cowichan Theatre to international fame.

He won the City of Duncan Perpetual Arts Trophy in 2001. Its list of esteemed recipients include Duncan’s late world renowned master-painter E. J. Hughes.

Sparkes helped forge a team that organized and ran the Cowichan Fringe Festival for 12 years. One venue was even the stage of the Cowichan Theatre. He was also involved in the zany backwards Fringe Parade and the popular Fringe Club.

A lifelong art collector, patron and supporter, Sparkes helped make Cowichan one of the highest per-capita artists areas in the country.

He was also a tireless booster of the 731-seat Cowichan Performing Arts Theatre, putting it on the list of Canada’s best known theatres. Sparkes booked stars, plus little-known international, national and local acts — including offbeat dancers and polished ballet troupes — to help expose folks to the performing arts. His push brought folks to the Valley and employed many performers and staffers.

Sparkes sought and got upgrades for the theatre and promoted visual arts displays in the theatre lobby to exhibit and educate about local artists’ work, and worked to establish The Friends of the Cowichan Theatre to include local folks in volunteer roles in the theatre.

The ebullient Sparkes loved being an emcee for the Cowichan Music Festival, showcasing the multi-talents of local young performers.

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