Red Gate Community Update, May 2017

We're back! After a month of dealing with city inspectors, our "Red Gate Classic" location on East Hastings has been re-approved and re-licensed. The problems cited were all minor enough that they weren't considered problems the first time around, when we were approved and licensed in 2013. However, our situation remains tenuous as we are month-to-month and this strip of Hastings is now ground-zero of the next big wave of east side gentrification. We're actively searching for a viable long term location, but the real estate market continues to escalate and this is being reflected in the lease rates we're seeing, which are on average twice what they were even a couple of years ago. It resembles a hostage situation in which we have no choice but to pay the ransom!

Maintaining DIY community spaces in this environment is becoming increasingly difficult; and not only for us, but for every cultural space, non-profit organization, small business, garage start-up, or any other enterprise that is not backed up by a public or private institution with very deep pockets. This is  a serious crisis with profound implications for the viability of the entire cultural sector, and indeed the future of Vancouver as a city with its own character and identity. We're not prepared to throw in the towel just yet, but we see very little reason to be optimistic without a broadly-based city-wide coalition of affected groups, and a clear plan for how to turn the situation around. We see no point in complaining about these issues to various levels of government without also proposing realistic solutions.

We can take some inspiration for possible approaches from the City of London's recently implemented "rescue plan to save London's grassroots music venues" in which it is recognized that these "incubators" fill a crucial role and that their disappearance threatens "the long term future of a creative and cultural sector that feeds into the UK’s £3.8 billion music industry." While Vancouver's arts and cultural sector is much smaller than that of London, we think that proportionally it could be much greater in terms of its impact on the life and economy of the city in the coming decades. The "grassroots" art and music scene in Vancouver has never been better, this city is literally bursting with talent, but almost everyone is hanging on by their fingernails as leases expire and available, affordable space disappears. It's a great irony that the people who have been working long hours for short pay to help make Vancouver "the world's most livable city" are being forced out by the results of their own success, and it will be a great tragedy if the current creative exodus is allowed to run its course.

We're currently working on a media and fundraising campaign to draw attention to these issues, and to outline some practical steps that we're taking towards a solution. Watch this space!

xo, rg