BUSINESS ENTERPRISE : The Bus Stop Theatre Ltd.
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LOCATION 2203 Gottingen Street, Halifax, Nova Scotia
FOUNDED In 2003 by Howard Beye. Purchased by Walk Eh? Enterprise in 2010, and converted into a Cooperative In 2012.
The BST is a multi-configurable performance venue and community arts hub operating in Halifax’s emerging entertainment district at Gottingen and Cunard. Formally incorporated as a not-for-profit in October 2012, the BST has been functioning as an artist-run collective for over a decade. In that time it has played an important role in fostering Halifax’s arts economy by providing an affordable space for emerging and established performing artists and community events.
The BST serves a everyone. The general public is both audience and presenter at the BST.
The artists that present and audiences that attend these events are a diverse representation of the city and province we live in, its interest, talents and culture.
The BST is a key player in the revitalization of Gottingen Street.
Regularly showcasing local artists, the venue is a community hub for groups across the city, from professional arts organizations to student groups and societies.
Nationally and international touring groups present work at the theatre.
The BST has been making a national name for itself through hosting touring artists. Due to the limited number and nature of venues in HRM, touring shows often have a difficult time finding adequate spaces.
The BST is a prefered venue for album releases shows by groups based in other parts of the province; such as Lunenburg, Kentville, Guysborough, Sydney, and featured artists from across Nova Scotia.
The BST has been at the heart of the independent arts scene in Halifax since 2003, when it was opened by Howard Beye.
For the first decade of its life the venue was a private business, operated as a social enterprise, whose mandate has always been to develop, present, and promote original, innovative Canadian theatre. It has succeeded in doing this by providing an affordable performance space offered below cost to foster emerging artists and a diverse community. The space was operated by Lee-Anne Poole (2008-2009), and Evan Brown (2006 - 2012) and in 2010 the management was passed to Clare Waqué, who is the theatre's current Managing Director.
In 2012, the BSTC was formed with the goal of expanding the extent to which the space could be accessible to a wide range of companies and independent artists.
From 2012-2015, the board of qualified and diverse stakeholders has worked to develop the by-laws, business plan, legal and financial mechanisms to allow it to take over the management of the theatre’s operations.
The shift to community organizations has been promising in that the cooperative model allows for the BST to continue to serve the community by offering them a reduced rental rate and the ability to offer its own unique line of programming in collaboration with emerging and established members of Halifax’s artistic landscape.
The BSTC has four main programs planned for this year. These programs are in addition to the maintenance and improvement of the venue.
The BST is a multi-configurable space with a maximum fire occupancy of 149 people. When risers are installed for the audience to create a traditional performance stage, the venue seats 60-90 depending on the depth required for the stage. The theatre is flexible, intimate, and accessible. It provides an ideal space for new works to be tested and professional works that benefit from a close relationship to their audience.
The base of our operations and revenue has always been our Affordable Venue Rental Program: Presenting. In addition to operating as a rental venue we also produce original innovative canadian theatre by hosting and curating shows and working with regular renters to co-produce their work through our Producing Program.
The shift of the organizations structure to Cooperative allows for us to expand our programming through our membership services. This year the BSTC will launch two pilot initiatives: The Rehearsal Space Program & Workshop Program.
In order to outline our programming we will review one program and its evaluation structure one at a time, beginning with a summary of our existing programming.
Overview Of Existing Programming: Presenting and Producing:
In 2014, The BST was actively in use for more than 250 days of the year.
Annually 70 different groups, use the space including 2b theatre company, Queer Acts Theatre Festival, Halifax Pop Explosion, and Nocturne: Art at Night, among many others.
The BST welcomed an estimated 9500 audience members, and generated close to 100,000.00 in revenues for independent artists and presenters.
The most frequent clients of the Bus Stop were theatre rentals, accounting for over 31% of overall bookings. Improv and Comedy followed with 21% of overall bookings.
The average house for theatre, improv and comedy, and music was 63 people.
The BST co-produces a number of the events. In 2014 40% of the events were produced or co-produced, meaning that the Bus Stop provided artistic support beyond what is given to independent rentals.
i) Venue Rental Program
The BST is designed to create opportunities for as many people as possible at all levels of artistic involvement and in all disciplines. Examples of activities the BST hosts include:
- Music - Visual Arts - Workshops - Auditions
- Film - Circus - Fundraisers - Training
- Theatre - Festivals - Meetings - Conferences
- Dance - Civic Engagement - Rehearsals - Galleries
- Multi-Media - Public Presentation - Film shoots - Craft fairs
- Life drawing - Printmaking - Lectures - Radio
- Debates - Art Auctions - Podcasts - Battles of the Bands
Independent producers using the venue have access to all of our technical, lighting and sound equipment. Use of the space is facilitated by trained technicians, who provide technical support installing and resetting the space.
Since 2010 the price card rental terms and conditions (See Appendix 2 - Rental Terms and Conditions) have stayed the same.
The management of the space has increased its rental revenues by over 200% in the last four years.
It is also our understanding from watching the development of young companies such as Vile Passéist (Villains) Theatre, Lions Den Theatre, and the Us Vs Them Theatre Cooperative, as well as the repeat business of professional companies such as 2b theatre company, Queer Acts Theatre Festival, Mayworks Theatre Festival, DaPoPo Theatre, and AFCOOP, that it is important to keep the prices based not on the operational expense of the theatre but at a price that allows for presenters to profit.
We plan to continue this program as a basis for our operations, and will continue to judge its success on the following criteria:
Diversity of presenters, artistic forms represented, and audiences.
Over 80% of venue renters are able to pay for the use of the space through their ticket revenue.
The space, collective resources, and technical equipment are not degraded through improper use of the theatre develops support through volunteers, skill building, and collective care.
is to showcase and develop the artistic and cultural life of Halifax by providing an affordable and professionally run venue.
● To develop the professional skills of its membership and collective resources of the performing arts community.
● To enable a variety of emerging performance artists to present works to diverse audiences.
● To maintain an affordable and professionally run venue that is accessible to both professional and emerging artists.
● To remain responsive to the needs of both our geographic and cultural community.
The BST Cooperative’s future is to be a self-sustaining and ecologically responsible artist run performance venue that is community owned, professionally operated and dedicated to providing opportunities to artists and the public, while fostering community engagement and economic development.
Clare worked as the Executive Director of the Bus Stop Theatre between 2010 - 2015. She founded the Not for Profit Nova Scotia registered Co-operative that provides independent artist with an affordable performance venue.
She created an extensive business plan for organization's growth into cultural institution that is sustainable. Established new infrastructural systems and helped to network the skills and resources of creative professionals. Developed relations with programming partners and mentoring the next generation of artists, enterprenuers and arts admin.
Clare was successful growing the organizations revenue streams through the transition from a business to not for profit and created a tiered membership system, piloting 10 new related services. She provided operations and financial management, research and development, an cultivated strategic partnerships and developed the Board of Directors and organizational by-laws.