BEPPLE – Kelson Hall the beginning of a transformation in downtown Kamloops
THE DOWNTOWN of Kamloops is being transformed.
On Monday, Kelson Hall was officially opened. What was a bunker style building for Telus equipment at 330 St. Paul Street has been transformed to a state of the art 20,000 square foot cultural space with performance halls, teaching areas, rehearsal spaces, and administrative offices.
It will become the new home of the Western Canada Theatre and the Kamloops Symphony Orchestra, including their theatre and music schools. It will also become a space available for bookings by a range of community groups.
A huge thanks goes to local philanthropists Ron and Rae Fawcett. It was their generosity and vision which brought the project to fruition. In a few short years, from the time they purchased the building until today, they worked with contractors, the symphony, the theatre, and the City to change the building from concrete and telecom cables into a bright, airy, functional centre. They invested more than $6 million into the project.
And their generosity didn’t stop at the renovations. At the official opening, the Fawcetts gifted the facility to the City of Kamloops. The Fawcetts have given Kamloops state of the art cultural space.
But it is more than a building. It is a place for the community to connect. In the years ahead, hundreds of thousands will come for performances. Equal numbers, especially children and youth, will attend theatre and music classes. People will gather for business mixers, remembrance events, lectures, and lessons.
Coming out of COVID, one thing is clear. Being able to gather together as a community is so important. Public spaces, whether for sports, health, education or culture strengthen community.
The Kelson Hall will be one of those places. Ron and Rae Fawcett have not just given the people of Kamloops a building, they have given us the opportunity to connect as a community.
At the event, Lori Marchand, a past, long-time executive director for Western Canada Theatre, spoke about how plays such as Ernestine Shuswap Gets Her Trout and Where the Blood Mixes which WCT has produced can not only connect people but are a force for reconciliation. Cultural spaces help us know who we are, and change us into who we want to be.
The transformation of the downtown will continue. There are massive residential projects and new office spaces underway. And on the horizon is the next opportunity: the performing arts centre.
With Kelson Hall, the Fawcetts have laid the cornerstone of the new performing arts centre. The Fawcetts deliberately created Kelson Hall to complement a future centre at Seymour and 4th Avenue.
Now it will be up to others including City Hall to take the next step, to continue the transformation of Kamloops. Thanks to Ron and Rae Fawcett for their contribution to Kamloops.
Nancy Bepple is a Kamloops City councillor with a strong interest in community building projects.
You’re so dead on with these thanks and predictions, Nancy. Now let’s get on with what we’ve been putting off for far too long.
The greatest hindrance to a truly vibrant, welcoming, aesthetically pleasurable downtown has been council & mayors. There is a glimpse of hope (this beautifully renovated building is definitely a good step)things will change but I will not get my hopes up too much. Just take a look at the sad looking trees (dis)gracing it…decades in the making.