The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Confederation Centre of the Arts is “well into the millions,” says CEO Steve Bellamy.
This comes after the centre announced it would be cancelling the Charlottetown Festival, the flagship series of productions mounted on the main stage over the summer tourism season, including Anne of Green Gables — The Musical.
“It’s much bigger than the Confed Centre. Unfortunately with the combination of necessary health restrictions and the financial impact, it has actually become impossible to move forward,” Bellamy told CBC Radio: Mainstreet’s Matt Rainie.
“A festival like this actually takes months of preparation in terms of building it physically and rehearsing, and we’ve reached the point now where it’s not possible to mount it, even one that started late, which of course we were working on.”
Artistic director Adam Brazier echoed Bellamy, adding that while it’s a relief to see the decision made, it is bittersweet.
“All I think about really is the loss of work for artists, musicians, for our incredibly dedicated crew for everybody at the centre and at the festival who you know who relies on this,” Brazier said.
“This is a massive part of their yearly income that is suddenly no more.”
Hope not lost for 2020
This is the first time in 56 years that Anne of Green Gables — The Musical won’t run since the centre was built in 1965. The Guinness Book of World Records currently recognizes it as the world’s longest running annual musical.
The Confederation Centre closed its doors on March 16 and Bellamy said all revenue generation has ceased since.
“We’re well into the millions in terms of impact. That said we know that all levels of government are extremely aware of this,” he said.
“We know that they’re aware that there are other longer term consequences here too.”
We will have content that is ready and appropriate for our Island and we just really are excited to get to that day again— Adam Brazier, artistic director, Confederation Centre
Bellamy calls the whole thing “devastating,” but they’re not ruling out staging some sorts of productions this year once they get the green light from the Chief Public Health Office.
“There’s a lot of people that you see who work at the festival. There’s also a lot of people you don’t see, and this is affecting close to 175 jobs. It’s an enormous impact,” he said.
“We’re of course very quickly turning our attention to figuring out what it is we can do,
“What are the types of activities and shows that we can design for later in the year, that can be flexible in that we can wait until we know when it’s safe and be able to pivot with that news as it comes forward?”
Brazier said an added challenge is that it’s not looking they’re going to be able to bring people on to the Island anytime soon. This rules out audience members who would spend money at the box office, but also artists to mount productions.
“It would most likely be engaging as many Island artists in what we’re doing, and really try to make it a more localised and focused celebration,” he said.
Centre will reopen when it can
As for the festival’s 2021 season, which is already planned and budgeted, Brazier said there are many unknowns.
“Whether or not we’re moving shows forward a year or back a year, it’s still up in the air,” he said. “We’ve only now come to cancelling this season, we’re going to start talking now pretty furiously about next.”
Brazier said audiences can be assured that Anne will return in 2021.
Though the centre will remain closed throughout the pandemic, Bellamy said they will reopen as public health directives allow. He said if there comes a time when P.E.I. is allowed gatherings of a certain number, the centre will accommodate, reopen and design activities for that number.
“When the time is right and the doors are allowed to be open, we will be there,” said Brazier.
“We will have content that is ready and appropriate for our Island and we just really are excited to get to that day again.”
Those who had tickets to any of the cancelled shows as part of the Charlottetown Festival are eligible for a refund, a credit at the box office or to donate the funds to the centre.