Sidney council exclaims ‘nay’ to Shakespeare in Beacon Park

Public parks bylaw in Sidney disallows ticketed events

A proposal by the Rotary Club of Sidney to run an open-air Shakespeare production at Beacon Park was turned down by the town at their Aug. 13 council meeting.

The Sidney Rotary Club had hoped to sell tickets to the production, which the actors had agreed to do gratis, as a fundraiser. But the town’s policies on holding ticketed events in the public park proved to be a stumbling block that couldn’t be negotiated in such a short amount of time.

“We still have the possibility of doing it next year,” said Steve Duck from the Tides Group, one of the event organizers. “Because of the summer meeting schedule, we only had two council meetings over the timeline of us coming up with the idea and when it would have happened, so it just wasn’t enough. And taking into account things like lighting, seating, sound and concession services, there is no way that we could have run the event [and made a profit] on just a donation basis.”

Duck said the possibility of holding the event in the future isn’t out of the question.

“I’m not upset about it, although it is disappointing, but I don’t think we’ve lost the opportunity,” Duck said. “I think the town knows the park policy is outdated and ambiguous and hopefully we can work together to come up with something that can work.”

The current use of public parks policy states that “no applicant shall sell or charge, or permit to be charged, an admission/entry fee for an event.” The policy also states that the public not be excluded from any event or activity in a public park.

“It is of the opinion of staff that to make any exception for the benefit of this event would therefore set a precedent that may not be overlooked by some members of the community, in particular those organizations and individuals that have, in the past, been denied private functions opportunities,” said the report to council from the manager of engineering and environmental services, Mike van der Linden.

The group that agreed to perform the Shakespeare production is Victoria’s Shakespeare by the Sea, the same group currently performing A Midsummer’s Night Dream in Holland Point Park on Dallas Road.

“We were excited about doing the production [in Sidney],” said Central Saanich resident and Victoria’s Shakespeare by the Sea actor, Jan Manchur. “The production we do at Holland Point Park is absolutely stunning being right on the water. With the mountains, the sea and the ships going by it’s a really magical setting. It would have been great to do the same in Sidney.”

Along with Manchur who plays Frances Flute, two other Peninsula actors are also members of the Midsummer’s Night Dream cast. Rosalind Coleman who plays Snout and James Johnson who plays Bottom are from Central Saanich. Both Coleman and Manchur have also both worked with the Peninsula Players.

Victoria’s Shakespeare by the Sea’s ***A Midsummer’s Night Dream runs Tuesdays through Sundays until Sept. 2 at Holland Point Park off Dallas Road. Shows start at 7 p.m. and tickets are available at www.vicshakesea.ca or by calling 250-213-8088.

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