With orange zone rules in effect in Montreal, many shows cannot go on

"We were trying to try fight the gloominess out there. To bring a bit of joy to people."

Jérôme Glad is one of the organizers of Village au Pied-de-Courant, beach/venue below the Jacques Cartier Bridge in Montreal.

The organizers of these events underline that though it’s creating headaches for them, they are entirely in agreement with the new rules and understand that public health is more important than any cultural event.

“I think we have to be part of the collective effort and we have to make sure to not send the wrong message,” said Jérôme Glad, co-founder and co-director of La Pépinière, Espaces Collectifs, which runs the Village au Pied-du-Courant and a number of other outdoor urban culture sites. “We felt a responsibility to close given the approach of the second wave (of the COVID-19 pandemic). It’s time for everyone to do their part to show to the public that this is very serious.”

The Village au Pied-du-Courant opened in mid-July and by provincial rules at the time was able to let in up to 250 people, but the organizers decided to keep capacity at 150 so as to have better crowd control. Families would come to hang out at the beach (which has 20,000 square feet of sand, though no swimming is allowed) and there were also concerts — mostly acoustic shows by world music artists.

Over the summer, the Partenariat du Quartier des Spectacles, which is usually focused exclusively on the area around Place des Arts, was given the mandate to mount free street shows around downtown and it organized 280 performances with 575 artists, performing everywhere from the Esplanade of Places des Arts to Ste-Catherine St. to Chinatown. All of these shows — including dance, music and circus arts performances — have been nixed due to the orange zone rules.

“The whole idea was to bring a bit of life to a downtown that was deserted,” said Monique Simard, chair of the board of the Partenariat du Quartier des Spectacles. “All of a sudden, on a street corner, you’d have a gang of Brazilian dancers. Or circus artists. We were trying to try fight the gloominess out there. To bring a bit of joy to people.”

Simard understands that they had to stop, but she’s worried about what will happen in December, which is the next period in which her group has plans to do seasonal outdoor programming.

Glad and his non-profit organization, La Pépinière, Espaces Collectifs, are also looking toward winter. They have three projects in development.

“We’re looking at what we can do during this COVID winter while still being responsible,” Glad said. “This summer was all about adapting to life under COVID, but it was easier because of the weather. The winter will be harder because the restaurants won’t have terrasses. What we want to do is adapt public spaces and we are looking to do that this winter— for winter with COVID, but also to help us live with winter in general.”

Quebec’s decision this week to designate Montreal as an orange zone in its alert system has wreaked havoc with folks organizing shows in the city.

Pop Montreal, which kicked off Wednesday, has had to cancel a few shows and reduce capacity on others. The festival has also stopped selling tickets to all of its events just to be on the safe side, with the exception of the screenings at Cinéma Moderne, which is operating at a capacity of 16, under physical-distancing rules. The biggest change at Pop Montreal is that it has had to cancel Puces Pop, a fair that usually brings together vendors for a cultural flea market.

It was supposed to take place at St-Viateur Park in Outremont with 20 vendors, but Pop Montreal creative director Dan Seligman said it made no sense given that they would only be allowed to have 25 people on site at any given time.

The Quartier des spectacles has also had to cancel all of its ambulatory shows, which were cultural happenings that were taking place all over the downtown core. These shows were meant to continue until mid-October. The Village au Pied-de-Courant, an urban park/beach/venue under the Jacques Cartier Bridge, has had to shut down early, closing on Sunday. It was meant to continue until Oct. 3.

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