By Dan White – Special to the Sydenham Current
Recently I spoke with Lisa Lester, operator of the Armoury in downtown Chatham, across the field from Tecumseh Park.
While traditionally this venue is not a performance specific space, they do have several events coming up that are performance experiences.
From 1905 until 2006 the Armoury was, in fact, a military facility.
In 2009 renovations were completed “protecting the heritage details of this beautiful landmark building” and it became a multi-function facility hosting conferences, weddings and other functions.
Lisa began working at the venue shortly after it’s reopening and 12 years later she and her husband Joe Evers, assumed the lease.
I had heard about the Armoury in lights events and that is what drew me to inquire about the facility and the impact COVID had on the business.
While not technically a performance venue, hosting weddings does often present a good deal of drama!
Weddings actually seems to be Lisa’s bread and butter and she noted that during COVID restrictions her revenue was down 100%.
Rather than folding her tent and giving up, Lisa and her team got busy seeking grants and tightening their collective belts.
In December 2019, the Armoury hosted an event that began with a Christmas light show displayed on the building followed by a Christmas Market inside the building.
It was incredibly successful… and then March 2020 happened.
Last year, after a great deal of planning to comply with the moving target that is COVID restrictions, and fundraising, the Armoury once again was able to host an outdoor event.
The drive in Christmas show featured laser projections onto the building, an ideal location for this as the façade is large and dark and the illumination/light pollution in the area is minimal.
The event saw cars parking on the field and viewing projections while listening to sound on their car radio.
There were live performers, professional dancers unable to work due to COVID and Santa.
The event was a huge success.
It is worth noting that without the support of local businesses the event would not have been possible.
Check out the community minded sponsors on the Armoury website.
This year the Armoury in lights has three events planned over the next three months.
On October 24-30 there will be Monster Fever, a show with live performers and dancing.
Lisa described this as a drive through event, a Halloween show with local bands playing a half hour of live music prior to the light and sound show.
Once again patrons will drive into spots and, from the comfort of their vehicles, they will be able to listen on the car radio and see the projections on the building.
Lisa noted the assistance of Blackburn radio and Strings and Things in securing the two transmitters required to send the radio signals.
Tickets for this event are available through the website.
The second event is a Remembrance Day Show on November 10th and will again feature a laser light show projected on the building.
It is a free event but you do need to have a ticket to attend to enable the Armoury to follow current COVID protocols.
This tribute to our veterans is a day early because, obviously, lights shows are not particularly effective during the day.
It is a walk-in event.
Of particular note is the call for 100 youth to do some simple choreography in front of the building as part of the event.
Auditions are being held Sunday October 10, so if this column is being read on-line… you may have time to check their website for more information.
You can also contact Lisa Lester at email@example.com for more information or to book an audition spot.
The grand finally of this trilogy is the return of the Christmas Market from November 26 until
December 1 both inside the Armoury and outside.
The Christmas show drive-in event follows from December 5-12.
The events are much larger this year and Lisa is looking for volunteers to assist in making this another heartwarming kick-off to the Christmas season.
If you are interested in helping, email Lisa or go to the website for more information.
For further information you can also check out their Facebook page.
It is nice to see arts and arts venues returning to life.
If you miss the arts in your community, be sure to show them by engaging in activities as they re-emerge.
Life is dry without the arts and, as all artists have been keenly aware of over the past twenty months, arts without an audience are like a boat in the desert.
As Picasso said, “Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.”
The final word, The Wallaceburg Brass Quintet has created another fun video.
Dave Babbitt, Meighan Lung, Chris Mann, Joni and I performed the song, did all of the acting, recording and
editing and are thrilled to offer this fun nod to The Addams Family.
To watch us at our silliest (and to witness Dave’s stellar dancing skills), click here.