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COVID shifts perspective for Greater Victoria performing artists

Studio owner/performer wants more clarity; guitarist/songwriter enjoys slower pace
Neil Cooke-Dallin (centre), frontman for the six-piece Victoria band Astrocolor and operator of a downtown recording studio, says people need to be convinced of arts and culture’s impact on the province’s economy and vibrancy. (Photo by Susanne Marie Photography)

As with many industries over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, the performing arts world experienced a massive shift.

Neil James Cooke-Dallin, producer/owner of Burning Rainbow Studio in downtown Victoria and a performer with local band Astrocolor, is calling for greater clarity from decision-makers around how the performing arts industry will move forward in a post-COVID world.

“This industry is not considered in the same way that other industries are, it requires advocacy and convincing people to witness the value of arts, culture and what it provides to society, since it’s not as tangible,” he said.

In an attempt to shine a light on that value, Cooke-Dallin and a committee at his studio are rounding up numbers to show proof of how the performing arts industry contributes to the economy and a more vibrant community.

ALSO READ: Astrocolor bringing unique funk-synth sound to the Capital Ballroom

“We absolutely do need to protect public safety and we have followed all public health protocols,” he said. “But to watch Bonnie Henry go out and drop a puck at a hockey game full of people is a really hard pill to swallow, when for much of the past two years we couldn’t even set foot in a venue.”

Going forward, Cooke-Dallin hopes the performing arts will be considered in more detailed future plans to tangibly reignite the industry.

A positive approach

Jesse Roper, a popular Metchosin-based musician was on the move a lot before COVID-19 hit.

Initially disappointed when everything was cancelled so abruptly, he found prior to the pandemic the weight of stress and constant travel was beginning to bog him down, he said.

When the world shut down, however, he found he had more time to become creatively inspired and was reminded of the importance of slowing down.

“I’ve written some really great new music ever since and I actually had the time to do it,” he said. “But I know a lot of artists have had a really hard time – it’s already such a tough industry – but I’d say to them to keep going and to do it because you love it, even if you have to explore other ways to make money for the time being.”

Roper, 39, said investment in his career and finding other ways to maintain a positive mindset, even at the worst of times, have kept him going the past two years while he awaits opportunities to return to the stage.

ALSO READ: Jesse Roper thrilled to wind up first All Ways Home festival in Langford

Current rules

Current B.C. public health restrictions limit indoor events to 50 per cent capacity, no matter the size of the venue and everyone must be able to be seated and wear a mask when not eating or drinking. Examples include concerts, theatre, dance and symphony performances, sports events, movies, lectures, presentations and workshops. Everyone must be fully vaccinated or show proof of an exemption to attend and dancing is not permitted.

Outdoor events are also limited to 50 per cent capacity or 5,000 attendees, whichever is greater.

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