Following the closure of the Blackpool coffee house this summer, the Wells Gray Lively Arts Society (WGLAS) has decided to launch its own event in Clearwater, beginning this fall at the Dutch Lake Community Centre. Members of the WGLAS coffee house subcommittee (l-r): Barb Hall, Gerda Faber and Grant Gale. Jaime Polmateer photo.

Celebrated tradition of coffee houses in the North Thompson

Those interested in performing or attending can expect the first event to take place on Oct. 19

After the Blackpool Coffee House decided to close its doors earlier this year, Clearwater’s Wells Gray Lively Art Society (WGLAS) decided to pick up the slack and will be holding its first coffee house event at the Dutch Lake Community Centre this fall.

WGLAS member, Gerda Faber, said upon hearing the official news in August that the Blackpool events would cease, her group scrambled to help keep the tradition alive and make sure folks in the area would still have a coffee house to look forward to.

Those interested in performing or attending can expect the first event to take place on Oct. 19.

“It’s going have a very intimate and cozy atmosphere, we’re going to make nice lighting and the room holds about 60 people,” said Faber, adding those who bring their own mugs can have their coffee and tea at a cheaper price.

There is also a $4 cover charge to attend the events, which goes back into the WGLAS to bring more entertainment to the area.

Blackpool Hall hosts many events during past year

“We’re also really hoping to attract families and children who are up and coming poets, dancers, jugglers, musicians, comedians, or whatever somebody wants to do for a performance,” Faber said.

The tradition of coffee houses in the valley goes back decades with Faber, who’s been in the area for 26 years, noting the first ones she went to took place at the Brookfield Cafe, owned by Denis Chaykowski, beginning in the fall of 1993.

Chaykowski said these events, which were put on by his own C-Me Live productions, offered a Sunday afternoon venue for performers of all ages and Chaykowski also used the cafe walls to provide free space for local artisans from the Clearwater and Thompson areas are to show their work.

“It was such a small cafe and there were so many people attending the first couple of nights, he couldn’t fit them all inside, so we all ended up outside with the door wide open,” said Faber.

In 1994, these events evolved into Music at the Brook which then took place Wednesdays from May to August with an outside patio and stage area created in the inaugural year.

The first show started with two dozen or so guests as well as a handful of Clearwater musicians and grew to the point where there were hundreds attending by summers end, including seasonal visitors.

The Brookfield Mall parking lot filled to capacity, showing great community spirit and it was also a social event for all ages, with performers from eight years old to 80 years young, said Chaykowski.

Musicians and performers from Clearwater, Little Fort, Vavenby, Kamloops, and musicians just passing through, joined in on the weekly Music at the Brook nights over the years.

The summer music event was so successful C-Me Live hosted a well-attended community family dance in the Brookfield Mall parking lot featuring local performers and Clearwater’s popular band, What’s Her Name and the Other Guys providing the dance tunes.

Coffee houses have also popped up in Little Fort and as mentioned, Blackpool, keeping on with the tradition.

Food Bank gets help from Blackpool Hall

Bill Fowler, who runs the events in Little Fort, said the idea to offer a coffee house there came after he attended one in Celista with members of the Gold Dust Gang, the band he was in at the time, and things just snowballed from there.

“I think we’re in year 23 or 24,” said Fowler. “I can’t seem to stop myself. It’s a great deal of work, but I just really enjoy it; it’s really good to have people come up and have a place where they can play and we can provide them a good sound system.”

Though attendance numbers are up and down at the Little Fort coffee house, he said some people still really enjoy the events and are willing to support them.

Some of the acts that perform range from rock, blues, and jazz as well as stand-up comics and poets.

“It’s nice to see everyone happy and it’s really nice to have fun,” said Fowler.

“Many of the musicians are some of the most wonderful people I’ve met in my entire life. That makes it worthwhile as well, and of course, you’re giving something back to the community.”

The next coffee house in Little Fort takes place on Oct. 4.

As for the new coffee house in Clearwater, Faber said they’re looking at booking about nine performers per event, who’ll get a 15 minute set each.

The WGLAS plans to launch a website where interested performers can book slots, but for now, they can be reached by contacting Yellowhead Community Services 250-674-2600.

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An out of town performer who was passing through Clearwater plays at the Music at the Brook coffee house in the early 1990s. Submitted photo.

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