Hugh’s Room Update Hooray The Ides of March

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Submitted by Don Graham

Toronto’s troubled listening room venue, the much revered Hugh’s Room, has been thrown a life preserver.

The outpouring of support has been overwhelming and inspiring. Hugh’s Room publicist and Toronto folk music supporter from the Riverboat days, Jane Harbury has been keeping as all up to date with press releases and emails.

A working group of volunteers has assembled with the hope of reviving Hugh’s Room. The group includes lawyers, business people, accountants, music promoters, publicists, venue operators and members of the community. The group has spent considerable amounts of time analyzing the viability of reviving/reinventing Hugh’s Room as a music/performing arts venue. The group has determined that if run as a not-for-profit entity, mirroring similar venues in the city, it is a viable proposition. With the right infrastructure and support, the venue can sustain itself financially. The legacy of Hugh’s Room can be continued. Toronto can continue to have a destination venue that presents the genres, variety and high quality of music that Hugh’s Room is renowned for across the continent. Both the long term and short term strategies are of course contingent on fundraising.What’s the plan?After reviewing all the tasks necessary to be able to re-open the club, stock it with supplies, organize staff, etc. it became clear that a March 3,2017 opening, the original goal, was impractical. Our goal now is to open on March 15 with a fundraising event then begin regular club shows the very next day, March 16, with the legendary Lennie Gallant.” How will thry pull this off?“ We have begun asking formally for donations. A press release was issued on January 23 that outlined the amounts of money needed and the minimum amount of donation. Here are those details:
-minimum donation: $1,000.
-Funds needed:
-first $30,000 by February 20th
-second $30,000 by March 5
-final amount $90,000 by July
The grand total needed is $150,000

How to donate:
Cheques – payable to Iler Campbell in Trust, mailed to: Iler Campbell LLP, 150 John St., Toronto M5V 3E3, or e-transfer to: - provide Brian Iler with the security answer via email:

The high minimum donation was set to help us raise the required funds more quickly, and be able to open the club’s doors all that much sooner.

However, for those supporters who are unable to donate $1,000, a GO FUND ME site has been set up. Any and all amounts will be greatly appreciated.

Raising the first $30,000 by February 20 is critical for this plan to proceed. If that amount is not reached, and we find no other option to enable the club to open, 100% of all donations given to that point will be returned to the donors.”

Jane goes on to say the most asked question is - will original founder Richard Carson still be involved?

“Yes, Richard is part of the working group, and will remain as a valued member of the forthcoming Non-Profit entity being formed. The new Non-Profit, HUGH’S ROOM PERFORMING ARTS INC., will be the new owner and administrator of the club going forward. Richard’s original company will disappear and this new company will take over any assets (sound equipment, etc,).”

What about people who bought tickets to cancelled shows?

“The working group is acutely aware of the financial fallout from the cancelled shows, for both audience and artists alike. Our hope is that ultimate fundraising efforts are successful enough to enable the new club to offer some form of compensation. This is an ongoing concern but we do ask for everyone’s patience as we sort through all the details of the changeover. Rest assured this aspect will not be forgotten.”

Who is Behind This Initiative?

“The working group came together informally, in response to the news of Hugh’s Room’s closing. All are fans of Hugh’s Room, and wanted to explore how it could re-open as a community owned venture. It includes: Jeremy Darby - owner of The Canterbury Music Company studio, Howard Gladstone – businessman and musician,
Jane Harbury - freelance publicist, has worked for Hugh’s Room for many years
Brian Iler, Lawyer - Chair of Northwind Folk Festival (on Toronto Islands),
engaged with many community initiatives, Grit Laskin - Luthier, musician, Order of Canada, Bronfman Award for Excellence, EstelleK lein Award, founder of CFMA, co-founder of Borealis RecordsJudith Laskin - Retired Educator, founding Board member, CFMA, Director The Woods Music and Dance Camp, past Board member of Mariposa Folk Festival under Estelle Klein, Brian Litvin – accountant and musician, former treasurer Music Africa, Bill McKetrick - a member of the music community on many levels,Colin Puffer -Hugh's Room Booker, Ross Robinson - promoter of blues music events, frequently at Hugh’s Room, Frank Saunders – businessman and involved with Mariposa Folk Festival, Rob Young – advertising executive and musician.

With the closing of so many live music venues in Toronto it’s imperative that we keep Hugh’s Room up and running. Please show your support in any way you can.