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Free rent of 1,000-seat Surrey theatre won by 3 organizations for special events this year

Bell Performing Arts Centre Community Program grant winners announced
A performer at the 2016 AHFOMAD festival at Surrey City Hall. The annual festival is organized by African Heritage Music and Dance Society, which has won a grant to stage an event at Surrey’s Bell Performing Arts Centre on Saturday, July 16. (Photo:

Three Surrey-based organizations have been granted free rental of Bell Performing Arts Centre to stage their special events this year.

African Heritage Music & Dance Society, Global Peace Alliance BC and Young Peoples Opera Society are winners of the Sullivan-area theatre’s Bell Performing Arts Centre Community Program.

The contest, presented by Bell Canada and Surrey School District, was launched in January to grant free rental of the 1,052-seat theatre to three local organizations hit hard by the pandemic, for events held from July to December 2022.

Groups could apply to present a play, concert, speaking event, fundraising gala or other events at the Bell. The grants include up to eight hours of theatre use, box office services and up to four technicians to work the event. Each award is valued at close to $6,500.

African Heritage Music and Dance Society is up first with an event on Saturday, July 16. The organization’s annual AHFOMAD festival aims to showcase “the rich and diverse expressions of Africa from the African Canadian perspective in a positive, all inclusive, educational and vibrant festive environment.”

“We have been producing concerts and our flagship AHFOMAD Festival for the past seven years in the Lower Mainland, specifically Surrey, New Westminster and Vancouver,” notes a post on the theatre’s website.

“Our primary mandate is to develop and implement an international calibre African Heritage Festival of Arts, Music and Dance, an all-Black African Canadian professional arts presentation and development team in British Columbia and Canada.”


On Oct. 1, Global Peace Alliance BC will stage its Give Peace a Chance festival at the Bell, to celebrate the International Day of Peace.

The organization celebrates 10 years since it was formed in Surrey.

The Oct. 1 event will welcome “speakers, dancers and singers to share their message of peace and express their vision for a better world,” explains a web post. “We invite performers from communities, schools and artists to share their cultural talents and we also challenge them to deliver a message of peace, love, and nonviolence. The audience and judges will vote on 3 of the most artistic and inspiring performances that unite, delight and express a strong theme. These will receive prizes in in addition to our honorariums. We are calling on sponsors and the community to reach out to us”

On Dec. 2, Surrey-based Young People’s Opera Society, created in 2005, will stage “Following a Star,” a Christmas show of “The First Nowell,” a nativity play by Ralph Vaughan Williams, and “Amahl and the Night Visitors,” a one-act opera by Gian Carlo Menotti.

“This Christmas show is extremely family friendly and the perfect start to the season,” notes the organzation, or YPOSBC. “Joy, wonder and love are the theme of the season if you choose to partake in this feast of Christmas senses.”

Applications for the theatre’s community program were accepted until March 31.

“It’s a way of us supporting community organizations in Surrey as well as the Lower Mainland,” Andrew Elliot, associate theatre manager, said in January, when the program was launched.

“As we know, the pandemic has been an incredibly challenging time for performing arts organizations as well as live events in general, so this is a way to help a few of those organizations put on their events without the risk of financial burden they’d normally have.”


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Tom Zillich

About the Author: Tom Zillich

I cover entertainment, sports and news stories for the Surrey Now-Leader, where I've worked for more than half of my 30-plus years in the newspaper business.
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