Surrey is moving out of the suburban category and defining itself as a city. It is one of the fastest growing communities in the country, and that growth in population means demand for more services, schools and other infrastructure. Converting Whalley into City Centre is a huge challenge. Oh, right, that one is obvious. Making the city safe and vibrant remains a priority, but as City Centre is “cleaned up,” many of the social problems moved south to Newton.
While Whalley transforms itself into City Centre, Newton has hopes of establishing itself as the entertainment and cultural hub of Surrey. Newton is no stranger to social problems. The Newton Business Improvement Association was established in 2014 and is already meeting the challenge with an ambitious 20-year plan. The BIA currently represents close to 550 businesses and business property owners. I know all this because my business is one of those 550 businesses, and I see the changes the BIA has achieved in just three short years.
The Newton BIA focuses on four pillars: Safety, Area Enhancement, Marketing and Events, and Government Relations. Safety is the primary focus for now, but the future is promising for a “Cultural Entertainment Centre.” The vision includes a convention centre hotel, larger community centre, a festival street art barn and a theatre and sports hub. These are ambitious plans, but as Newton BIA executive director Philip Aguirre says, “you need a plan to move forward.”
With community leaders and businesses, plus assistance from the city and RCMP, I can see the future for Newton. Events like Newton Days, Piano Wednesdays and Troubadour Saturdays, the corridor along 137th Street is also home to Studio 73 and the pop-up Newton Gallery. Safety patrols by Commissionaires, seasonal lights, banners and events (such as the “Spooktacular” at Halloween) come with a cost attached. The Newton BIA, along with the city and others with a passion to improve Newton, have already had an impact on the area. There is still a lot of work to do, don’t misunderstand me. Goodbye graffiti, hello art murals.
Sure, Surrey already has two civic theatres, but there is room for more. The newly formed Naked Stage Productions Society is set to present its third “readers theatre” play at Newton Cultural Centre. The NCC is also part of the Newton BIA, and although their black-box studio theatre is a great asset to the community, it maxes out at 100 patrons. Until we get another space, Naked Stage is well suited to the space at NCC – for now. The current production is one of Noel Coward’s last plays, “Noel Coward in Two Keys.” Performance are on Friday and Saturday (Feb. 24, 25) at 7:30 p.m. and on Sunday (Feb. 26) starting at 2 p.m. Tickets ($15), are available at Brownpapertickets.com and at the theatre door, 13530 72nd Ave., Surrey.
One of Surrey’s cultural gems is the Surrey Youth Orchestra. Wouldn’t it be grand to have another performance space for this group of young musicians right in the heart of Surrey? Like Newton. Ah well, sometime in the future. For now, the organization is holding an open house on Saturday, Feb. 25 from 11a.m. to noon at Surrey Christian High School, 15353 92nd Ave. Artistic director Joel Stobbe will talk about the orchestra’s programs and how you can take part. There will be music performances by the Junior Strings, Intermediate and Senior orchestras – a good way to get acquainted. Besides two annual concerts, activities include a music-camp weekend, chamber music programs, workshops and scholarships. Auditions for 2017/2018 take place May 27 and June 3. Visit Surreysymphony.com for more information.
One thing Newton does not have, and will never have, is a beach. Have to leave that to White Rock and South Surrey. The beach is, apparently, a great place to have a theatre, especially in tents. Beach House Theatre is casting for “The Heart Of Robin Hood,” written by David Farr of the Royal Shakespeare Company, and also for “The Tales Of King Arthur,” a play for young audiences by Lane Roisley.
“The Heart Of Robin Hood” has received critical acclaim in London, New York and Toronto. Beach House says it is honoured to be among the first companies in Canada to produce this epic show. This is the classic English legend, but with a huge twist, with adventure, romance, comedy, song, dance and swordplay. The show requires a large ensemble cast to play multiple roles.
Those who would like to audition must prepare a one- to two-minute comic monologue from a contemporary play. Auditions will be held at Alexandra Neighbourhood House on Monday, March 6 between 7 and 10 p.m; callbacks will be on Monday, April 3 from 7 to 10 p.m. Rehearsals are in early June, and the show runs in tents at Blackie Spit from Aug. 15 to 20. Visit Beachhousetheatre.org for more details, and email firstname.lastname@example.org to set up an audition.