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T.C. Douglas Centre forum held to discuss new ideas

There was a public forum held at the Tommy Douglas Centre on Sept. 27 regarding the future of the building and what types of programs or activities could be done this year at the Centre.

There was a public forum held at the Tommy Douglas Centre on Sept. 27 regarding the future of the building and what types of programs or activities could be done this year at the Centre.

John Nolan, artistic director of the Centre, wanted to hold the forum so he could gather ideas from the citizens of Weyburn as to what they think should happen at the centre. The items discussed at the public forum will then be taken to the next centre board meeting so the ideas can be formally discussed there.

Around 20 people came to the forum to discuss their ideas and possibilities for the future of the centre. Nolan was enthusiastic about the turnout and all of the ideas and suggestions that were presented during the two-hour meeting. The forum "was so interesting because people came out with specific ideas about heritage and possibilities for people working together, striking a committee, so we can work more on promoting Weyburn and the performing arts," Nolan commented. "I am really excited about the idea of creating a committee to work on actually putting all these excellent ideas into practice."

There are currently eight people on the Tommy Douglas Centre board, but of these, only four to five people come to the meetings. The board meets once every six weeks. Nolan, and other present members of the board, expressed the need for more members. "One of the things we're looking for is board members. Board members are people who don't necessarily have a great deal of experience in theatre or performing arts but just have an interest in seeing the Tommy Douglas Centre succeed and continue," Nolan said. "We need board members to actually be involved somehow. It's not a matter of a lot of time but somebody has to help take on some of these little things."

"I am so delighted to see people here under 50 that could be potential board members. If you took the average age of the present board, we're really elderly. It's imperative that we get younger board members," Betty Yeaman, a member of the board, said. "It's just so refreshing to see young faces."

Topics that were covered during the brainstorming session included the importance of preserving and embracing the history of Weyburn; creating a Tommy Douglas Centre committee; and discussing how to go about marketing Weyburn as the tourist hot spot that it could be.

"I've never been to a place that had more going for it in terms of its history and possibilities for tourism than Weyburn. We have the Tommy Douglas sculpture, a museum that houses one of the most wonderful silver collections in the world, the oil fields. It's about time that we started promoting Weyburn for the incredible city that it is because we haven't done that," Nolan said. Weyburn, home of the "Greatest Canadian", Tommy Douglas, "probably has the best tourism moniker in Canada. There are cities in Canada that would kill to be able to say that they are the home of the Greatest Canadian."

Different possibilities were discussed as to how to go about promoting Weyburn and its rich history. The committee will need to "actually send out brochures and travel magazines so that tourists, before they even leave home, know about Weyburn," Nolan suggested.

"We could have ecological tours, oil field tours, Tommy Douglas tours, or people could even just come to see a play at the Centre. Each of these tours would have a cost attached to it and then we'd have a package to give to a tour bus company to offer their clients," Rodney Sidloski, CEO of HELP International, commented after some brainstorming was done on how to get tour buses to stop in to visit Weyburn on their way through.

The rich history of the community was one of the main focal points of the evening. Aside from the obvious Tommy Douglas history, the museums, and abundance of oil field tour possibilities, many other pieces of history were shared, some of which people were not even aware of.

"I'm from Weyburn and I've heard about the Powell house, but I really don't know the story behind it," Jan Keating commented about the famous home in Weyburn. "I started looking up things online and, to tell you the truth, the Powell story is way more interesting than the story of Tommy Douglas' life. I went driving to find the house one day and found that the Powell house isn't even marked. They could make a Hollywood movie out of the this story."

During the two-hour forum, there were also some suggestions on specific productions that the Tommy Douglas Centre could perform. Nolan was really intrigued with the Powell house story because "it was something that we had heard about in our history but the full fascinating story I had never heard before. It excites me to the point where I think that if I could get hold of this story, then I could adapt it for the stage and we could perform it sometime. It's pure Weyburn history."

After the brainstorming element of the forum was complete, there were various stations in the basement of the centre where people could jot down their ideas on matters like special events that the centre could have, promotions, creative fundraising, production ideas, and networking with various groups in Weyburn.

Nolan said he believed that the public forum was a success and "incredibly inspiring. We need to focus on the fact that all of these ideas are so exciting. So when the board members come in, they're not coming in to save something, they're coming in because it's exciting."