Thursday, May 10, 2012

Saving the Mayfair Theatre...and my sanity

Confession: I went to school for environmental studies. Even got my masters degree!

I wouldn't call it a waste. In my undergrad, I focused my thesis on elderly women's fear of crime in urban space. For my master's I studied the Girl Guides of Canada, and how their curriculum promotes environmental citizenship among young girls and women.

And here I am....working with women! Although I'm not writing environmental policy or advocating on behalf of a non-profit, I feel like my heart is in the right place. I still believe that our environmental issues are paramount, but getting an education in the field was discouraging - it felt like my efforts were just a drop  in the bucket. At least as a doula, I see positive change with each birth I attend. I feel as though my efforts in education and advocacy are paying off. And I can continue to care about environmental issues, without having to dedicate myself 40 hrs per week to the cause.

In my mid-twenties, I pictured myself always living in the urban core - renting a small apartment and being able to walk/bike to work. I imagined I would take part in a community garden, and keep worm composters on my balcony (which I actually did do!) I shunned suburbs - they were for lazy commuters who drove gas guzzling SUVs (my apologies friends - I don't think that anymore).

But kids change, well, everything. It's not that I worry about space - I would be perfectly happy raising my children in a smaller, older home, if it meant being close to all the amenities. It's just financially not possible. My husband and I are not making enough money to sustain a mortgage downtown. We could have continued to rent, but our unease about not having a place to call our own led us to begin looking for a home we could afford. And the only place we could afford was in the suburbs.

So two years later, here we are. We live in an older home built in the 1960s, and our backyard looks out onto a school and adjescent ravine. We take long hikes in our ravine, pointing out woodpeckers, owls and evidence of beavers. Our gardens grow a ton of vegetables in the summer. I love the songbirds that visit my trees every morning, and I relish the silence in the evenings. Now if I could only legally raise some chickens in my backyard, I would be in heaven!

But what I don't like?

  • Lack of a decent coffee shop. No offense Starbucks, but I like supporting small businesses. And so far, no decent coffee shops are to be found in Orleans, Ontario.
  • Few family-run or independent food establishments. I really do NOT enjoy big box restaurants. I'll eat there on occasion, but I don't want to eat something that I can find in every other suburb in Canada.
  • Little walkability - yes, it's true what they say. You DO drive more in the suburbs. Although I have made an effort to commute to work by bus, my morning sickness has forced me back into my car.
  • Lack of culture (live music, theatre, the arts)
Which brings me to the main point of this post. We recently found out we may be losing our first independent theatre, which only opened less than a year ago. The Mayfair Theatre is a locally-run establishment that moved into space once occupied by Cineplex Odeon. Unfortunately, dismal ticket sales may force it to close its doors.

Strong supporters of the community of Orleans will argue that I'm missing some important points - say, for instance, The Shenkman Arts Centre? And I'll agree - we have made great strides in building the arts in this community. But clearly it's not enough, when a local theatre (which runs many good-quality, independent films) can't even keep its doors open for one year.

I don't believe it's for lack of interest. I know for a fact that many of my friends out here were very happy when the Mayfair announced its arrival. And I know we're all busy with babies, kids, dogs, mortgages and home repairs...

But why should we care any less than folks living in Westboro or the Glebe? What makes a community is the desire of its citizens to lead better, and more sustainable lives. And unfortunately, sustainability does not have its home in the WalMart or Empire Theatres or Home Sense living along the big box that calls itself Innes Road.

So could everyone do me a favour? Save my sanity - help me realize my dream of owning a home AND having access to all the things that make a community so wonderful. A place to meet and chat with friends/neighbours, businesses that are close enough to go by foot, food that does not come in industrial packages, and films that don't have "American Pie" in the title.

If you live in Orleans, visit the Mayfair Theatre this weekend! You'll see me there on Saturday night, checking out the eco-drama The Hunter.


  1. I've lived, as a parent, for six years in Orleans and I've learned that of all the suburbs in Ottawa it's one of the least supportive of family-focused businesses; I just did a quick count and came up with 8 that have come and gone during that time period. For all the young families that live here, there's a whole lot of nothing - not because businesses don't try but because they do and then close because of a lack of support. I have no idea why...

  2. I have had the same thoughts about Orleans as well. Hubby has lived here all of his life, and I moved here 3 years ago from Toronto/Mississauga. I really hate that I feel like I have to drive to get anywhere. I do live very close to Place d'Orleans, but that is about it.

    Even if I want to go to Starbucks, it requires a 10 minute drive! But hubby and I have always said that there is a real lack of cafes here, especially when all you want is a piece of pie and a latte after dinner


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