History of The Cultch
Perched at the top of a hill that slopes down to the heart of the City, The Cultch has always been a gathering place. This once-abandoned church has developed into a national treasure and BC's most diverse performance space.
Constructed in 1909, the building at 1895 Venables Street was first known as the Grandview Methodist Church. Because it was situated in a growing residential community, the church quickly gained a dedicated following, boasting a congregation of over 800 by 1925. However, after nearly sixty years serving the community, the United Church handed the building over to Inner City Services in 1968. From there, it spent only five years as a shared space between the Vancouver Free University and storefront lawyers before becoming the Vancouver East Cultural Centre in 1973.
When the Vancouver East Cultural Centre (affectionately named “The Cultch” by its patrons) opened its doors for the first time, it was for a successful two week run of the Anna Wyman Dance Company. Since then, The Cultch’s dedication to presenting contemporary theatre, dance and music have developed its reputation as one of Vancouver’s finest cultural treasures. Its warmth and dedication to the arts have earned its place in the heart of the Vancouver community.
Renovations at The Cultch
The Cultch saw extensive renovations in 2008. Vancouver watched as the building was rejuvenated, transformed into a state-of-the-art theatre while still retaining the memories of performances past.
Once again the building is fresh and new, prepared to withstand another hundred years of artistic expressions. The Cultch’s restored Historic Theatre and new Vancity Culture Lab feature the best possible environmental design, along with better sightlines, air quality and acoustics (and more bathrooms!). The creaky, dungeon-like dressing rooms have been replaced by warm bright spaces for artistic preparation before performances. The new lobby delivers the comfort of home with a new restaurant lounge and an expanded box office, which now sells single tickets and subscriptions.
Renovations to the beloved space will ensure that The Cultch will continue to present exciting, significant contemporary art to the heart of the Vancouver community.
The York Theatre
In early 2009, The Cultch announced a partnership with Wall Financial Corporation and the City of Vancouver to rescue and restore the York Theatre. It was a once lively and then abandoned performance venue located a short walk from The Cultch on Commercial Drive. Appearing on Heritage Vancouver’s 2008 list of top 10 endangered sights, it was a building with a rich history that needed saving.
Considered to be among the oldest standing performance venues in Vancouver, the York theatre was built in 1913 by architect John McCarter. Having provided a start for many of the city’s well known acting and directing talents, as well as staging popular music acts, the York Theatre has undergone many transformations throughout its nearly hundred year existence.
The space opened in 1913 as the Alcazar Theatre to a play titled Too Much Johnson by William Gillette. Since that time, the theatre has passed through many owners, operating under a variety of names including The Palace, The Little Theatre, The York Theatre and most recently the Raja Theatre where it operated quite successfully for a time as a venue for presenting Bollywood films.
It was in the early 2000’s that attendance at the Raja Theatre started to decline. This lack of business forced the owners to sell the property in 2006. Two years later, Bruno Wall of Wall Financial Corporation purchased the cherished space from a developer who had plans to tear it down.
Now with the help of Henriquez Partners Architects, plans for the renovation of the historic theatre will come to pass.
Future plans for The Cultch
Now that its future has been decided, renovation plans for the York Theatre are already under way. The finished venue is set to include a 350 seat theatre for the proscenium stage as well as an orchestra pit. The renovations that were done to the theatre in the 1960’s will be taken down and replaced with a two story glass lobby that will overlook the street. The exterior of the theatre is also to be redone to reflect the art deco style of the 1940’s. However, despite the changes, many aspects of the original structure will remain intact making it as much of a restoration project as a renovation.
Once construction is completed, The York Theatre will be used by The Cultch primarily as a rental space for performing artists and community groups to stage various performances and special events.
From the beginning, musicians as diverse as The Purcell String Quartet, Cape Breton's Rita MacNeil, Cuban guitarist Leo Brouwer and the "Father of Bluegrass" Bill Monroe, have commented on the acoustical warmth and charm of the theatre. Here are just a few of the performers and presentations that have graced The Cultch's stage:
Steve Miller Band
Holly Cole Trio
Lola MacLaughlin Dance
Paul André Fortier
La La La Human Steps
La Compagnie Marie Chouinard
The Holy Body Tattoo
Animals of Distinction
Criminals In Love
Spalding Gray - Monster in a Box
D.E.T. Boys High
Needles and Opium
A Tale of Teeka
Tinka's New Dress
Green Thumb Theatre For Young People Productions
Kathy Kallick and the Good Ol' Persons
The Star Keeper