Family overhauls former assembly hall into performing arts venue


  • <p>SUBMITTED PHOTO</p><p>Chris Jackman with spouse Shari Porter and their children Amy Jackman and K.J. Jackman outside the Old Confidence Lodge in Riverport.</p>

RIVERPORT - A family with a background in music and theatre is spending thousands of dollars to re-imagine an old assembly hall into a performing arts and culture venue.

Shari Porter and Chris Jackman moved to Lunenburg County from Ontario, purchasing what's known as the Old Confidence Lodge on Highway 331 in November 2022.

The property holds a market value assessment of $115,700. They purchased it for $495,000.

The couple plans to open the site this fall to host arts and culture events, such as musical performances and live theatre, along with educational programs. They also invite the public to get involved and volunteer.

For now, the two of them running operations and co-ordinating a $100,000 renovation but expect, as the project progresses, people will need to be hired to run ticket sales, bookings, concessions and technical aspects, among other jobs associated with an arts destination.

They also hope people will donate toward the cost of the upgrades to get the building up to code, an expense they are largely covering through proceeds of the sale of their former home in Ontario and business loans.

The couple fell in love with this area after spending time away from city life during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Jackman is from Newfoundland and Labrador; Porter hails from northern Ontario.

They were encouraged with what they saw in Nova Scotia's arts and culture scene and saw the real estate listing of the 900 square metre Old Confidence Lodge property as an opportunity to take their educational, theatre and musical expertise to the South Shore.

"This is an incredibly musical, artistic and talented area," Jackman said in a phone interview. "Year round we'll be able to offer concerts, youth programs and special events. Riverport and the whole South Shore region as on an upswing of economic and cultural development."

Even after the venue opens (they are aiming for October), the family plans to live inside the 232 sq m. theatre building.

"We even have a spare bedroom in case any artists are travelling through," Jackman added, with a laugh.

At the time of the interview, Jackman said they were in the process of adding more washrooms, accessibility features and fire safety requirements. An access ramp was constructed, a fire escape re-routed, while electrical and other tasks needed completion.

Audience habits, demographics, budgets and other steps have been carried out, Jackman said. "We've done our homework."

They've reached out and there is a demand and talent out there to support the venture, he said, noting they are well positioned to benefit from the opportunities presented from such an active area.

To contribute to their fundraising campaign, go to https://www.gofundme.com/f/oldconfidencelodge on the internet.

Those interested in the project or to learn more about upcoming events can follow them on their social media pages, under Old Confidence Lodge, online via Facebook and Instagram.

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