Suite sounds

Concert series to raise funds to offer housing to homeless with few strings attached


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A three-day concert series scheduled to start Friday night aims to raise awareness and a few bucks for an affordable-housing plan in one of Winnipeg’s inner-city neighbourhoods.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 10/08/2021 (375 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

A three-day concert series scheduled to start Friday night aims to raise awareness and a few bucks for an affordable-housing plan in one of Winnipeg’s inner-city neighbourhoods.

Called Culture Not Condos: Concerts for Equitable Communities, the event will include eight music acts, a visual artist and several speakers who will converge on Blue Note Park, the Main Street pop-up music venue. The benefactor will be Home First Winnipeg, a non-profit created by the Pollard Family Foundation, which is about to break ground on an $8-million apartment building at 390 Ross Ave., in the Centennial neighbourhood, which will include 47 new micro-suites for Winnipeggers experiencing homelessness.

The Pollard foundation is donating $3.9 million toward the project, which includes investments from the city, provincial and federal governments.

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES A series of concerts at Blue Note Park on Main Street, such as this one July 9 by Bullrider, will raise money for Home First Winnipeg, which will soon break ground on an $8-million apartment complex — which includes 47 microsuites designated for homeless Winnipeggers — on Ross Avenue.

“That’s a downtown fringe, a struggling neighbourhood. They want to put it in the heart of that,” John Scoles, who runs Blue Note Park and is organizing the event, says.

“They decided to build an affordable housing project and follow the housing-first model, whereby it’s not ‘You behave in a certain way, change your lifestyle, and give you a place to live.’ We’ll give you a place to live and you can do that under your own terms. That’s how people blossom, under their own strength.”

It’s not the first time Scoles and the Pollards have teamed up.

TREVOR HAGAN / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS files Winnipeg jazz artist Sol James will perform on Sunday at Culture Not Condos.

He coined the slogan “Culture Not Condos” when the Fortune and Macdonald blocks, at 232 and 226 Main St., respectively, were put up for sale and buyers wanted to tear down the 138-year-old buildings and build condominiums in their place. Scoles’ bar, the Times Change(d) High and Lonesome Club, is at the Fortune Block and a lobbying campaign at city hall led to the buildings being given heritage status.

The Pollard family purchased the blocks, as well as a nearby building at 214 Main St. that housed the Winnipeg Hotel. Since then, Times Change(d) has expanded, businesses such as the eatery Modern Electric Lunch have moved into the Fortune Block and office and commercial space have been created in the building’s upper floors.

Plans are in the works to do a similar renovation at the Winnipeg Hotel but the COVID-19 pandemic has put them on hold. In the past two summers, Blue Note Park, and last year’s iteration, the Beer Can, have used the empty lot between the buildings as pop-up patio bars and music venues.

MIKAELA MACKENZIE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES Blue Note Park is a pop-up outdoor music venue on Main Street.

Winnipeg artists such as Ridley Bent, Romi Mayes, Sol James and Double the Trouble will perform at the Blue Note as part of the fundraiser, which Scoles hopes will become an annual event that could take place at different locations in the city, or perhaps, in communities outside Winnipeg.

“Let’s pack up all this stuff for the winter, set it up all up for 10 days for a socially conscious festival in a similar setting,” Scoles says. “I think this is a great thing to do, a true legacy of the Times Change(d).

“I’d just feel good about something like that, not just, ‘Let’s back to work and we got to sell some beer tonight.’ OK, but more than that.”

The Culture Not Condos event begins Friday at 7 p.m with Luke Doucet and the Nobel Thiefs, continues Saturday at 3:30 p.m. with Double the Trouble, Frannie Klein and Romi Mayes and winds up Sunday at 3:30 p.m. with Greg MacPherson, Sol James and Ridley Bent. Day passes are $20 and are available at


Alan Small

Alan Small

Alan Small has been a journalist at the Free Press for more than 22 years in a variety of roles, the latest being a reporter in the Arts and Life section.

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