On the Importance of Contracts

Two nights ago my husband and I were settling into bed when I heard him gasp.

He'd been doing that one last check of the social networks before turning off the light when he came across this article that The Globe and Mail published on the morning of Friday, April 3rd: Renegade given ‘one business day notice’ to vacate building.

The gist of the article is that in 2011 Renegade Productions moved into the former Playhouse Theatre Company's building and then took over the space, as well as the Playhouse's props collection, when the company went dark. Since then they have been operating as an arts hub - providing rehearsal space for musicians and theatre companies; studio space for visual artists and a small theatre for events and performance space.

The article continues to say that in February, the City of Vancouver sent a letter to Renegade stating that the building was in violation of several bylaws and that an inspection would occur on March 25th. That date has since come and gone... now a letter of closure will be posted on their building this upcoming Tuesday due to "major issues uncovered during inspections around fire safety and exiting... according to Patrick Ryan, chief building officer for the City of Vancouver."

“The building is not unsafe,” Mr. Buckshon said. “Nobody’s stubbed a toe in there since we've had it.”

Regardless of the lack of injuries sustained at Renegade, their neglect will have major repercussions for the Vancouver arts community. Being a part of that community and having planned on using the space ourselves recently, we empathize with the artists that have booked or rented the space for the near future. It is truly a huge blow, particularly to the independent scene.

What you may not know, is how close we came to having to cancel our next event do to this catastrophe and how refusing to move forward without a contract saved our asses.

In February - just before the City of Vancouver's first letter to Renegade - we announced our 2nd Annual Back Alley Artists Night. The date was May 1st, in partnership with Renegade Main St at their Shop Theatre. The Space was booked off and we were in the process of finishing up contracts.

The Purple Stapler was thrilled! An established arts company was partnering with us for our event! In 2014, we held our first Back Alley Artists Night at Renegade's Shop Theatre and were eager to continue our relationship with the arts hub. 

Next thing we knew, however, we received an email from Renegade stating that they were no longer able to partner with us "do to an emergency" - which they would not disclose - but made sure we knew that we could still use the venue.

This became a HUGE issue for us. Only a day away from getting our partnership contracts finished with Renegade, we now had to figure out how to fund this event on our own and decide whether we could afford to rent the space - as cheap as it is compared to the rest of Vancouver rentals. Besides that, we also had to decide if we were willing to trust Renegade to hold up their end of the bargain after they backed out of our partnership without any explanation.

So after lots of thinking and trying to figure out what emergency Renegade could be dealing with... we said ok to just using the space without any partnership and asked to put together a simple location rental contract. Nothing fancy, just stating when we would get the space, at what cost, etc.

They said no and refused to sign a rental contract with us.

In fact, not only did they say no, but they called us to yell about how last year - when we used the space for Back Alley - we didn't have a contract so why would we need one now. They claim to have never signed a contract with any artist in the past and stated that we could take or leave the space, as is, with no contract to protect either party. 

So we started looking elsewhere. Their blatant disregard for our organization and the position that they put us in was unsettling. We couldn't figure out what was going on.

Now we know. If we had agreed to their terms - if we had been as trusting as we were last year - then the 2nd Annual Back Alley Artists Night would be canceled as of tomorrow.

Instead, we pushed forward with our plans of becoming a non-profit society, are almost finished our next short film, have a new venue and date for our artists night, and a few other surprises for you in the near future! It took a lot of work, a crazy amount of time and lots of "ok, that's not going to work either. What's plan D? E?" but we stuck to our guns and made it out of this tough period.

It was a narrow escape and we hope that everyone reading this will remember the importance of contracts as you move forward with your artistic endeavors.

Contracts are gold. GOLD I SAY.

And The Purple Stapler Arts Society sure won't be moving forward with any projects in the future without them.

Title photo by: 24oranges.nl