This Place Matters contest helps renew interest in local historical buildings

Swift Current’s Lyric Theatre is gaining national exposure through their participation in the National Trust for Canada This Place Matters competition.

The Lyric Theatre is one of 25 community projects vying for a share of a national grand prize of $60,000, and they are in the running for the top regional prize of $30,000 or the regional runner-up prize of $15,000. The on-line voting component of the contest had already generated over 2,200 votes and close to $2,000 in donations as of midnight on June 26.
Natalie Bull, Executive Director of the National Trust, said the 2017 edition of their This Place Matters competition is following a successful formula developed during their previous two campaigns.
“We think this approach to making funds available to historic places is a really modern take on the grant program,” Bull said during a phone interview this past week. “Instead of a group of people sitting around a table and deciding which projects will receive a grant, this is a really democratic way of involving the whole community in voting and demonstrating their support in a way that really makes us excited in writing those cheques because we know that the group’s really worked hard and really wants that investment in their historic places.”
The inaugural pilot project in delivering funding through this platform focussed on saving historic lighthouses in Nova Scotia. When the competition generated over 250,000 votes, and viewing the traction the competition generated on social media, combined with the innovative ways projects gathered votes, they knew they had a successful program formula.
“We knew it was really a mechanism to raise awareness and engage whole communities in saving places that matter.”
The second competition in 2016 expanded nation wide, and 14 projects entered in the Main Street themed competition. Last year’s competition also introduced the idea of every dollar crowdfunded to the project would count as a vote for the project. The crowdfunding component of the competition collectively generated $263,000 for the 14 community projects.
“We were really thrilled with that income. And we knew that we were on to something amazing that would really start to create a culture of philanthropy for heritage.
“I think historically people have kind of thought that heritage is something the government needs to take care of, and that’s more and more challenging as government budgets shrink and there are lots of other social issues and challenges for governments to fund. So really this is a way that individuals can make a difference, by voting and making a donation on line.”
The Lyric Theatre project is the second phase of a capital fundraising campaign, where the Lyric Theatre will benefit from renovations and improvements to the second floor of the building.
Bull noted the competition is hoping to spark enthusiasm behind their fundraising effort, while also helping preserve one of Saskatchewan’s heritage buildings.
“It is kind of a wake-up call sometimes for places that you just expect will always be there. It is a reminder that these places do need funding and support. And for places that already well loved and supported, it’s an opportunity to bring in funding in a new, innovative way.”
Voting is underway through to July 17, and supporters can set up an account connected to each email account they have and vote once every 24 hours.
Bull also hopes that Canada Day and the Canada 150 celebration also sparks people’s interest in making a difference in their hometown.
“We’ve thrown this competition open to all kinds of historic places, because we know these places are a part of our national story and our local story.”