Guest blog post by Jennifer Murray, P.Eng
Ever notice the stages in rural Newfoundland? No, not the fishing stages – the performance stages. Nearly every small town and outport in Newfoundland has one these days.
These are the places where the summer festival is held, where local teenage bands play their first gig, and touring entertainers put on the big show of the summer. It’s the spot where local mayors announce the winner of the raffle, thank all the volunteers, and ask the owner of the red pickup to please move his vehicle because he is blocking traffic.
Mostly simple structures – a shed with the door on the wide side – they are cleverly designed to their purpose and climate. Unlike many amphitheatres and outdoor stages in other parts of the world, the shed-stage has a roof and walls on three sides to protect performers and their equipment from the wind and the rain which are a common feature of summer festivals in Newfoundland.
During performances, the doors can be opened out of the way or made into an extension of the stage; when not in use, the doors are secured and the building becomes a storage facility for equipment.
With the closure of many rural churches and schools, and the decline of fraternal organizations which once maintained large halls, these stages and the fields and recreational areas they typically adjoin have become the spaces where the community can come together for celebrations and special events. This infrastructure also supports the expression of many aspects of our intangible cultural heritage. These small stages represent a relatively new form of vernacular architecture, and demonstrate an adaptation of an existing type of building to meet the needs of small communities.