I’m attempting to manifest a big thing right now and I’m not sure if we can make it happen or not. But I’m going to let you in on it anyway because the more I talk about this big thing, the more real it becomes (it’s a long shot, but there is a slim chance of pulling it off). Perhaps you have an idea that can help make this a reality, or you can just send good vibes our way.
The big thing we are working on is purchasing a property that could be used to expand the Birdsong vision Brian and I have been working on for the last six years. In our current location we have done that by building a welcoming space for musicians and the community to come together for concerts and gatherings, as well as offering a small-scale residency program in our home for songwriters. The vision for the residency was limited a bit by Covid, but we are preparing to welcome our second “resident” this fall and hoping to offer a more structured program in the near future.
Folks who have come to Birdsong for our shows know what we are doing is important and culture-sustaining work. In a time when musicians have few outlets for concerts, and streaming services rob them of their cultural production, we provide a no-cost venue and have built a community around our shows that ensures a decent-sized audience limited only by the space we have available. We put our performing musicians up overnight and feed them at least two meals (sometimes more), and residents at Birdsong get a room and a songwriting studio all to themselves during the time they stay here (also for free). We see ourselves as providing a community service for both musicians and our neighbours who get to see award-winning musicians in an intimate setting. We have the privilege of good jobs which allows us to fund these activities out of our own pockets.
Anyhow – back to the property for sale. It’s just down the road from us and has been on the market for over a year now. It’s ideally outfitted to expand Birdsong into a functional non-profit residency for creatives of all kinds. Purpose-built as a B&B, it has 3 large guest rooms with lots of space for working in, as well as 2 large living spaces ideal for hosting concerts, dinners, community events, and workshops. There is even a perfect lawn area for an outdoor stage for summer shows, and another spot where a garden could go in to help feed our household and residents.
There is a history to why we haven’t previously offered on this property – though we considered it once – it was snapped up far out of our price range (and has since sat empty the current owners decided not to move in after all). Its status of “out of our price range” still holds unfortunately, which is why this really big thing is somewhat daunting to me at the moment as the possibility isn’t clearly in view just yet. We have a potential partner in this project, and even if we sell his place and ours, we will still be half a million short of the current asking price. While a small mortgage is possible, anything onerous will negate the vision of being able to offer low-cost and free residencies to artists. And so it goes – as I said, this isn’t clearly in view yet.
There is a part of me that feels foolish for reaching in such a way, for wanting to move from the comfort of my current life to the next big project that will surely be stressful and require a great deal of work on my part. But the felt sense of this is persistent and steady, the project I have dreamed of (on and off) all of my adult life going back to my twenties when I schemed for a ranch in the Interior of BC to which all my East Van community could move to and get out of the confines in which we lived. It’s never been enough that I get out or provide for myself (something Brian and I have done well together), I want to create something that helps sustain others as well – and nearing fifty this feels urgent. To dig my shovel into the ground now before the time for grand visions has truly passed from my life.
But even as I feel foolish (and anxious), I also am certain the world needs our shining lanterns to burn brighter against the darkness right now. By which I mean we need to find ways to become beacons to one another, to climb up out of the despair and offer a hand to the next person struggling to do so. That is really the vision for Birdsong now, and for the way we would like it to evolve in our community over the next few years – whether we get this property or simply continue what we are doing at the home we have now.
Whatever happens, I will post about it here, for I am aware that things unfold as they should, and this may only be the first thought in a long line that comes to fruition in a totally unexpected way down the line. In the meantime, I am working out ideas for structure and governance, and re-writing the vision until I can very clearly articulate what I can already see unfolding.