The recent closure of Joe’s Warehouse restaurant and Smooth Herman’s Cabaret in Sydney has sparked much debate and speculation among the people I know, many of whom are fearing the worst. One young woman posted on the internet social network Facebook that she fears the CBRM is becoming a ghost town, while one of her friends said, “I'm getting out while the getting’s good. A chalk line should be drawn around this place.”
I cannot help but wonder what kind of economy and future we’d be facing if the Soundstage at Sydport had survived.
During its short time, the soundstage produced two seasons of award winning television in the CBC series “Pit Pony.” While this does not seem like much, it was only the beginning of what could have been. During that short time several hundred people found employment, from sketch artists and painters to carpenters, electricians, wardrobe people, make-up artists, drivers, cooks and extras; the list goes on. Besides the work done directly on site, two world class recording studios were very active producing the soundtrack and dubbing in additional voices. Local people were learning very employable skills such as camera operation, set design, and much more.
A film industry in Cape Breton would have developed into a more active and sustaining arts community including musicians, visual artists, crafters and more. As well our downtown hotels and restaurants would have been kept busy and without a doubt the business would have eventually grown to the point where more hotels and restaurants would be necessary, resulting in more jobs.
The soundstage could have been available to movie companies from other parts of Canada and the U.S. and around the world, looking for our unique settings to shoot feature films, and our skilled people could have been employed. Cape Breton University would have been able to expand to teach the necessary skills to our youth who are leaving this island to seek stability in other provinces, denying this region of their disposable income and taxes.
Discussing this ten years after the fact does little good though; I’ll miss my friends when they’ve moved on.