BY EMMIE SIROKY
The aroma wafting out of local restaurants makes your mouth water; as you try to choose which one to dine at, another comes into view, making your choice even more difficult. It doesn’t matter which you pick, you will have a fantastic experience. You walk downtown and stop at the many beautiful stores that you never knew were there. Originally, you came for a play at one of the many upscale theatres, but you stayed for the atmosphere of this small city. The stores are beautiful and full of extraordinary things that you wouldn’t find anywhere else. There is music playing in the downtown and people walk by you laughing with hands full of new items.
After spending time in the shops, you take a walk down to the river and take in the warm breeze coming off the water. The comforting environment relaxes you after your busy day of shopping. You sit and take it all in, time passing quickly as the sun starts to fade. You get in your car and drive the short distance to the theatre and watch an amazing play, most likely a Shakespeare production. After, you get in your car and enjoy a relaxing drive home from Stratford.
The town is located a little over 30 minutes west of Waterloo Region down Highway 7/8. It has a population of 30,886 and is known for the Stratford Festival, its gorgeous downtown and the Avon River. The festival has three well-known theatres – the Avon Theatre, the Festival Theatre and the Tom Patterson Theatre, but there is also a hidden world of smaller theatres that aren’t as well known as the others. Peggy King started one called Factory 163 after discovering a passion for theatrical arts. It is used for events, workshops and smaller plays. The building was created in 1903 and was originally used as a furniture manufacturer. It was the first building in Stratford to have a sprinkler system.
The theatre was built to have a welcoming feel and to be open to anyone.
According to their website, “Our mission is to develop an economically profitable, globally respected green facility where individuals can meet, learn, create, promote and showcase creative and innovative ideas, products and skills.”
Stratford doesn’t just have a hidden theatre scene, there is also a wide variety of singers and bands trying to make it big. One person who did just that is Justin Bieber. There is a tour map on the official Stratford website of places where Bieber used to hang out that are available to visit, but a lot of bands in the area have more of an edgy sound than he does. The band Slouch is known in the underground world of Stratford bands. They play at parties as well as at local bars. Ian Penner, Jay Holdsworth and Caulder McKenna are the members of the band.
“The music scene in Stratford … (is) mostly acoustic or indie music, mostly pretty mellow music,” said Penner, the drummer.“There are a few aggressive bands, but they have been around for a while or they’re cover bands. I think this is because most of the places that a band can play are not actual venues, more so a restaurant, church or theatre. The venues that did host louder acts have come and gone. Don’t get me wrong, Stratford can pull in some top class musicians, but the local talent usually has to leave town to play.”
A lot of people go to Stratford for classical plays as well as music. Being in a band that is edgy can make it hard to find places that will let them play.
“It is hard to find a space to play, especially for the band Slouch being usually very loud and aggressive. There are not many places willing to have us,” said Penner. “We are going on a cross-Canada tour in May. Most of the shows will be at fairly rough bars or concert halls. (There will be)some house shows on the tour as well, but those are the best.”
There are lots of public events that happen throughout the year in Stratford including, discounted theatre days and kid’s day camps. For more information visit their website at www.stratfordcanada.ca.