The Coast interviews Emily Davidson of Friends of the Khyber and member of Solidarity Halifax to ask why The Khyber is worth preserving.
With four million dollars needed in repairs, the future of the storied Khyber building is in doubt. City staff says sell it off and be done with it. The Friends of the Khyber think otherwise.
By Jacob Boon
The Coast: Are you just trying to preserve a memory? Why keep the Khyber?
Emily Davidson: I think there’s a really good connection between the very inspiring history of the Khyber building and also the alive and exciting uses of the Khyber in recent years. It’s not as though the Khyber is only inspiring as a memory. It builds on that incredible community that has taken place in that building over the last years, but it is also a very contemporary and vibrant place.
Is $4 million too much to spend on one building?
I don’t think so. As a person who doesn’t personally have four million dollars, I also get sticker shock when I see that number. But, when I think about what the budget of the entire city is, that number in comparison to other things that the city spends money on is actually pretty low…I think also budgeting is about priorities, and we’re a group of citizens saying this is a priority.
Why is it a priority?
The Khyber isn’t just some building. It is and can be a vibrant hub of the arts and queer community. It’s a space that right now is publicly owned, and we want to have it stay publicly owned. We need something that’s alive and pumping in the downtown core that is a space that is for everyday people. We see some of the pitches for how to develop the downtown, and it’s about more and more tourism. It’s about people coming in for conferences. We want so see a benefit for people who live here, built by people who live here.
Would the arts community be better served spending that money on other projects?
That question kinda misses the point. We want to see an increased arts spending in a wide variety of ways. But I think if you play that off of, whether it’s this building or other arts funding, it wouldn’t come from the same stream. It’s sort of like comparing apples to oranges, in my opinion.
Council is set to decide the Khyber’s fate at next week’s meeting. What do you hope will happen?
I hope that city council would reject staff’s recommendation to dispose of 1588 Barrington Street. I would also like to see city council be true to their previous support for the Khyber building being a cultural incubator in the downtown. Council has already agreed to use that space in that way, so I want to see council hold true to those promises.
What’s your back-up plan if the building is put up for sale?
I haven’t really got there yet. I guess we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.
Interview conducted and edited by Jacob Boon for The Coast.
Note: Statements by Solidarity Halifax members do not necessarily reflect positions held by the organization.