Joe Hill Coffeehouse Revival

Andrew Zwicker
By Andrew Zwicker
September 19th, 2008

This Sunday the Miner’s Hall will play host to a revival 20 plus years in the making as the Joe Hill Coffee House makes a return back to its original home. Designed after the original Joe Hill Coffee House series from the mid eighties, the Rossland Arts Council has backed Michael Gifford to once again provide a venue for amateur performers of all ages to ply their craft.

From 1984-1986, long time Rossland local Michael Gifford, then sponsored by the Rossland Heritage Society, raised the curtain on a monthly variety show drawing talent and guests from the entire region.

“I got involved in 84 and I had this list of names of performers I had started in this book. I’m a real organizer you see. Nobody got paid anything. It was two dollars admission and people came from Grand Forks, Ymir, Argenta, Nelson, Colville, Northport and all around, you know. Every show was different. Once a month people were jamming with each other and playing in different combinations and it was really great,” Gifford recalls.

After 18 months of shows, Gifford got burnt out, having run the series entirely on his own. Recently, however, a group of people in town decided to try and organize a variety show at the Miners Hall and call it the Joe Hill Coffeehouse Revival.

“I caught wind of this and thought “God, that’s exactly right! It needs to be revived. It just seemed to me that since they were calling it the Joe Hill Coffee house Revival, then they should actually revive it, so I got involved and started helping out with it.”

Gifford quickly became the one spearheading the project. “I was the only one that had any real desire to do that. Everyone was interested, but it was me who said let’s go, so I spent the summer and ever since then politicking and organizing. I’ve got complete support of the Arts Council, though. It’s just one of the things that the Arts Council wouldn’t have done without my taking ownership of it you know. I sent them my proposal and they said ‘Great! You’ve got to do it, though. We‘ll be here for you but you’ve got to do it.’ And they have been.”

Kicking off this Sunday at 7pm, the series will run on the third Sunday of each month featuring all types of entertainment and a stage available for all would be performers. With hope of eventually attracting poets, drama groups, high school acting troupes and all forms of entertainment, Gifford expects the first few shows to feature fairly standard fare. “The people that are brave enough to get out there first and lead the way, well they’re going to be mostly guys with guitars you know (laughing). There will be one girl with a guitar and a couple of small groups too. It’s all going to be local mostly to start, although I’ve advertised all over the Kootenays.”

The event promises to be a solid evening of local talent at a price that can’t be beat. For anyone looking to stretch their entertainment dollars through the shoulder season, the Joe Rich Coffeehouse Revival is calling your name. Gifford himself is looking forward to a great night.

“I don’t see how it could possibly not be a lot of fun. I mean if you pay 3 bucks what are your expectations? It’s not like a 40 dollar ticket to Natalie McMaster. It’s 3 dollars and so you’re going to go in there and be like “All right let’s go! What are you going to give me?”

Events like these are a great sampling of a town’s culture, and Rossland’s tight community of musicians and artists of all ages have just gained one more avenue to exhibit their talents. Continuing our city’s tradition of volunteer efforts, the Joe Hill Coffeehouse is just another example of citizens doing their part to make Rossland a great place to live.

Notes Gifford, “The one thing missing in my life and in Rossland’s life is exactly this, a place to go. So I feel really lucky to be able to give that to the community.”

Categories: Arts and Culture

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