The Denman Island Recreation Commission Society (DIRCS) is the Non-profit organization responsible for managing the Denman Island Community Hall.
We endeavour to provide entertainment and promote sport for young and old, to maintain in good condition the building, premises and equipment for the provision of recreation and entertainment space for community meetings, and to make the building available for emergencies as needed.
The creation of a website for the Denman Island Community Hall was motivated by planning for our upcoming 100th Anniversary Celebration in 2012, as a method of community outreach, and as a way to entice Denman Islanders to come out and appreciate the venerable hall. Thank you to Denman WORKS! for their support of our website.
A History of the Denman Community Hall
The following article is from My Ain Folk Revisited: Denman Island 1875-2000 by J.P. Kirk (who updated Winnie Isbister’s original book of the same name). If you are interested in reading it, Abraxas Books & Gifts in the village centre has copies.
In 1897 a community hall was built on land donated by the Keenan family, and now occupied by the Fire and Ambulance Crews.
In 1912 a larger hall was built near the general store by the newly formed Athletic Club. Members purchased shares to help fund the new building. However, social events and meetings continued to be held in the old hall until 1922 after which time it was dismantled and the property reverted to ‘Crown land’.
In the 1940s the new hall needed extensive repairs and was eventually ‘padlocked’ by the Fire Marshal’s office. In 1951 a new Community Club was formed. They bought up
the Athletic Club’s shares and began renovating the hall. The foundations were renewed and a new chimney built. Fire doors and an upstairs fire escape were built. An electric power generator along with proper wiring was installed.
After having its own electric power at the hall, Denman was added to the National Film Board’s list of a monthly program of supplying films to rural communities. The novelty of having picture shows on Denman drew large crowds.
The films arrived from Union Bay and were later sent to Hornby after they installed their own power generator. John Cleasby, a local fisherman, had the contract to carry the mail to Hornby three days a week from the Gravelly Bay ferry ramp. On one stormy day John had trouble moving the mail from shore onto his tossing boat. The heavy canisters of film in one mail bag caused the bag to roll overboard. Despite much probing with a ‘pike pole’ he was unable to hook onto the bag. He had no choice but to return to Hornby and announce there would be no picture show that night.
Following further upgrading at the Denman hall, the upstairs meeting room was removed, and an addition was added onto the back of the hall.
In 1975 a Government grant was obtained to carry out more improvements. The electric power system was ‘brought up to code’. Heating, kitchen and washrooms were improved and new chairs were purchased. A tennis court and children’s play area were built and the playing field was upgraded.
About every five years or so, more renovations have been carried out. Although it has been changed considerably from the former Athletic Club hall it once was, it still stands on the same site where it was built almost 90 years ago – like the old bushman who said he had used the same axe for most of his life: “just 2 new heads and 4 new handles”.
Today the Community Hall more than ever serves as the heart of the Island’s political and cultural life. It is here that the Island has most of its committee and general meetings, where issues important to it are debated, and in which a great many islanders
are deeply involved.
One of the remarkable things about Denman’s Community Hall is the surprising number of first-class events which have been using its facilities – variety shows, plays, and especially musical programs: some using our wonderful local talent, such as Denman’s Harmonia Mundi Choir and other Denman groups, and also events coming to us from near and far, such as Leona Boyd, and the Manchester Boys’ choir and other groups from the Powell River biennial concert competitions.
In the mid-1980s Mike Comeau played a central part in forming the Denman Island Arts & Crafts Society (DIACS) as a registered charitable society, with the aim of nurturing Denman’s rich artistic community. One of its major activities has been the remarkable Concerts Denman series of six events a year in the hall.
Cynthia Minden played a key part in guiding Concerts Denman through its earlier years, attracting international artists of the highest quality through her remarkable network of COntacts. The first concert was by Robyn Huw Bowen from Wales, an outstanding exponent of the traditional Welsh Triple Harp, who has given two concerts here, and who is an enthusiastic champion of our hall. He said that in comparing its acoustics to those of the concert halls he has played in world-wide, some of them very distinguished ones, it is on the level of the top two or three.
In 1971 a Centennial Committee was formed on Denman for the purpose of applying for a grant to further community hall renovations. Elected were: Chairman, Steve Veness, and Committee Members, Ron Holst-Larsen and Winnie Isbister. Myra Veness represented the Women’s Institute, Wes Piercy the Community Club, Marcus Isbister the Legion and Jim Kirk the Ratepayers. Myra and Steve Veness attended the Centennial Ball held at Government House in Victoria.
‘Work bees’ were arranged to layout improvement plans for the hall and a proposed playground area. Harvey Piercy, who was the first white boy born on Denman Island, had donated the property and his son, Archie, presented a plaque in memory of his father. The playground is now known as the Harvey Piercy Park.
A ‘Centennial supper’, followed by a social evening and entertainment, was held to honour four pioneers; Mrs. Alice Griffen, Mrs. Louisa Moffett, Mrs. Hettie Wright and Irvine Piercy. Medallions were presented by Archie Piercy who read a brief
biography of each recipient. Also seated at the head table were those who had lived on Denman for fifty years or more. Winnie Isbister read a history of the island and Wes Piercy showed the CBC film, “Life and the Land”, which included some or the history of the Tom Piercy ranch.
A large crowd assembled at the Denman wharf to see a reenactment of the arrival of the SS Beaver. A replica of the original paddlewheel steamer was built to visit communities along the Coast. People were invited on board and a short ceremony took place
when the Captain presented the Community with a document commemorating 130 years since the first arrival of the original Beaver in these waters. (Front Cover)
A second memorable occasion, sponsored by the Women’s Institute, was the fifth annual pensioners’ dinner. More than 45 guests were invited, including the Lieutenant-Governor of British Columbia, Major-General G.P. Pearkes, VC. Also at the head table were Alice Griffen, Maud McGee, Major Titus Oatts, MC, Arthur Pickles, Bill Millard, Jemima Isbister and Winnie Isbister. General Pearkes presented pioneer medallions to those born
prior to 1896: Alice Griffen, Bill Millard, and to Arthur Picldes and his sister, Maud McGee who were both born on Denman Island.
The Denman Island Community Heritage Register is an official list of historic places specific to a community which have been identified by the local government (Islands Trust) as having heritage value or heritage character. Its main function is to recognize and celebrate historic places within the community.
The Denman Community Hall is one of the official Historic Places of Denman Island. Download the PDF: Denman Island Community Heritage Register