Flood damage forces temporary closure of Labrador arts centre, leaving a void for performers
On Jan. 26, a staff member of the Lawrence O'Brien Arts Centre in Happy Valley-Goose Bay arrived for her shift.
She started her morning routine and then noticed water on the floor. When she entered the theatre, she could hear water rushing.
In the tech room, where the technicians operate sound and lights for all of the centre's stage performances, a sprinkler was going off.
Arts centre manager Amy Norman said they don't know what triggered the sprinkler.
"We're obviously investigating it. We're trying to figure out the source of the problem, but it's too soon to say at this point."
Norman said there is substantial damage from the water, which has forced the centre's temporary closure.
"The sprinkler head that was going off is in our lighting booth and you know, we don't know how long it was going off for," she said. At minimum, she added, the system was going off for over an hour.
"It completely soaked everything up in the booth. So our light boards, our sound boards, those types of things, and then it soaks through the floor."
Norman said the water soaked through the floor and into the storage hall and the fire pump room, which controls the sprinkler system and has all of the electrical and computer equipment that controls the fire suppression system.
She said the water soaked the electrical panels, the walls and the ceiling. Without a functioning sprinkler system, they can't open to the public.
Until the system is fixed, she said, the centre is looking into a "fire watcher" system. A fire watcher is a trained person assigned to monitor the building to ensure that fire safety standards are being met. The system would allow the centre to operate at partial capacity for big events that can't be rescheduled.
A community space
The Lawrence O'Brien Arts Centre, built in 2009, means a lot to all of Labrador, she said. It hosts the Labrador Creative Arts festival — a children's theatre festival — and performances by dancers, musicians and theatre groups, as well as providing a rehearsal space for local groups.
Norman said people in the community have been offering support and help. People are "kind of heartbroken," she said.
"It's a very busy place and there's always something happening here so to have it be, you know, empty for who knows how long, unfortunately, it's a big loss."
Happy Valley-Goose Bay musician Richard Neville, slated to perform at the Lawrence O'Brien Arts Centre next week for the release of his new CD, said the closure is devastating.
"I really hope they get everything up and running real soon," he said.
Norman said they don't have a timeline for reopening.
"We don't really know what the problem is, so we don't really know how long it's going to take to fix, unfortunately."