Joshu Wong plays the bass drum as he rehearses with the rest of the Red Deer Royals drum line at Gateway Christian School last week.

City urged to change its tune on Red Deer Royals

When it comes to supporting culture, the City of Red Deer needs to put more money where its mouth is, says councillor Buck Buchanan.

When it comes to supporting culture, the City of Red Deer needs to put more money where its mouth is, says councillor Buck Buchanan.

“We have a department called Recreation, Parks and Culture, and while we don’t have a problem spending money on the rest of the stuff, culture tends to get treated like the ugly stepsister sometimes,” said Buchanan.

The retired police officer, who’s a bagpiper with the Calgary Police Service Pipe Band, put forward a motion at a city council meeting earlier this month to have the Red Deer Royals marching and concert band recognized as an official ambassador for the City.

Although Buchanan didn’t consult with the Royals before making this motion on his own initiative, he suggested the city also make an annual budget contribution of $30,000 to the group.

Council was told that the 100 local teenagers in the band and colour guard have well represented Red Deer at about 450 public performances across the nation and the globe. This includes at two Grey Cups, the Olympic Torch Rally, the World Masters, Scott Tournament of Hearts as well Edmonton Oilers and Stampeders Games.

Buchanan later stated that the Red Deer Royals received six Mayor’s Recognition Awards and “have marched Red Deer’s colours all over the province and countryside, but we don’t really have any skin in the game.”

He was referring to a lack of committed, ongoing financial support from the city.

While the Royals apply for fee-for-service grants (receiving a total of $146,500 since 2003), he said the organization gets no regular municipal funding it can rely on.

If a “small” annual stipend was provided — like his pipe band gets from the Calgary policing budget — Buchanan feels membership in the Royals could be made more accessible to youths who now can’t afford the monthly fees, travel and uniform costs. “I don’t want any kids to be left behind.”

Buchanan’s motion didn’t go anywhere after concerns were raised it might set a precedent. Mayor Tara Veer suggested tabling the discussion until after a meeting is held with Red Deer Royals organizers, who had asked to speak with the city about other issues.

Buchanan was disappointed but not surprised by this reaction. “We have a bit of a problem with the arts and culture thing,” he later explained.

“If we need to build another ice surface, then what the heck,” but when money is requested for an arts-related cause, objections are made, he added.

Band director Michael Mann said although Buchanan’s motion was unsolicited by the Royals, “it’s very generous of him to be thinking of us.” Having a consistent, reliable funding source might indeed help the band find new ways to make membership more affordable for lower-income families, he added.

The Red Deer Royals will celebrate a 50th anniversary in 2019 — the same year Red Deer hosts the Canada Winter Games. Mann hopes the band will be involved in the opening ceremonies, and this is among the topics to be discussed with the mayor.

The group is also getting a permanent practice space in a new $5.7 million fieldhouse being built in partnership with the Red Deer Catholic School Division. It will be attached to St. Joseph High School at 67th Street and 30th Avenue and is expected to be completed by the fall of 2017.

The Royals are responsible for about $3 million of its costs, and about half of this amount has already been raised, said Ray McBeth, fundraising director for the band’s alumni association. He expects the fieldhouse will be needed for some of the Canada Winter Games events.

lmichelin@bprda.wpengine.com

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