Artists struggle to survive in age of the blockbuster



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Almond Branches in Bloom by Van Gogh is a 1000 piece puzzle from Eurographics. It is available at the Book Vault in Stratford, Ontario



Credit: Russell Smith

Special to The Globe and Mail

Published Thursday, Nov. 28 2013, 5:00 PM EST

Last updated Thursday, Nov. 28 2013, 5:00 PM EST

In the artistic economy, the Internet has not lived up to its hype. For years, the cybergurus liked to tell us about the “long tail” – the rise of niches, “unlimited variety for unique tastes” – that would give equal opportunities to tiny indie bands and Hollywood movies. People selling products of any kind would, in the new connected world, be able to sell small amounts to lots of small groups. Implicit in the idea was the promise that since niche tastes would form online communities not limited by national boundaries, a niche product might find a large international audience without traditional kinds of promotion in its home country. People in publishing bought this, too. The end result, we were told, would be an extremely diverse cultural world in which the lesbian vampire novel would be just as widely discussed as the Prairie short story and the memoir in tweets.

In fact, the blockbuster artistic product is dominating cultural consumption as at no other time in history. Hundreds of millions of dollars are spent on each successive Hunger Games, and the rep cinemas have closed. A few sports stars are paid more individually than entire publishing houses or record labels earn in a year.

A couple of prominent commentators have made this argument recently about American culture at large. The musician David Byrne lamented, in a book of essays, that his recent albums would once have been considered modest successes but now no longer earn him enough to sustain his musical project. That’s David Byrne – he’s a great and famous artist. Just no Lady Gaga. The book Blockbusters: Hit-making, Risk-taking, and the Big Business of Entertainment, by business writer Anita Elberse, argues that the days of the long tail are over in the United States. It makes more sense, she claims, for entertainment giants to plow as much money as they can into guaranteed hits than to cultivate new talent. “Because people are inherently social,” she writes cheerily, “they generally find value in reading the same books and watching the same television shows and movies that others do.”

Well, the same appears to be true of publishing, even in this country. There are big winners and there are losers – the middle ground is eroding. Publishers are publishing less, not more. Everybody awaits the fall’s big literary-prize nominations with a make-us-or-break-us terror. Every second-tier author spends an hour every day in the dismal abjection of self-promotion – on Facebook, to an audience of 50 fellow authors who couldn’t care less who just got a nice review in the Raccoonville Sentinel. This practice sells absolutely no books; increases one’s “profile” by not one centimetre; and serves only to increase one’s humiliation at not being in the first tier, where one doesn’t have to do that.

Novelists have been complaining, privately at least, about the new castes in the literary hierarchy. This happens every year now, in the fall, the uneasiness – after the brief spurt of media attention that goes to the nominees and winners of the three major Canadian literary prizes, the Scotiabank Giller, the Governor-General’s, and the Rogers Writers’ Trust. The argument is that the prizes enable the media to single out a few books for promotion, and no other books get to cross the divide into public consciousness. And, say the spurned writers, this fact guides the publishers in their acquisitions. Editors stand accused of seeking out possible prize-winners (i.e. “big books”) rather than indulging their own tastes. This leads, it is said, to a homogenized literary landscape and no place at all for the weird and uncategorizable.

But even if this is true, what can one possibly do about it? Abolish the prizes? No one would suggest this – and even the critics of prize culture understand that the prizes were created by genuine lovers of literature with nothing but the best intentions, and that rewarding good writers financially is good, even necessary, in a small country without a huge market.

It’s not, I think, the fault of the literary prizes that the caste system exists. Nor of the vilified “media” who must cover these major events. It’s the lack of other venues for the discussion and promotion of books that closes down the options. There were, in the nineties, several Canadian television programs on the arts. There were even whole TV shows about books alone. Not one of these remains. There were radio shows that novel-readers listened to. There were budgets for book tours; there were hotel rooms in Waterloo and Moncton. In every year that I myself have published a book there have been fewer invitations and less travel. Now, winning a prize is really one’s only shot at reaching a national level of awareness.

So again, what is to be done? What does any artist do in the age of the blockbuster? Nothing, absolutely nothing, except keep on doing what you like to do. Global economic changes are not your problem (and are nothing you can change with a despairing tweet). Think instead, as you always have, about whether or not you like semicolons and how to describe the black winter sky. There is something romantic about being underground, no?

Look on the bright side: Poverty can be good for art. At least it won’t inspire you to write Fifty Shades of Grey.


The Globe and Mail

Unsavoury Weather Spurs Food Fest Change



Herbs and Spices is a 1000 piece puzzle from Ravensburger. It is available at the Book Vault in Stratford, Ontario



Savour Stratford Perth County culinary festival moving to July

Credit: Laura Cudworth, The Beacon Herald

Monday, December 9, 2013 3:54:41 EST PM

Savour Stratford is moving to a warmer climate — on the calendar at least.

The annual culinary festival has run in September since it started in 2008 and Mother Nature has dished up a steady diet of poor weather.

“There’s only been one weekend where it was relatively warm and there was no rain. It’s been a major issue,” said Eugene Zakreski, executive director Stratford Tourism Alliance.

As a result, the Savour Stratford Perth County culinary festival will be held in July this coming year.

However, the STA’s mandate is to market Stratford year round with particular attention paid to the non-summer months. Zakreski said moving Savour Stratford doesn’t go against that policy.

The alliance did a great deal of research and consulted the restaurant and accommodations industries and discovered September is one of the best months for visitors but July was soft, he said.

“In September there’s no problem selling rooms. The demand for theatre in September is very, very high.”

Savour Stratford had been running the same weekend as the Stratford Fall Fair. The effect on the Farmer’s Market and Fall Fair will be negligible, predicted Pam Riehl, secretary/treasurer Stratford and District Agricultural Society.

“I don’t think it should make any difference. It’s a different crowd who went to Savour Stratford.”

Savour Stratford won’t be replaced by another festival but plans are in the early stages for a mini festival at the end of October. Zakreski wasn’t prepared to provide more information yet.

Marketing resources — 80% — will still focus on January to June and September to December with Savour Stratford the lone summer event, he said.

One of the first campaigns after Christmas will be “Stratford is for Lovers” to attract tourism in February.

The STA will also be working with Blues & Rib Festival organizers to complement that event, he said.

laura.cudworth@sunmedia.ca

Stratford Beacon Herald Website

Thanks for the tip, I’ll get it on Amazon



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Christmas shopping in Stratford, Ontario

by Brian Bethune on Saturday, November 30, 2013 5:00am

Independent booksellers have taken a lot of body blows in the last two decades—from the coming of superstores such as Indigo, through the real behemoth on the block, Amazon, to ebooks—to the extent that some indie stores in the U.S. have donation jars beside their cash registers. But nothing has gutted the indies, emotionally as well as financially, as the practice known as “showrooming.” Prospective buyers come into bookshops, wander the stacks, peruse the artful displays and even—unkindest cut of all—seek the advice of staff. Then they leave, those who bother to do so first, and order the books they want online, where prices can be up to 50 per cent cheaper. “That is so hard for us to take,” says Eleanor LeFave, owner of Mabel’s Fables children’s bookstore in Toronto, “especially the abuse of our staff’s time and expertise.”

Showrooming is widespread. Surveys in the U.S. and Britain reveal nearly half of book-buying decisions are still made in bookstores, a percentage far higher than actual sales. (Amazon alone accounts for about 40 per cent of American book purchases.) Still, booksellers’ laments elicit little sympathy in a price-conscious commercial society. Internet commentators tend to shrug. If you can’t compete on cost, you can’t compete, end of story—just as it has been for 300 Canadian bookstores in the last decade, perhaps a fifth of the total.

But the issue is not that simple. The services, if not the products, of bookshops are still in demand: No one has yet found a substitute for browsing in them. The reasons why bricks-and-mortar booksellers, especially independents, can’t compete with online retailers, particularly Amazon, are numerous, occasionally complicated and always venomously disputed. If the indies can’t compete on price, it’s equally evident the online sellers can’t (yet) compete on guidance and immersive experience.

The indies’ main competitive edge can actually add to the booksellers’ frustration over showrooming, according to Tracey Higgins, co-owner of Bryan Prince Bookseller in Hamilton. “All we have is our knowledge—the books we’ve read, our ability to tell someone, ‘Yes, I know that’s an awful cover, but it’s a really good book’—so you have to invest the time. And when you never see them again, it really, really drives me bananas.”

What to do about the situation—how, depending on perspective, to either bolster or replace bookstores—is a huge dilemma in the trade. There have been moves from each side. Last summer, Amazon bought GoodReads, the social reading network with more than 10 million titles under review. It was clearly an attempt to create a virtual browsing experience, even while online evaluations were coming under more scrutiny than ever. Last month, New York state regulators fined 19 companies $350,000 for posting their own fake reviews.

In France, on the other hand, where it has been illegal since 1981 to discount a book more than five per cent from its cover price, the government is poised to ban any discounting of books that are shipped to buyers, effectively making online stock more costly than a bookstore’s. Quebec is considering a quasi-fixed price for books in the first nine months after their release, limiting discounting to 10 per cent in that period. Both measures are aimed at Amazon, which European critics accuse of dumping—providing goods and services below cost in order to capture market share—and its offer of free shipping.

In the more robustly capitalist Anglosphere, though, it’s doubtful the French and Québécois plans will fly, nor anything at all that smacks of price-fixing. And that goes for Higgins’s observation that if the major publishers, “who give those humongous discounts to Amazon in the first place,” stood unified against the practice they wouldn’t have to do it. Nor is there reason to expect virtual browsing to capture readers’ hearts, minds and trust like actual browsing. Here, then, the existential issue remains: Everybody loves bookstores, but nobody wants to pay the prices that keep them alive.


Link to original article

Skrappy’s List of Recs for the Clueless Christmas Shopper



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Old Time Holiday is a 1000 piece puzzle from Springbok. It is available at the Book Vault in Stratford, Ontario.



So, you have one of those people in your life. The book reader. Alas, we here at the Vault know your pain. Here is the list compiled by our resident Skrappy, with emphasis on things actually in stock(and in no particular order), as she wandered around the store aimlessly during some quiet moments. Hopefully she can make your confused and hectic shopping season a little easier and make you a little less likely to stab someone with a Christmas ornament.

Please note that she makes no guarantee on the actual content of these books. You have to make up your own mind about that.

For the person who feels they must learn something while reading fiction:
Hellgoing – Lynn Coady
Alice Munro… Anything
Luminaries – Eleanor Catton
Astray – Emma Donoghue
The Son – Philip Meyer
The Paris Wife – Paula McLain
Road Ends – Mary Lawson
The Purchase – Linda Spalding
Painted Girls – Cathy Marie Buchanan
First Phone Call from Heaven – Mitch Albom
Perfect – Rachel Joyce
Annabel – Kathleen Winter
Dovekeepers – Alice Hoffman
House I Loved – Tatiana de Rosnay

Pity this book because we can’t seem to market it for crap:
Son of a Certain Woman – Wayne Johnston

Stuff we don’t know if it’s good or not yet, but is selling well:
The Ordenda – Joseph Boyden
Hellgoing – Lynn Coady
Luminaries – Eleanor Catton

Crap you probably should have already read by now:
Breakfast of Champions – Kurt Vonnegut
Ernest Hemingway… anything will do. (readers of The Paris Wife, I’m lookin’ at you!)
Malcolm Gladwell… anything
Pillars of the Earth – Ken Follett
Pierre Berton’s War of 1812
Freakonomics – Levitt and Dubner
Beowulf – Seamus Heaney translation
Wolf Hall – Hilary Mantel
Still Life – Louise Penny
Stardust – Neil Gaiman
Water for Elephants – Sarah Gruen
Secret Garden – Francis Hodges Burnett
A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens
Slammerkin – Emma Donoghue
Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh
Blandings Castle – P.G. Wodehouse
Catch-22 – Joseph Heller
Dune – Frank Hebert
Game of Thrones – George R.R. Martin
The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald
Angela’s Ashes – Frank McCourt
Book of Negroes – Lawrence Hill
Best Kept Secret, Sins of the Father, Only Time Will Tell – Jeffrey Archer
The Glass Castle – Jeannette Walls

For your Grandma/Mom/Sister-in-Law, or other lady you should probably avoid angering during the Holidays:
Patrick Taylor’s Irish Country series
The Longest Ride – Nicholas Sparks

For the Maeve Binchey fan still in mourning:
Yellow House – Patricia Falvey
Linen Queen – Patricia Falvey
Patrick Taylor’s Irish Country series

For the aging Twilight fan who’s in university now and knows better:
The Historian – Elizabeth Kostova
The Accused – Joyce Carol Oates
H.P. Lovecraft

For the fan of The Borgias:
Blood and Beauty – Sarah Dunant
Malice of Fortune – Michael Ennis
The Scarlet Contessa – Jeanne Kalogridis
Lucrezia – Bradford (bio)
Cardinal’s Hat – Hollingsford (history)
Sarah Poole’s series

For the aging Hipster (Quick! Get them before they’re cool!):
The 100-Year-Old Man who Climbed out the Window and Disappeared – Jonas Jonasson
Mr. Prenumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore – Robin Sloan
Oh My Gods – Phillip Freeman
David and Goliath – Malcolm Gladwell
An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth – Chris Hadfield
Keon and Me – Dave Bidini
My Brief History – Stephen Hawking

For the Jane Austen devotee:
Longbourn – Jo Baker
Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen – Syrie James
Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen – Syrie James
Jane Austen Marriage Manual – Kim Izzo
Definitely Not Mr. Darcy – Karen Doornebos
Mr. Darcy’s Guide to Courtship – Fitzwilliam Darcy
Carrie Bebris’ Mr. and Mrs. Darcy Mysteries
…And definitely run in terror from the lifeless piece of Austen Fan Fiction that P.D. James tried to pass off as Austen Lit. Seriously. Crap.

For the family Prozac taker:
Mr. Chartwell – Rebecca Hunt
The Psychopath Test – Jon Ronson
Daring Greatly – Brene Brown
Understanding Our Mind – Thich Nhat Hahn
Gift of Adversity – Norman Rosenthal

For the Funny One:
Carl Hiaasen
Christopher Moore
David Sedaris
Terry Fallis
Not Quite the Classics – Colin Mochrie
Anchorboy – Jay Onrait
A Nation Worth Ranting About – Rick Mercer
Red Green’s Beginner’s Guide to Women – Red Green
Time Now for the Vinyl Cafe Story Exchange – Stuart McLean
Canadian Pie – Will Ferguson
Let’s Pretend This Never Happened – Jenny Lawson
How to be Canadian – Will Ferguson
America But Better – Cannon and Calvert

For the Dudes:
Robert Ludlum… anything
Sisters Brothers – Patrick DeWitt
True Grit – Charles Portis
Flashman series – George MacDonald Fraser
Jeffrey Archer
Clive Cussler

For the Lady-Girl-Type-People:
Midwife of Venice – Roberta Rich
The Harem Midwife – Roberta Rich
The Thirteenth Tale – Setterfield
The Last Time I Saw Paris – Sheene
The Mistress of Nothing – Kate Pullinger

For the Mystery Buffs:
Camilla Lackberg
Jo Nesbo
Alan Bradley
King and Maxwell – David Baldacci
Dust – Patricia Cornwell
How the Light Gets In – Louise Penny
The Golden Egg – Donna Leon

For the Atheist Christmas kill-joy:
The Moral Landscape – Sam Harris
Hitch-22 – Christopher Hitchens
An Appetite for Wonder – Richard Dawkins
Magic of Reality – Richard Dawkins

For the Art Snob:
Leonardo and the Last Supper – Ross King
Emily Carr Collected – Ian Thom
The Paper Garden – Molly Peacock
Titian: His Life – Sheila Hale

For the English Major:
Rude Story of English – Tom Howell
Filthy English – Peter Silverton
The Story of English – Robert McCrum

For the Jock:
Orr: My Story – Bobby Orr
The Great Game – Stephen J. Harper
The Game – Ken Dryden
Keon and Me – Dave Bidini
Chuvalo, A Fighter’s Life – George Chuvalo
Wherever I Wind Up – R.A. Dickey

For the History buff:
The World Until Yesterday – Jared Diamond
Collapse – Jared Diamond
Home – Bill Bryson
The Swerve – Stephen Greenblatt
David Starkey… Anything
Neil Oliver… Anything
Simon Winchester… Anything
Peter Ackroyd… Anything
The Year 1000 – Robery Lacey and Danny Danziger

For the World War II buff:
War that Ended Peace – Margaret MacMillan
Warlords – Tim Cook
Army of Evil – Adrian Wealer
Berlin at War – Roger Moorhouse
Battle of Britain – James Holland
Endgame 1945 – David Stafford

For the Canadian history buff:
Don’t Tell the Newfoundlanders! – Greg Malone
Warlords – Tim Cook
Short History of Canada – Desmond Morton
Fifty Canadians Who Changed the World – Ken McGoogan
How We Lead – Joe Clark

For the Hippie:
Living Beautifully – Pema Chodron
First Phone Call from Heaven – Mitch Albom
More Than Good Intentions – Dean Karlan and Jacob Appel
Your True Home – Thich Nhat Hanh

For the Macabre Goth Kid:
Curtains: Adventures of an Undertaker in Training – Tom Jokinen
H.P. Lovecraft

For the Science and Math Geek:
My Brief History – Stephen Hawking
An Appetite for Wonder – Richard Dawkins
Hallucinations – Oliver Sacks
Great Animal Orchestra – Bernie Krauss
Brilliant Blunders – Mario Livio
The Language God Talks – Herman Wouk
Here’s Looking at Euclid – Alex Bellos
Viking in the Wheat Field – Susan Dworkin
Black Hole War – Leonard Susskind

For the Boozehound:
Canadian Wineries – Tony Aspler and Jean-Francois Bergeron
Canadian Whisky: The Portable Expert – Davin de Kergommeaux
Great Whiskies – DK

Comfort & Joy Christmas Concert AND Sing-A-Long



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Stratford’s Victorian Christmas Trail



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A Wind in the Willows Christmas December 14-29, 2013



FRONT Flyer Wind

Performance dates and times:



Saturday, December 14 – 2 pm & 7 pm
Sunday, December 15 – 2 pm
Wednesday, December 18 – 7 pm
Thursday, December 19 – 7 pm
Friday, December 20 – 7 pm
Saturday, December 21 – 2 pm & 7 pm
Sunday, December 22 – 2 pm & 7 pm
Friday, December 27 – 7 pm
Saturday, December 28 – 2 pm & 7 pm
Sunday, December 29 – 2 pm – Closing

Tickets:



Adults – $20 + hst + handling
Children – $15 + hst + handling (includes mouse mask!)

Available at:



Stratford Tourism Alliance
47 Downie Street, Stratford.

visitstratford.ca/wind

1-800-561-7926

or available at the door (cash only)

Area libraries launch Perth County Reads program



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A Place of Her Own by James Christensen is a 500 piece puzzle from Sunsout. It is usually available at the Book Vault, but it is on reorder and will be back in stock soon.


Laura Cudworth, The Beacon Herald
Monday, November 25, 2013 11:44:15 EST AM

Meet other Perth County residents between the pages of a book.

The first Perth County Reads program hopes to connect all corners of the county and different generations. There will be book discussion groups and other events at each Perth County public library throughout 2014.

“One book, one community event such as this help build a sense of community” said Robyn Godfrey of Stratford Public Library. “This is your chance to vote on the title for the first ever Perth County Reads for 2014.”

Readers are invited to vote on a book from a selection of shortlisted titles:

The Carnivore, by Mark Sinnett

Emancipation Day, by Wayne Grady

The Lives of Girls and Women, by Alice Munro

The Sisters Brothers, by Patrick DeWitt

Things Go Flying, by Shari Lapena

Voting can be done by paper ballot or online and is unlimited and open to all Perth County residents. Voting ends Nov. 30. The winner will be announced Dec. 2.

Perth County Reads is an initiative by the Perth County Information Network which is made up of North Perth, Perth East, Stratford, St. Marys and West Perth public libraries.

Link to original article on The Beacon Herald’s website

Stratford Festival sees largest jump in attendance since 1999



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Shakespearean Fantasy by James C. Christensen is a 1000 piece puzzle from Sunsout and is available at The Book Vault



November 20, 2013… With a ticket sales increase of 11% – the largest since 1999 – the Festival regained valuable ground in 2013, exceeding the season’s goals. Attendance reached more than 480,000, generating revenue from ticket sales of $29.7 million. Though it’s very early days, the trend seems to be continuing with advance sales to Members up 11% for 2014.

In addition to being a smashing success at the box office, Antoni Cimolino’s first season as Artistic Director was also a huge critical success, winning acclaim from critics almost across the board. Five of the season’s 12 productions were extended to meet the demand for tickets, including Mr. Cimolino’s sold-out production of Mary Stuart, which was extended an unprecedented four times.

“We feel we’ve made a great start in turning things around,” said Executive Director Anita Gaffney, reflecting on her first season as the Festival’s top administrator. “Antoni programmed an amazing season featuring repertoire with great appeal to our audiences and we implemented a number of initiatives to encourage longer visits, draw new audience members and bring back lapsed patrons. I’m relieved and delighted these initiatives resonated with people and succeeded on so many fronts.”

The new Forum was enormously popular, attracting nearly 30,000 people to the 150 events held throughout the 2013 season. The Forum was conceived to make a visit to the Festival a more immersive experience, giving theatregoers an opportunity to more deeply explore and discuss the themes of the plays. Figures show that 47% of those who attended The Forum bought more performance tickets than they did the previous year. In addition to accomplishing its goal of solidifying the Festival’s relationship with existing patrons, The Forum also attracted a new audience, with 13% of overall attendance coming to the Festival expressly for Forum events. (As The Forum was designed to enhance the Stratford experience, it was budgeted as a break-even project. Neither the $340,000 it generated in revenue nor its attendance numbers are included in the figures quoted above.)

“We are so pleased to see attendance growing once more,” says Mr. Cimolino, “but what has been even more gratifying is our audience’s response to the season. Time and again, people have come to me to thank me for creating an experience that stimulates them not just emotionally but intellectually and spiritually as well; for presenting plays they aren’t able to see elsewhere; and for providing them with a place to discuss the productions through The Forum. To hear that we’re heading in a positive direction and then to see that reflected at the box office makes our work all the more rewarding as we prepare for 2014.”

Growth was seen across the board, with the following notable increases:

- Lapsed patrons (who have not attended in five years) up 76%.
- New customers up 46%.
- School sales up 20%.
- U.S. attendance up 8% – the first increase since it began to decline in 2003.
- Canadian attendance up 13%.

In 2013, a number of new initiatives were introduced to make the Festival more accessible to a broader section of the population and to allow a greater number of people to see multiple performances, giving them a richer experience.

“We wanted to make the Festival as accessible as possible,” says Ms Gaffney. “To that end, we introduced the bus between Toronto and Stratford, which not only brought more people to the Festival but also made it easier for people to make multiple visits.

“We also extended special ticket savings as soon as our box office opened rather than waiting to offer last-minute discounts. As a result we saw an increase in the number of shows patrons were attending, as well as an increase in the number of new and returning patrons. There was also an additional benefit: in recent years we had observed a trend toward last-minute ticket purchases, but this year we were encouraged to see slightly earlier buying behaviour. We will be adding to our incentives to bolster these trends.”

The new Stratford Direct bus service running twice daily from Toronto at a price of just $20 round trip was a huge success. Roughly 15,000 people used the service, and they bought $1 million worth of tickets. As hoped, the bus helped attract new patrons – 53% of those riding the bus had not been to the Festival before. It also lured a number of patrons back to the Festival: 13% of riders had not attended in two or more years. Inspired by this success, the Festival is launching a bus service from Detroit three times a week in 2014.

The Festival introduced two-for-one Tuesdays in 2013. This incentive provided an opportunity for almost 12,000 additional people to attend a performance at the Festival, and 32% of people who took advantage of the two-for-one offer were first-time visitors. The offer drove a 30% increase in Tuesday attendance, along with a 6% increase in Tuesday revenue over 2012. As a result of its success, the program will be extended to include Thursdays in 2014.

The Festival also started a loyalty program in 2013, which featured special acknowledgements, perks and selected incentives for its best customers. People targeted by the program purchased $3.7 million more in tickets than they did the previous year.

Meanwhile, existing incentives also saw increased sales, including Play On, which offers 16- to 29-year-olds $25 tickets to selected performances – up 57% – and the Family Experience, which offers $36 tickets to children 18 and younger attending with an adult – up 39%.

In addition to extending two-for-one Tuesdays and adding the Detroit bus, the Festival is introducing the following programs and incentives:

- Playcare, a weekend afternoon babysitting service for children 4 to 10 years old, offered through the Stratford Y at just $15.
- A family concierge in the Avon lobby to assist with children’s needs.
- Sundays with the Bard, $45 tickets for Sunday matinées of King Lear and A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Festival Theatre.
- The Dream Deal, a $99 advance purchase package with tickets to both Chris Abraham’s and Peter Sellars’s versions of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
- The Lucky 29 ticket lottery, sponsored by Sun Life Financial, offering $29 balcony seats to non-musicals at the Festival and Avon theatres.
- Teacher Ticket Deals, offering discounts for teachers to preview plays for student attendance or enjoy a performance on their own.

The 2013 attendance figure of 480,232 represents an 11% increase over 2012’s attendance of 432,240. In 2011, attendance dipped below 500,000 for the first time in almost 20 years, hitting 455,044.

Tickets for the 2014 season went on sale to Members of the Stratford Festival on November 11. Sales to the general public begin on January 4. For more information, or to place an order, visit www.stratfordfestival.ca or call 1.800.567.1600.

The 2014 season runs from April 21 to October 12, featuring King Lear; Crazy for You; two versions of A Midsummer Night’s Dream; The Beaux’ Stratagem; Man of La Mancha; Alice Through the Looking-Glass; Hay Fever; King John; Mother Courage and Her Children; Antony and Cleopatra; Christina, The Girl King; and more than 150 events in The Forum.

link to original article on the Stratford Festival’s website

Minimum wage hikes: not an effective solution to poverty reduction



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Last Shopping Day is a 1000 piece puzzle from Cobble Hill. It is available at The Book Vault.



CFIB recently presented to Ontario Minimum Wage Advisory Panel outlining the negative impact that minimum wage hikes have on small business. While we support the province’s efforts to reduce poverty, spontaneous and politically-motivated jumps in the minimum wage tend to hurt not only small employers, but the very people they are supposed to help: the low-skilled and low-income workers, by reducing the businesses’ capacity to hire and retain them. We provided recommendations for more effective alternatives in reducing poverty.

To help this segment of the economy, we are calling on government to implement measures such as changes to the personal income tax system and incentives for informal, on-the-job training.  For example, Ontario has a much lower basic personal exemption – the amount Ontarians can earn before paying taxes – than provinces such as Alberta, Saskatchewan and Quebec. An increase in the personal income tax exemption will provide an immediate increase in disposable income for low-income earners, far greater than hiking their hourly pay rate by a few cents.  In addition, more skills training opportunities will allow low-skilled workers to broaden their expertise and qualifications and will eventually expand their ability to earn more than just minimum wage.  If implemented these solutions will help more Ontarians to get above the poverty line and will allow  small, independent businesses to continue creating jobs and economic growth without imposing additional payroll burden on them

Link to original article on CFIB’s website