A Hall of a Party
One of the hallmarks of human culture past and present, is that every society always had a meeting place. Whether it was as simple as a glade where many paths met, or something as complex as Stonehenge, we always had a place for community. Today, our meeting places go by a number of names, depending on your locality. In some places, it might be a hockey rink, a church basement, or a Legion building. It could be a country community hall, or its larger, fancier city-centered counterpart, but it is still a cultural meeting place that hearkens back to the ancient versions. It is where we go to share community; to hold a farmers market, host a teen dance or celebrate a wedding. It was in these sorts of buildings we older folks learned how to polka, to “Butterfly”, and maybe even, horror of all horrors, to do “The Macarena”. It was where we began learning the rudiments of how to “pitch woo”.
These halls have always been an integral part in the socialization process of our young people as they become the next wave of adults. Sadly, the community halls we have grown up with and learned so much from, are now being threatened by what has endangered and ruined so many other features in our modern times. That threat comes from increased bureaucracy and corporate greed.
Up until as recently as five years ago, renting a hall was a simple transaction. You contacted the hall manager, gave them some money and held your event. It was one of the easiest parts of putting on a ‘do’. Of larger consideration for organizers, rather than paperwork, was how to get the word out and to estimate how many attendees to plan for. This model worked for as long as there have been hall rentals. It was a classic case of ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
Of course there were mishaps. These do seem to occur with great regularity whenever humans are involved. Some dolt would fall off the stage and break his leg, for example. The dolt wouldn’t sue anybody. It wouldn’t even occur to him. He wouldn’t want to hurt the organizers. It was understood that poop happens. If he had to miss work, UI (now EI) was there until he could resume his employment. Everybody would sign the dolt’s cast and there would be another great party in the weeks to come, happily attended by everyone, including the dolt. It worked great.
Then, suddenly it seemed, everything changed. Hall rental became a bureaucratic nightmare. The simple transaction became instantly more complex and far more expensive, and it was all thanks to the insurance industry. Overnight, the premiums these halls were already paying to insurers was ruled not adequate to cover events being held within their walls. In addition to whatever facility insurance the community hall held, renters were required to purchase “event insurance” to cover any mishap that might occur during a wedding or family reunion.
The price of holding an event increased by hundreds of dollars as a result; doubling the rental cost in many cases. It was a rude surprise for families and groups who had rented a facility, only to find out just before their event that insurance was required. At best it is an unexpected financial burden for the renter, often a non-profit, holding the event; at worst it scuttled the event all together.
Insurers claim these new rules are designed to save event planners and organizers from risk liability should something go wrong. They argue in our new litigious world, one must be covered for every circumstance that may occur, as well as any unforeseen eventualities. They do not address the fact that people are far more likely to be lawsuit-minded against an insurance company than they would a friend or neighbor. Their fear mongering worked. Whispered stories of ordinary folk losing everything as a result of being held liable for an event gone bad, became grist for the gossip mill.
Thanks to the ever-increasing bureaucratization of hall rentals, fewer and fewer groups will take on the risk, the worry and the work of hosting a public event. If these small halls, particularly ones in the rural routes built by our revered pioneers; if they fail, the loss would be great. Our forbearers that constructed those halls knew something about community. They understood that a meeting place wasn’t a luxury, but a necessity for the continuance of culture. The recognized halls perform such a vital function for society, their use should be encouraged, not be made too complex, expensive or inconvenient to be employed for the vital purpose for which they were built.
Sure, things can go wrong. The people responsible for the Insurance Bureau of Canada’s website, are more than happy to itemize what they might be. Their website describes ways of managing risk, too, including creating site maps, hiring security personnel, medical personnel, photo ID badges for staff and volunteers, creating a policy for getting rid of unwanted patrons and even considering video surveillance of the event.
One can’t help but assume, as one reads the list, whoever made these rules, probably has never attended a hall party, has definitely never organized one and obviously hasn’t enjoyed a single minute of fun in their lives. It betrays a complete lack of understanding about the nature of a hall party. If you rent a hall for a party, it is likely the last thing your party-goers want is video evidence of their revelry. It’s not like everyone hasn’t got their own movie cameras in their phones nowadays anyway.
The over-regulation of community halls must be stopped. Society needs its meeting places.
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