BHS talks about what’s next after lease request denial

Published 3:00 am Friday, June 23, 2017

Brundidge Historical Society president Chris Foster said things will continue as normal after being denied a lease by the city council Tuesday.

The society came to the council hoping to lease the building that houses their annual folk life play “Come Home, It’s Suppertime,” as well as several other events the society hosts.

“We’ll still be able to continue doing the good things that we have been doing,” said Foster, who also serves on the council. “The decision was disappointing, but we’ll continue to do what we’re doing.”

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Foster said the request for a lease was an attempt for the society to protect the things inside the building that the group has curated since they begun in the building 16 years ago.

“It would have given us more control over who has access to use the building and it would have given us a sense of protection for the items we have for the building,” Foster said. “Everything inside the building belongs to the historical society that people have worked diligently to get through donations or their own efforts.”

Former president Lawrence Bowden explained some of those items that the society has worked to bring in over the years.

Over the course of time, the society has fixed the floor and bought the wood shavings for the floor, bought the lighting and sound equipment, built the tables, built the stages, added a kitchen and collected the artwork on the walls.

Bowden said these things were all brought in specifically with the play in mind and other organizations and individuals using the space could detract from what the theater is all about.

“It’s kind of hard to explain without seeming selfish but the inside of the building was not finished off to rent for different things,” Bowden said. “Everything in there was built for the play– Stages, tables, chairs– everything in there is for that purpose.

“Part of the uniqueness of our play is in the building. We’ve been asked to perform elsewhere and we tell them thank you, but it just won’t work anywhere else. The building is unique for what we do. It was built for ‘Come Home, It’s Suppertime.’”

In an attempt to arbitrate who uses the theater, the BHS offered to lease the building, which they currently use for free. The monthly cost of the lease would have been in the range of $300 to $400 a month, which Foster said is based on another lease the city has out on a building.

Foster and Bowden emphasized that the purpose was to keep the theater intact and cared for, not to keep certain groups out.

“By no means was this meant as a way to keep anyone out or be divisive in any way,” Foster said. “We’re always inviting people to be part of the society and part of the play.”

“It’s not exclusive for anybody,” Bowden said. “They buy a ticket, they can come in. We don’t care who they are or where they’re from.

“We do the Peanut Butter Festival for Brundidge. The city bought a lot and in order to have a good space for vendors, you’ve got to have electricity and water. We told them we will pay for all the materials if you’ll put in the water and electricity. We don’t care who uses that. That’s okay; that’s not unique. There’s a big difference between that and the theater building.”

Foster and Bowden also both reiterated that the society will continue to work with the city as the group has done for so many years.

“Our city has been very helpful in process of maintaining and getting work done on the building for us,” Foster said. “All along it has been a partnership with the city… On behalf of the city council, I do understand both sides.”

Foster said the theater’s events will continue to take precedence at the building and that the theater will still be able to use the building for the events it needs.

City council members Betty Baxter, Arthur Griffin and Byron Gaynor  and Mayor Isabell Boyd could not be reached for comment on this story.