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Book-launch venue hop: The Company House, Halifax

Each month, Q&Q visits dingy watering holes, upscale cafés, and other haunts in search of the country’s most beloved book-launch venues

front-02Q&Q’s spotlight on local launch spots kicks off with the Company House, a popular Halifax hangout on Gottingen Street in the city’s north end. In the past, the neighbourhood’s crime-ridden reputation tended to overshadow the burgeoning local arts scene, but these days, the CoHo, as it is affectionately known, shares the street with an art gallery, black-box theatre, nightclub, and hostel/café. – Allison Saunders

A blue beacon
A little yellow canary in a miner’s helmet watches over the door of the bright blue live-music venue and bar opened in 2009 by Mary Ann Daye, a university fundraiser, and Heather Gibson, former executive director for Halifax’s Word on the Street. “The whole area was becoming such an arts community that it felt like the right fit and the right time,” says Daye.

Named after the Cape Breton house where Daye grew up, the owners modelled the queer-friendly venue after Halifax’s popular downtown Khyber Club (made famous by musician Joel Plaskett), which Gibson previously managed.


Singing praises
“We want people to feel comfortable and feel they can come in and do almost anything,” says Daye, laughing. “I do have limits.”

While the lineup includes rambunctious retro nights and stand-up comedy, the intimate and inclusive space is best known for attracting quiet, captive audiences. The rich red stage has hosted some of the country’s best singer-songwriters, as well as local poets and authors such as Stephanie Domet, Stephen Kimber, El Jones, and the brave sentimentalists who open their diaries for the series Grownups Read Things They Wrote as Kids.


(photo: Dan Misener)

Filling the house
“I was interested in how to bring poetry back into the community. I thought, ‘We’re tired of the poet just standing up and reading,’” says Sue Goyette, who for the launch of her 2011 collection, outskirts, invited 13 people – including her children, neighbours, students, and carpenter – to choose and read a poem from the book.

“The place was packed. People weren’t just coming to hear me, they were coming to hear other people,” she says. “It was so surprising and intriguing for me to hear the different ways each poem was interpreted. The best part was listening to my kids reading about themselves, and doing the best-timed eye rolls.”