Culture on Back Burner in Cobourg

It seems that “Culture” is no longer something that concerns residents of Cobourg.  There was a time when it did.  On June 25, 2018 Council decided to award a contract for $65,000 to consultant MDB Insight to prepare a Cultural Master Plan and after 2 public meetings and consultation with Cobourg’s “culture” organizations, a Cultural Master Plan was presented to Council on 15 October 2019.  Council passed a motion asking staff to bring recommendations forward to council.  We are still waiting.  To be fair, the plan was vague – other than improving communication and promoting what we already have, there was no grand new idea although there was vague talk of looking into “a Town-operated multi-purpose cultural facility, which includes performance and rehearsal space” (Action/Task 1.4).  Maybe the Park Theatre?  Or more recently at Brookside?  I believe Staff think that the Concert Hall can do that job.  In any case, it would compete with Port Hope’s Capitol.

In December 2021, I posted an article titled “Cultural Master Plan Buried” but that didn’t get much reaction. As I pointed out there, there is little evidence that any of the recommended actions have been done.

In addition, the whole subject of Culture seems to be buried: it’s hard to find any reference to it on the Town’s web site – all that comes up in a search is a list of venues and a bit about heritage.  At one point, the Community Services Division was labelled “Culture and Recreation” but Dean Hustwick changed the name.

For the record, here is a list of “Strategic Directions” from the Plan:

  1. Embrace and Communicate a Shared Vision of Culture Across the Town
  2. Improve Communication and Collaboration Within the Cultural Sector
  3. Promote Cobourg’s Rich History and Heritage
  4. Grow Culture-Led Economic Development Programs
  5. Strengthen Tourism Products by Leveraging Unique Cultural Assets
  6. Increase Community Engagement Among Youth and Volunteers

Strategic Direction #2 included the idea that there should be a master calendar for all arts activities in Cobourg so as to avoid conflicts.  The Town has a Calendar but only includes Town events which are a small percentage of the total.  Most attempts by other groups at providing this have had little usage by citizens despite strong support at Public meetings.

And the schedule for many actions was to be “Short term, 1-2 years” – that is, completed by 2021.  Here is the list for short term actions:

1.1 – Raise awareness of the Cultural Master Plan across all departments
1.2 – Explore sources to support the implementation of the Cultural Master Plan
1.3 – Report on a consistent set of performance metrics
2.1 – Build sector capacity through partnerships and mentorship
4.1 – Support the cultural sector with funding, grant and training opportunities
2.2 – Explore and foster collaborative opportunities for cultural development
3.1 – Promote cultural heritage resource conservation
5.1 – Develop and implement an action plan to attract cultural tourism investments
6.1 – Foster opportunities for cultural expression and experiences for Cobourg’s youth

Based on reports to Council, none of these have been done.  So either the Cultural Master plan is being ignored or Staff have not reported to Council on what they have been doing on this.

I should note that the Town has recently produced an excellent “2022 Fall and Winter Leisure Guide” which includes a section on “Arts and Culture”.  This does a good job of listing venues and existing organizations – that is, it promotes existing Art and Culture in the Town.


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Wally Keeler
4 November 2022 3:32 pm

The brilliant idea of a Pumpkin Parade in Port Hope organized by Critical Mass.

Cobourg could do the same and exhibit the pumpkins around Rotary Park. Could be organized by the cultural institute of the Art Gallery of Northumberland. But, Cobourg seems to be too old for this kind of fluffy fun and frolic.

Deborah OConnor
23 October 2022 9:06 am

I’m just a regular Canadian woman; not someone who wears expensive clothes, smells like exotic perfume or even knows what “cultural heritage resource conservation” means. For that matter, I’m not sure what cultural heritage even is. Does it ensue when Kelly’s has a fresh and exciting band play at their Saturday matinee, or must it be a dress-up event in the Town’s Concert Hall? I’d say both qualify, but who knows? How about the endless hockey games that seem to carry on in all seasons of the year? Are they examples of cultural heritage?

When I see the word “culture” I get nervous, seeing visions of stuffy old people listening to opera and show tunes, bemoaning the proclivities of the unwashed amongst them. Perhaps, as a card-carrying member of the unwashed sector, I’m simply not meant to understand culture anyway.

Who knows?

Wally Keeler
Reply to  Deborah OConnor
23 October 2022 11:09 am

I’d dare say that you have a better understanding of culture than the hoity-toity bean counter class and their attack dog politicians.

Reply to  Deborah OConnor
23 October 2022 3:08 pm

Deb your father certainly knew cultural heritage conservation, I remember him well. Perhaps you are reading too much into the wording. I find it unfortunate that no one seems to care about anything these days only their own agenda. I never seem to see anything positive anymore on this site just slamming everyone and everything. Sad

Wally Keeler
Reply to  Carol
23 October 2022 5:41 pm

I recall her father responding to a couple of long-haired hippies who wanted to publish a teen magazine in Cobourg. The talent of international artist, Peter Kolisnyk, designed the cover and Haynes printed the cover.

Deborah OConnor
Reply to  Wally Keeler
24 October 2022 9:19 pm

I still have my copy, which includes one or two of my poems. Ah, youth. I haven’t written a poem since then, due to the price of peanut butter etc. taking up most of my attention. Adulthood and parental responsibilities trumped higher dreams.

22 October 2022 4:39 pm

Seems to me I read somewhere that back in history, Cobourg had more brothels that churches of worship.
Don’t want to hang your hat here on our culural history.

Reply to  cornbread
22 October 2022 5:10 pm

some people worship different things

Wally Keeler
22 October 2022 1:05 pm

The rainbow crosswalk at 2nd and King is painted every year. It has been that way for years. It will remain so for many many years to come. It is a continuing money hole.
It looks pristine for a few weeks, but traffic sullies it soon enough. Why do taxpayers have to pay for this year after year after year?

Use coloured cement? We know it can be done because the crosswalks by the liquor store are burgundy. I asked if that was expensive and was told that the added expense of colour was negligible. So why not use coloured cement to make the rainbow crosswalk? It would be a one-time expense. It would never have to be repainted (save$$$). Indeed, the street sweeper could rejuvenate it every time it goes out on its rounds.

Politicians are big on saving money. But, they all continue to waste $$$ painting and repainting. This is a creative solution to save $$$. Any political leaders gonna take it up? Or are they gonna go all defensive because the idea comes from that so-called poet?

Reply to  Wally Keeler
22 October 2022 4:35 pm

Hi Wally…It is called Concrete…cement is the binder in concrete.

Wally Keeler
Reply to  cornbread
22 October 2022 6:52 pm

Well absolutely correct. Then, lets continue to paint it over and over, year after year and waste money doing so, year after year. And politicians continue to do nothing about the annual waste of money. I brought this issue up before and the politicians of the day sat on it. They don’t want consultants, but they don’t want advice from common citizens either. They are concerned about the messenger more than the message.

Reply to  Wally Keeler
22 October 2022 5:49 pm

Maybe we could paint colourful stripes on the street cleaning machine?…..just a thought!

Wally Keeler
Reply to  Ken
22 October 2022 6:53 pm

Of course, it’s just a thought. A pointless thought.

Merle Gingrich
Reply to  Wally Keeler
23 October 2022 9:09 am

Wally, it’s part of the Woke community that we have become.

Wally Keeler
Reply to  Merle Gingrich
23 October 2022 10:00 am

Smoke Woke, for the flavour of urban decay.

Rae Waring
Reply to  Wally Keeler
23 October 2022 11:13 am

I recall a procurement manager was recommended for the town. Procurement managers(formerly known as purchasing managers) dont just chisel down suppliers
They instead find other solutions or ideas such as the innovative coloured concrete proposal.

Reply to  Wally Keeler
23 October 2022 11:54 am

Why do the LBTGQXYZABC and so on, get a crosswalk anyway. They are no more important than any of us, why be recognized with parades, flags, crosswalk, it’s just silly.

Bill Thompson
Reply to  Tucker
23 October 2022 3:30 pm

One segment of society that is generally overlooked & thought of only once a year are Veterans.
Possibly that would strike a chord with the general public & be a worthwhile reminder of the sacrifice made for national freedom regardless of culture etc.

Last edited 1 month ago by Bill Thompson
Wally Keeler
Reply to  Bill Thompson
23 October 2022 5:37 pm

Freedom is worth all the blood it takes to prevail. Freedom is culture of the highest order.

Reply to  Bill Thompson
23 October 2022 5:57 pm

Society today should be made to remember Veterans. My grand children don’t know anything about WW2 or for that matter even Sept.11. they’re too young. They have their heads buried deep into their phones, tablets, instead of being taught why they have the freedom to do so. Instead of raising a multi-colored flag to the small portion of society that hasn’t figured out who or what they are yet, raise a “poppy” flag, maybe for the whole month of Nov. Maybe some of them will then ask “what is that for”.

Wally Keeler
Reply to  Tucker
23 October 2022 8:49 pm

The Rainbow flag is a cultural icon. There is a cultural community that closely identifies with it. The century opened with the unjust trial of Oscar Wilde and closed with the notion that a human being can marry whoever they love. That was a century-long struggle. It does not mean that that community is “more important than any of us.” It could also be said, ‘Finally, we are as important as everyone else.’

The Town does not always need consultants. Sometimes the Town can get good free advice from a resident.

Since its first painting, how much has it cost the Town to paint the Rainbow Crosswalk year after year? There is no end date to this project, so we must conclude that the painting will continue perpetually, annually. Wow! That’s very open-ended, fiscally. Inflation will increase the annual expense going into perpetuity. And the Rainbow Crosswalk looks sullied from tire treads by the end of every summer.


Build the crosswalk using coloured concrete. The streetsweeper can clean it while on its downtown routine. Snowplows scrape right over top, no problem. A one-time expense vs a perpetual annual expense.

I’m surprised that no one ever imagined such a notion. In the glorious Imagine Nation of the Peoples Republic of Poetry, the poeticians do not run for election. They run for elation!

Keith Oliver
Reply to  Tucker
2 November 2022 8:47 am


The crosswalks, fags, parades, tee-shirts, newspaper articles, court cases, school policy controvercies, are all an important part of the process that will result in LBTG individuals becoming accepted, or as you put it, “no more important than any of us”.

Gerald Childs
Reply to  Keith Oliver
2 November 2022 9:49 am

I trust your use of the word “fags” is a spelling error and you meant flags.

Reply to  Gerald Childs
3 November 2022 10:26 am

This is not spam. I tried to remove a comment in reply to Keith.

Last edited 22 days ago by Gerald
Keith Oliver
Reply to  Wally Keeler
2 November 2022 8:57 am


The success of the Rainbow Colours as a widely recognized symbol is not only because of their hue but because of their intensity or brightness. The intensity is something I don’t believe is possible in coloured concrete.

Wally Keeler
Reply to  Keith Oliver
2 November 2022 11:43 am

Tire marks sully the intensity out of the colours in very short order. Perhaps it should not be on a crosswalk to begin with. Do you think the Canadian Legion would be ok with painting the red maple leaf flag on a crosswalk for vehicles to drive over?

So dirty tires sully The Rainbow, but let us paint it over and over, year after year, $$$$$ & $$$$$. Or coloured cement which is brushed up every other week with the street sweeping machine on its routine rounds thereby keeping The Rainbow in pristine shape.

After a bruising winter, salt, tires, scrapers, the painted Rainbow is a disgusting mess. And it needs another coat. Whereas the coloured cement would endure the winters. And not require $$$$ every year to maintain it’s brightness for a few weeks at best.

Your notion, Mr Olliver, is without merit, both in terms of aesthetic maintenance and in terms of cost-effectiveness.

Reply to  Wally Keeler
2 November 2022 9:15 pm

Concrete Wally, concrete.

Wally Keeler
22 October 2022 12:48 pm

Ok, so Cobourg invested several years ago in bike hitching posts. They are a single pole with a circle. Black. They are effective and efficient. They are off the shelf. They are just like the ones in many other municipalities. No originality. Nothing distinctive.

The Town could have opened a design contest for local artists. The Town could have used Victoria Hall clock tower as an inspiration. It’s a Town icon. Two posts and a circle would have emulated that icon and still serve the community, not only as effective and efficient but also original.

Merle Gingrich
22 October 2022 12:01 pm

Maybe the Town and interested people are in the ” Cancel Culture” mode?
Too many suggestions, take one and run with it before moving on.

Brenda Zitzer
22 October 2022 10:27 am

How about identifying the goal first..e.g. A First Settlers Centre’ and then develop the action plan to achieve it with an evaluation after implementation . It will either be a success, something that can be improved or a waste of money and needs to be scrapped.
Less talk, more action is needed I think, and always have coffee shop on site for people to gather!

Wally Keeler
22 October 2022 9:07 am

Promote Cobourg’s Rich History and Heritage

Wanna know what Cobourg residents think of their history and heritage? Think of “Susanna Moodie, nee Strickland, author, settler (b at Bungay, Eng 6 Dec 1803; d at Toronto 8 Apr 1885). Susanna was the youngest in a literary family of whom Catharine Parr Traill and Samuel Strickland are best known in Canada. Her struggles as a settler, progressive ideas, attachment to the “best” of contemporary British values, suspicion of “yankee” influence in Canada, and her increasingly highly regarded book, Roughing It In the Bush, have made her a legendary figure in Canada.” (Susanna Moodie | The Canadian Encyclopedia)

But not in Cobourg. Suggest that the east pier be named after her because that is the pier from which she made her first step onto Canada. But Cobourg spoke: we don’t want any of that fluffy nonsense. It’s always been the East Pier and the East Pier it should be, simple, clear. That sums up Cobourg’s dull imagination, which is manifest on this blog daily.

Last edited 1 month ago by Wally Keeler
Bill Thompson
Reply to  Wally Keeler
22 October 2022 10:39 am

I understand that the local area right east of Victoria Park was known as “Cork Town” (Irish immigrants during the Potato Famine).
There may be some interesting characters/stories to relate but not much public mention of it.

Wally Keeler
Reply to  Bill Thompson
22 October 2022 2:24 pm

I agree Bill. Year by year, Cork Town is disappearing with monster homes replacing the small cottage-like homes of that turf. The Spirit of the Hills Art Association have a good number of Creatives that could breathe narration into the characters of that time. Expecting a politician or bean counter to do this would be futile.

Reply to  Bill Thompson
22 October 2022 2:32 pm

From what I have heard that was the home of the Cork Town Tigers.
some members of long standing Cobourg families still live in Cork Town.
Maybe someone could confirm?

Merle Gingrich
Reply to  Wally Keeler
22 October 2022 3:44 pm

Okay Wally, you can start your suggestions, but like the it will fall by the wayside. Your the man.

Reply to  Wally Keeler
23 October 2022 3:30 am

Wally: I doubt very much that anyone, Susanna Moodie included, coming here by sailing ship in 1832 would have remained on board all the way up the St. Lawrence river past all those towns and settlements without once stopping for supplies and relief.

I rather suspect a long series of journeys by various means from Quebec City or Halifax, ending with a boat trip to Cobourg from Kingston.

Just for the record.

Wally Keeler
Reply to  JimT
23 October 2022 8:00 am

The boat stopped along the way for supplies, but she did not disembark due to cholera. Read her book.

22 October 2022 9:04 am

In this OLD TOWN filled with Retirees culture needs to be accessible
like Parking Close by or may be Valet parking wouldn’t that be nice .
Who and how many Snow birds want to walk 3 Blocks in the dark and the snow .
Does Cobourg even have a Taxi Co anymore ???

Michael Sprayson
21 October 2022 8:42 pm

Another example of why we need to STOP paying consultants to deliver these documents. That’s all they are – filled with vague suggestions that come across as meaningless or completely subjective.

“Commit to” “Partner with” “Explore the potential/possibility” “Advocate and support the…” “Support the recommendations” “Connect and dialogue with” “Explore sources” “Embrace and communicate” — I could go on.

What does any of it mean? How? With who? To what end?

In the Cultural Plan – pages 21 – 33 do you know what’s missing from the chart? SUCCESS MEASURES. How will anyone ever know if things are on track? How will we know if something worked? How and when will we know if we should try another tactic?

And timelines. There is an awful lot of room for interpretation and leeway.
Just take “Action Item 1.1” – There are three items that should take (at most) a month to complete. The plan suggests 2 years.

We paid $65,000 for a largely ambiguous document. And, as John points out, we did nothing with it. No one followed up. It has to stop.

Ken Strauss
Reply to  Michael Sprayson
21 October 2022 9:52 pm

…filled with vague suggestions that come across as meaningless or completely subjective.

“Commit to” “Partner with” “Explore the potential/possibility” “Advocate and support the…” “Support the recommendations” “Connect and dialogue with” “Explore sources” “Embrace and communicate” — I could go on.

What does any of it mean? How? With who? To what end?

Why am I so strongly reminded of the meaningless words from Ms. Beatty?

Wally Keeler
Reply to  Michael Sprayson
22 October 2022 9:47 am

Another example of why we need to STOP paying consultants to deliver these documents. That’s all they are – filled with vague suggestions that come across as meaningless or completely subjective.

Damn right. So what ideas do you have to inspire creativity in this Town?

Michael Sprayson
Reply to  Wally Keeler
22 October 2022 11:27 am

Wally – What I’m talking about does not actually require creativity. It requires finding people to do a job and holding them accountable until they do it. That is not a creative act. It’s a logical one, based on rational thinking.

It is also not a creative act to ask directors and managers to bring some insight and develop some policies for the departments they run.

I am putting myself out there and asking for the residents of Cobourg to vote to put me on council so I can put some of my creativity to use in a way that may make a difference.

When you talk about these things it comes across as a demand and as condescending. I’m not sure if you are aware of the defensiveness you inspire. Creativity should be about inclusivity and some of the ways you choose to communicate come across as the opposite of that.

There is plenty of creativity in this community. I have written about it in my newsletter on more than one occasion. I am pro-creativity. I embrace it. It’s not always about poems or songs or artwork (though they certainly have a place). Your approach seems in opposition to your goal.

I know you know what some of the big issues are that we are facing in Cobourg right now. Perhaps the discontent and chastisement you express on this blog should be directed elsewhere.

Wally Keeler
Reply to  Michael Sprayson
22 October 2022 12:17 pm

I’m not sure if you are aware of the defensiveness you inspire. Creativity should be about inclusivity and some of the ways you choose to communicate come across as the opposite of that.

As a teen in Cobourg, my mentors were the internationally recognized artist, Peter Kolisnyk and the Parrish Lovejoy Award for Courage in Journalism, Foster Meharry Russell, publisher and editor. They were as tough on me as they could be, because they saw a worthy talent that did not need coddling, or to be bathed in sentiment, and suffocated with buzzwords “inclusivity” etc.

“It’s not always about poems or songs or artwork (though they certainly have a place).”

And what place is that, may I ask?

Reply to  Michael Sprayson
22 October 2022 10:47 am

I totally agree. What a waste of money. And a ridiculous amount to learn nothing. That’s what really bothers me most is all the consultant fees paid out each year. Do we not have anyone with a brain who can do studies on what works elsewhere. Contact other small towns and see what they do A dinner theatre would be amazing. I know Best Western does them but something downtown in the core. Recently the Sifton Cook group did dinner theatres in the old building that sits next to the new legion. They had dinner at the legion and then Walked next door for the theatre. They loved the meal at the legion and gave lots of great feedback. Help Your local legion and perhaps team up with the Northumberland players and the legion and have dinner theatres or perhaps with the Sifton Cook group. Park theatre would be great for live entertainment although not equipped for dinner. And realistically, how often would you have to have entertainment in there to make enough money to sustain that building why not use existing buildings and existing services such as the Cobourg Legion. Shuffle board in the park would be another great addition, perhaps along side the lawn bowling I don’t know a lot about the shuffleboard’s whether they’d have to be taken up every fall as I’m sure they wouldn’t withstand the weather if they were wood but I don’t know if they’re made with painted concrete I’m not really sure I only played it once when I was staying at a place in Florida Sport any age could play and there are many with issues that couldn’t stoop down low enough to do the lawn bowling where with shuffleboard they could stay upright, so any age group would be able… Read more »

Michael Sprayson
Reply to  K2kraky
22 October 2022 11:33 am

I agree with your thinking. There are people who want to do things. They are stifled or never given the appropriate direction to get what they want to do done. Instead, they get tired, and they give up. Not a great feeling, not a great system to inspire much of anything. Major change (and tenacity) is required.

Wally Keeler
Reply to  Michael Sprayson
22 October 2022 1:19 pm

Tenacity. Yes, that’s it. Regardless of political scolds, and the moans of mediocrity in every direction, the truly Creative will always persist no matter how many barbs are sent their way. It’s not just poems and songs and arts, ya know. It’s about cultural crosswalks done with less $$$.

Reply to  K2kraky
22 October 2022 9:34 pm

It was good to read the reference above to the dinner theatre put on recently at the Sifton-Cook Heritage Centre. It featured the stories of a number of famous people with strong Cobourg connections including actress Katharine Cornell, comedienne Beatrice Lillie, oceanographer Sir John Murray and news publisher Samuel P. Hart.

It was a success, thanks to great sponsors and a lot of hard work by a group of dedicated volunteers.  Being able to work with the Legion was important, and suggests that better cooperation between our not-for-profit organizations is one goal we should be working toward. One problem, of course, is that we tend to be competing for the same audience, the same volunteers and the same sponsorship dollar.

One possible solution is the creation of a cultural hub, where interaction and cooperation are almost assured. The old high school might have provided this, or the memorial rink, but those options have passed. A much more challenging possibility remains in Strathmore. Does our cultural community care enough to consider that a realistic possibility? Surely we won’t let that amazing part of our heritage just die from neglect. 

21 October 2022 3:08 pm

We all know why we prepare a Cultural Plan; something to identify with; provide a feeling of belonging; something we can all get behind and support. With that said–it is easy to put ‘culture’ and a cultural plan on the back burner, when other priorities present themselves.(ie) high water levels; pandemics etc.

It’s a little more difficult, if the themes from a Cultural Plan are fully integrated into our Planning & Development Dept. If so, they can’t really be ignored.

Have a look at the new housing developments in our town getting spit out by our Planning Dept.
Do any of those integrate any of the cultural priorities of our Cultural Plan?…or any cultural priorities at all?

No Consultant needed to answer that.

Reply to  Dunkirk
22 October 2022 10:30 am

I’m saddened by the lack or real support in this town by the council for arts and culture, especially since the pandemic highlighted the need for arts in peoples lives. The support comes in dribs and drabs but is not consistent. There are so many professional artists in the area and most of us have to go further afield for work and the township doesn’t realize its rich resources on the doorstep. Victoria hall is a great place but it doesn’t tick all the boxes. The Loft was amazing and filled a need but that has now gone. A dedicated arts Centre with classes, workshop space and rehearsal space should be a necessity not a luxury. As Cobourg expends, the need will become more apparent and the town is about to get left behind.

Wally Keeler
Reply to  SaskiaTomkins
22 October 2022 8:14 pm

There are politicians in this Town that were eager to participate in the arts at the street level. Northumberland Hills Arts Association assembles the growing Northumberland Festival of the Arts. Plays, music, shows, art, took place all over Northumberland. One part of that Arts Festival included Words On a Wire, a poetry reading extravaganza that took place in the grand Concert Hall of Victoria Hall. The Parliamentary Poet Laureate, the Ontario Poet Laureate, as well as local Laureates participated. It’s not often that that a Parliamentary Poet Laureate comes to this turf. One of those projects was the world’s first Picnic Table Anthology, that brought together the best poetry (literature) in the county as well as outside Canada. Unique. Distinctive and oh so inclusive. Artists, musicians, poets and yes, politicians showed up to celebrate this exceptional event by parading the table down the street to gift to Let’s Talk Books, where the Town Crier climbed aboard to give a great cry. Town Councilor Adam Bureau and Nicole Beatty were on hand to provide some good backbone to load the Picnic Table Anthology and unload it at Let’s Talk Books. And Deputy Mayor Susanne Sequin, and Councilor candidate, Mirium Mutton selected one of many poetic placards and participated. Indeed, a Ward One Councilor candidate from Port Hope, Miranda Lukaniuk came over in her mock cop car to participate. She is very active and successful in bringing movie productions to Port Hope. Those politicians didn’t just talk their talk, they walked their talk, mingled with the arts community, talked to them in their element and learned something. They participated in the world’s first poetry parade. Unique. Distinctive. Creative. And Boyer Auto Group (Division/Elgin) donated a hybrid Jeep convertible to escort the Poets Laureate. Community involvement. So now, on permanent display in the… Read more »