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Sunshine Coast community steps in to save live music at Gibsons venue

‘At a time when artists are struggling with receiving pittance from streaming services, they need live music venues more than ever’: After High Beam Dreams shared that it may need to cease live concerts, neighbours started volunteering their support – and it grew from there.
An early meeting of the Friends of High Beam Dreams included John Leech, Bert Smulders, John McMorran, Joann Hetherington, Daria McMorran, Trudene Norman, Bill Longman, Carol Wolfe, Chris Wolfe, Nidhi Kamboj and Vineet Miglani. Other supporters included Anita Dalakoti, Jennifer Christensen, Barbara Beard, Lura Osborne-Smulders, Margaret Matthews, Patricia Hetherington, Marilyn Kolbuc and David Rush.

A year after a Gibsons performance venue went public about its struggle to keep the lights on, the future looks brighter thanks to a surge of community support. 

The High Beam Dreams facility was created five years ago when Vineet Miglani and Nidhi Kamboj purchased the former Gibsons United Church building on Glassford Road. In 2020, the couple’s desire to produce live performances was mothballed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Without regular shows, revenues fizzled while maintenance costs held steady. 

Last spring, the couple returned from a long-awaited trip to India to learn that their application for arts funding from a provincial government agency was rejected. The ambiguous rejection letter made it seem like a subsequent request would also be denied.  

It was. 

“If a venue like ours is putting heart and soul into bringing live music and supporting live music, I think it is very important for a jury or any organization to look further into it,” said Miglani. “I’m not saying that the others shouldn’t be approved. Getting rejected twice for reasons which are not very detailed, it is heartbreaking.” 

In a March 2023 article in the Coast Reporter, Miglani and Kamboj described the future in stark terms: a possible end to live concerts at the 150-seat venue. 

Almost immediately, community members stepped up. At first it was a trickle: a handful of neighbours volunteered their support. Out of the blue, a retiree sent a donation for $500. 

“She pushed us for the whole next week to accept that money,” recalled Miglani. “And then she sent another $500 after a month and said, ‘I want to support you guys.’” 

The trickle turned into a flood. More than a dozen Sunshine Coast residents began holding fortnightly meetings under the informal banner of Friends of High Beam Dreams. 

“High Beam Dreams is a one-of-a-kind concert venue on the Coast, showcasing three key features: a quality venue, top-notch technology, and passionate and industrious hosts,” said John Leech, who coordinated the first gatherings. “The technology is state-of-the-art, with excellent sound and lighting. And the people, wow, the people. Vineet and Nidhi are warm, engaging, super eager to serve and provide a rich experience.” 

Members of the Friends donated sponsorship money. They considered instituting a system where sponsors would receive an allotment of free tickets but decided instead to purchase groups of tickets above and beyond their financial contributions. They collaborated on marketing initiatives and spread the word about upcoming shows through personal networks. 

“At a time when artists are struggling with receiving pittance from streaming services, they need live music venues more than ever to stay relevant and in the spotlight,” said Barbara Beard, a member of Friends of High Beam Dreams. “Vineet and Nidhi deserve our support in their quest to promote live music and to keep the music live and alive.” 

The collective effort built momentum. The infusion of support enabled Miglani and Kamboj to maintain an ambitious calendar of cosmopolitan bookings. In March alone, the venue hosted performances by the classical Cuore trio from Poland, Australian songwriter Daniel Champagne, and sound journeyers Alcvin Ryūzen Ramos and Nori Akagi. Meanwhile, business at their onsite enterprises — the Brass Spoon Café and the Namaste Art handmade gift shop — is ticking up with the upswell in visitors. Private event bookings are multiplying. 

“We always want to be and we are focused on being diverse,” said Kamboj. “We always want it to be a diverse venue, supporting diversity. I think that is what drives all of this.” 

Newly installed video streaming equipment will also enable High Beam Dreams to broadcast shows like its recent musical showcase by Deborah Holland, Simon Paradis and Gary Comeau.  

“After all that happened last year, when the Friends of High Beam Dreams came together, it was like we couldn’t believe that we have such amazing supporters in this community,” added Kamboj. “It was made possible because this community appreciates and supports live music. The Sunshine Coast is full of musicians and artists, and that’s a reason why it’s a beautiful community.”