As a workplace, the VEC aims to be a supportive space that upholds workers’ rights and anti-oppressive practices. The VEC seeks to resist managerial coercion, staff competition, and other forms of exploitation and oppression in the workplace. We endeavour to address power imbalances between employees and employers, seeking to maintain a collaborative relationship between our board and staff. We aim to provide living wages and a safe and supportive work environment.
The hospitality industry is one of precarious work; defined by low-wages, irregular hours, and a lack of benefits and job security. We endeavour to be a part of a shift in the industry, and be an example of an egalitarian, creative, and supportive work environment. Many of our staff and members are active in workers’ rights movements locally and we are committed not only to respecting workers’ rights, but to incorporating more practices where workers can participate in decision-making, take initiative, develop new skills, and engage in work that is dignified.
We strive to act with an awareness that every interaction with every patron has impact, both on us as an organization and our ability to survive, and on them as we provide space to engage in community, belonging, entertainment, and organizing. With this in mind, we still exist under capitalism, and want to acknowledge that none of these commitments can eliminate the broader forms of oppression and exploitation that structure our lives and communities.
Power exists formally and informally in our organization. Formal power relations exist between our board and staff, between us and our landlords, and in the ways we are subject to bylaw regulations, liquor license requirements, and other laws and regulations. These relations limit us in ways that can be frustrating for us and for the communities we serve.
Informal power exists in the cultural valuation of certain kinds of labour, positions, ability, access, language, and social clout. We are mindful of these dynamics in our policies, hiring practices, events, and in daily operations. While we are committed to empowering each other, and contesting normal capitalist work practices and environments, we also know that privilege, power, oppression, and access will never stop being present within our organization. Because of this we are committed to continuing to grow, learn, name, adapt, and update wherever possible.
Our Community / Accessibility
By working to create a safer space informed by harm reduction, and radical accessibility, we endeavour to run a venue that is welcoming and inclusive to those who are regularly excluded or marginalized in other spaces. Among other issues we have been working to identify, there are numerous barriers to those with mobility restrictions, which can be understood in more detail here. We are working on renovations to remove some of these physical barriers, while working to integrate the values and practices of radical accessibility more deeply in our organization. We are updating our policies, hiring practices, cultural habits and assumptions, in ways that will remove further barriers to access while holding accessibility as a commitment that entails ongoing consultation, collaboration, and adaptation. We are also working on ways to restore our connection to parts of the community who have been hurt by our past actions. To provide feedback, or send questions our way, please use this link.
We believe that running a values-based community space can be liberatory and critical work that provides a hopeful example while contributing to the health and success of community. Through our events we hope to challenge ongoing oppressive and authoritarian norms by engaging in, and programming opportunities for tiny victories of fun, ease, inclusion, and belonging. That said, event spaces can be inherently conflictual. We commit to the value of safer spaces practices and transformative and restorative measures of justice, while also recognizing that this will never be finished work, or stop conflict from happening. We refuse to be passive towards ongoing harms, but would also like to acknowledge that this work is incomplete, ongoing, and will not necessarily prevent future conflict.
The VEC has a liquor license, and we serve alcohol at many events. During certain programming, and at the request of event organizers, we limit bar sales to non-alcoholic beverages. We recognize that this decision has the impact of making the VEC a space that is unwelcoming or inaccessible to some guests. This is a complicated issue that we are still learning to navigate.
For those who cannot engage with non-sober spaces due to trauma, addictions, or other concerns we hope to create a space that is at times welcoming and accessible by providing the option to producers and cultural groups to host sober events and programming at the VEC.
We want to hold this commitment while also recognizing that sober spaces can themselves create barriers to others, replicating the regular ostracization and alienation of those with addiction,
In all our events, we will endeavour to serve our diverse community by having our staff trained in harm reduction skills, and an understanding of how oppression plays a role in addiction and substance use. We hope that this will be a nod to ongoing harm reduction measures at events that do provide alcohol.
We also understand there are many people who need, or choose, to use substances. We commit to practices that are non-judgemental of intoxication, regardless of its form, cause, or base substance and we will treat everyone with dignity and respect. We do not condemn the use of any intoxicant, but ask that our patrons be respectful of our space and know their limits, as well as understand our safer space guidelines for behaviour. Naloxone kits and trained administrators will be available at the VEC in the case of overdose, and wherever possible, all measures will be taken to avoid the involvement of police. We may, in some situations, have to ask intoxicated people to leave our venue due to circumstances that put the safety of other clients at risk. We will not do this lightly, or without significant reason, and will ensure the safety of every party involved to the best of our ability, as well as resisting the involvement of police in all circumstances. At our events we will provide water, a space to calm down that is not directly removed from the venue, and when possible, there will be safer spaces volunteers on hand, trained in harm reduction and overdose prevention.
All Ages Events
The VEC is now an all ages venue, which means that we host a range of shows, many of which can be enjoyed by families and multiple generations. We often restrict events to 19+ based on the time of the event, the content of the show, or the amount of anticipated liquor consumption. We are working towards curating more all-ages programming, and multi-generational programming, by advertising this to our renters and taking this into consideration when filling out our calendar.
We understand accountability as the capacity to respond to oppression, harm, and inequity by engaging in curiosity, non-violent communication/listening skills, openness, and a willingness to change. For us, accountability entails seeking more information about our impacts and seeking to change behaviour and ways of being/doing to prevent future harm. We aim to support each other to understand and respond to interpersonal and structural harm. We commit to learning new skills and capacities that will allow us to avoid harm and the replication of oppressive dynamics wherever possible.
We know from experience that being accountable is not easy. It requires us to dismantle defensiveness and engage in vulnerability. It is a crucial value within our organization, and we are still learning to practice accountability effectively and meaningfully. None of us are free from the impact of oppression that is imprinted on us by power and privilege, and our good and earnest intentions may still result in the hurtful patterns and re-creations of harm. That our intentions do not always align with our impact does not erase or devalue harm, nor does it make any one of us inherently “bad” or “failed” people. We commit to continue to do better, especially as it pertains to accessibility, harm reduction, and ethical social media use. To provide feedback, or send questions our way, please use this link.
For now, the tangible ways in which we are responding to community concerns include:
- Hiring an outside consultant for accessibility and community consultation
- Implementing new policies that support substantive equality and transformative justice
- Physical renovations of the venue, including a vertical platform lift, washroom access updates and other accessibility measures
- An update to our HR Policies, better transparency, progressive discipline and more clarity on job and board positions
- A new, expanded approach to Safer Spaces and Harm Reduction policies.
We are a small, artist and activist-run organization that is funded by venue rental fees, food and beverage sales, and grants. Our limited resources put us in the difficult position of having to make compromises, move slowly, and choose priorities that can be frustrating for us and for the communities we are serving. Given our limited time and resources, we are committed to making decisions that take into account our values of accessibility, workers’ rights, substantive equality, harm reduction, safer spaces, and anti-oppression, and communicating our limitations and constraints. We are also committed to ongoing creativity in addressing these issues in ways that might be less resource intensive but (or more) effective. In this context, we recognize that we have an incredible legacy of grassroots movements to draw on for inspiration, which regularly accomplish incredible things on a shoestring budget.
We exist within an industry where organizations and workers struggle to keep the doors open; our financial sustainability is a regular concern of our staff, board, and members. The Victoria Event Centre is a registered non-profit organization; as such, we are responsible to report our finances annually in accordance with the BC Societies Act. We are working on ongoing financial transparency measures with the hope of more clarity in the future.
As tenants of the building we occupy, we are constrained in our capacity to provide the kind of radical accessibility that aligns with our values. We are currently undertaking renovations and other measures to improve accessibility, and updates on this process can be found here.