Mr. Maka Kotto, Minister of Culture and Communications (MCC) of Quebec, today announced an agreement in principle has been reached that will allow Les 7 doigts de la main (also known as 7 Fingers) circus collective to advance studies on and complete financing for the acquisition and transformation of a property at 2111 Saint-Laurent Boulevard in Montreal. This historic building will be converted into a creation and production centre for the company, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year. Built in 1894 as part of the Ekers Brewery, the building was transformed in 1993 to house the Just for Laughs Museum and has remained virtually unoccupied since January 2011.
Patrick Léonard, Sébastien Soldevila and Samuel Tétreault, three co-founders who were present for the announcement, explained that acquiring these new quarters will mean the company need no longer be scattered throughout the city. “We will have a home for the first time,” said Patrick Léonard. “We can finally undertake creation, production and management under one roof, and be assured of adequate space and modern facilities to meet our growing needs. There will be an incredible synergy that will contribute to greater harmony between the company’s various branches.” “Les 7 doigts de la main,” added Samuel Tétreault, “will devote their talents and efforts to make this centre lively, dynamic and open to the community. In addition to contributing to the preservation of a heritage building, we hope that this new centre, located at the heart of the entertainment district, will help us take an even more active place in the community, to participate responsibly in its artistic, cultural and architectural improvement.”
Having met while working together on several projects, Shana Carroll, Isabelle Chassé and Gypsy Snider, also co-founders of Les 7 doigts de la main, were very pleased by this announcement and wanted to “thank the Government of Quebec for this assistance, which comes at a key time for the company.” They wish to “express their gratitude to Quebec’s society, which has supported the company through various agencies since its inception, and supports the circus arts and places special emphasis on art and culture.” Nassib El-Husseini, the C.E.O who was detained in Europe, said that “this project will revitalize the area with the arrival of a creative collective permanently based in the Quartier des Spectacles.” He recalled that: “Many circus artists from around the world fall in love with Montreal, learning French and choosing to make this their home. This announcement is very timely, as it instills a sense of optimism and injects a dose of revitalizing energy on the eve of Rendez-Vous 2012, Montreal Métropole culturelle, which will be held on Monday at TOHU.”
In addition to the assistance from the Ministry of Culture and Communications of Quebec announced today and investment by Les 7 doigts de la main, this project will involve the participation of La Ville de Montréal and require input from Canadian Heritage. Negotiations undertaken over several months between the various governmental agencies and SHDM have led to an agreement on the building’s acquisition and put in place a large portion of the resources necessary for its conversion, facilitating various tasks such as restoring the façade that has such significance for Montreal’s industrial heritage. To complete the financing and supplement the group’s usual efforts, a fundraising campaign to solicit donations and sponsorships will be launched soon.
The steps leading to this highly anticipated result were first taken in 2008. A functional and technical plan (PFT) filed with the Forum des équipements in February 2010 established the needs of the company. These data were used as a reference for the suitability study confirming the feasibility of a design and production centre in this building. With this announcement today, Les 7 doigts de la main have the final key element that will allow them to set into motion the processes necessary to realize this project and begin construction as soon as possible.
At the vanguard of the contemporary circus arts movement, Les 7 doigts de la main collective was founded in 2002 by Shana Carroll, Isabelle Chassé, Patrick Léonard, Faon Shane, Gypsy Snider, Sébastien Soldevila and Samuel Tétreault. With a team of 200 resource-people, artists, technicians and managers, Les 7 doigts de la main troupe has earned an enviable reputation on the international scene. Loft, the group’s first creation, has captivated audiences all over the world. It was followed by Traces, La Vie, Fibonacci Project, Psy, Patinoire and, most recently, A Muse and Séquence 8. In addition, the company was asked to produce a variety of special events, including at Maison du Québec during the Vancouver Olympics. It also participated in Winter Olympics ceremonies in Turin, championship tennis in France and the United States, and the Commonwealth Games. Over the past decade, Les 7 doigts de la main have given roughly 3,000 performances from their 8 creations before more than 2 million spectators in nearly 132 cities spanning 25 countries.
Photo: Sylvie-Ann Paré