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Haven Music Hall A Refuge For Emerging Saint John Artists

By Scott Pettigrew Nov 21, 2022 | 12:43 PM

Haven Music Hall hasn’t even opened yet, but it already has a storied history in Saint John’s music scene.

The space at 201 Union Street has had many memorable iterations according to Abigail Smith, who will be opening Haven Music Hall with her friend Sidney Foy in 2023.

“It’s in a really old building. It was actually, very romantically, originally constructed as the Saint John Opera House. It’s got a great history and then since then it’s had a lot of lives,” says Smith of the space, which she and Foy have been renovating since February.

“It’s been the Scouts Canada shop. It’s been the Ideal Store. We’ve heard a lot of great stories of people getting apparel through the Ideal Store. And most recently, it was a gaming café.”

The storied building is about to reveal a new chapter, as the Haven Music Hall, a niche music venue brought to life by Smith and Foy, and supported with funding from Envision Saint John and Kaleidoscope Social Impact.

“My background is in running a little local focus music festival called Quality Block Party,” Smith explains.

“During the pandemic, like we had a lot of challenges, obviously, we couldn’t really gather in the way that we used to which was always in very small venues. And then …a lot of small venues in Saint John closed or stopped booking shows, and it just kind of hit the music community.”

That’s when she and Foy decided they needed to create a space for emerging artists to book themselves, that had a professional setup with a dedicated sound system, that was just built for music, but in the small venue range.

Smith was concerned that without those types of venues, festivals like Quality Block Party wouldn’t be able to continue.

Then, inspiration.

“We had always talked about wanting to open a music venue and it just sort of dawned on us that it might actually be the time, because it’s there really isn’t anything of that size here right now.”

Armed with knowledge of the industry, a network of musicians to bounce ideas off, and an enthusiasm for keeping independent music alive in Saint John, the high school friends from Sackville, New Brunswick, decided to have a go a creating their own ideal venue.

Smith says connections in the community and past musical performance, helped identify what would work in a venue.

“When Elwoods Wood Lab was here,” she reminisces.  “We had Motherhood and Owen Steel play a set at this carpentry shop, and they built us a stage for the show and it was so mind blowing!”

The Saint John Tool Library, when they opened, they were really supportive. We’ve had a lot of really very cool shows there. And the best thing about having carpenters around is that they could build anything we need.”

In addition to the renovations, the two have set up a Go Fund Me to purchase an in-house PA system.

“Haven Music Hall will add to the revitalization that is already happening in the Union Street/Waterloo Village area while providing another cultural asset for uptown Saint John,” says Envision Saint John vice president, Jillian Mackinnon, adding that Smith and Foy demonstrated their entrepreneurial spirit and strong business case, through the impact loan process and their engagement with ConnexionWorks.

And so far, the feedback from the Saint John music scene, and beyond, has been good.

“Before we announced, we already had a huge list of people who had reached out [to use the venue] so we’re really excited about that,” Smith says.

Alex Graham is a reporter with Huddle, an Acadia Broadcasting content partner.


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