VERNON, B.C. — David Hesketh had beaten terminal cancer twice and had entered hospice to battle it for the third time when he decided to run for city council.
He played a pivotal role in the building of the Vernon and District Performing Arts Centre and has deep roots in the community — Bill’s Place was named after his father. He has spent many hours thinking about October’s referendum for a Multi-Purpose Cultural Facility in downtown Vernon.
He said the reason he feels the need to announce his candidacy is the same reason he got involved in designing the Performing Arts Centre 20 years ago.
“The main reason that I got into planning its design was for the kids. I think it’s important for the kids to feel 10 feet tall and the stage and the power of the lights and the audience and that and while we’re at it, let’s make it comfy,” he said. “So now, I agree that we need a cultural centre for sure. The ‘why’ is simple: an art gallery is the first way a kid learns how to use expression apart from a fist. Why would we deny that? Do we want them fighting or do we want them throwing paint on a canvas?”
Though he said that he’s worried that similar barriers will creep up in terms of the referendum: differing opinions and political will.
“There was so much positive momentum from the [Performing Arts] project that it was a beautiful thing to be a part of until you hit the lack of political will. Many people just wanted to build the theatre and be done and move on — which I understand,” Hesketh said. “The question for me is what does it mean by “downtown Vernon” because that’s pivotal for me.”
The referendum, being held alongside the October municipal election, gives voters a chance to have a say in borrowing up to $25 million of the estimated $40 million needed to build the cultural facility. The facility will provide improved space for the art gallery and museum, as well as flexible spaces that will be available to other community organizations struggling to find venues to host their programs and activities.Hesketh said that his first concern is the location because it would be important to have a space that is developable. His hope and proposal: use Polson Park.
“I’d like to see a piece of property that’s not developable in commercial dollars and I have an idea for a concept that’s in Polson Park and into the bank near the Armories Building.”
This is why he decided to run. So on Friday, just an hour before the deadline, Hesketh left hospice where he is battling cancer, to make his way to city hall and declare his candidacy for city council. He said that it’s his passion that keeps his spirits so high.
“I was also considering running for mayor but I’m in no shape for that. I’m in better shape for a council position because I think I’ll cure myself through this as well and have some good years of service still to offer,” he said. “In terms of a job, I don’t think there’s a better one for me than running for council. I’m not asking for a wheelbarrow and shovel. I’m asking for a chair and a microphone.”
He also uses the analogy of a canoe to describe local politics — that if it’s run like a canoe, the objective is to avoid the waves. He wants this to change. A dragon boat, he said, would be more effective.
“In a dragon boat, you give everyone a paddle and take the paddles away from the leaders and give them a drum, hit the waves head on and explore because life begins beyond your comfort zone.”
And beyond his comfort zone he went. Using a cane for support and his daughters, a good friend and local documentarian Jim Elderton by his side, he made the trip to city hall and officially declared candidacy. He said the point is to have his voice heard, regardless of if he gets the votes.
“Yeah, it is kind of crazy but it’s also something he’s always wanted to do, especially now with the cultural centre,” said his youngest daughter Sara Ward-Hesketh, 15. “I think it’s cool and we all support him.”
Afterwards, heading back toward his car, Hesketh stumbled. He almost fell but he regained his balance just in time.
“That’s what it’s all about,” he said, smiling. “It’s not whether you fall, it’s whether you get back up. And the whole point of what I’m trying to do actually is just that. I believe in this enough to fight for it. The Cultural Centre has got to happen and if I get knocked down on the way, then I get knocked down on the way, but I didn’t and that’s the first test. I’ve filed my papers, I’m running… gosh, that’s scary.”
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