THE NEW AQUA BOOKS
Hi. Kelly Hughes, Mayor of Winnipeg's Cultural City Hall here.
A year ago, we announced that Aqua Books would be closing its doors forever. A groundswell of public support followed, and we have spent the intervening months working on just the right plan. A new non-profit called Winnipeg's Cultural City Hall Inc. was set up, to take over operations and usher in the next phase of our existence.
As soon as we sort out a few issues, we will be open at our new location at 123 Princess Street. This leaner, meaner (okay I'll try to be less mean) version of Winnipeg's Cultural City Hall will feature a larger theatre, workshop space, books, full bar, and food service.
When we moved out of The Exchange in 2008 to rehabilitate an old tumble-down Chinese restaurant, our goal was to help revitalize Downtown Winnipeg. Well we did it! We moved downtown and then The Jets came back. Now that our work downtown is done, we're moving back to the city's artists village that nurtured us for so long. Finding a wonderful building a mere block up from where we spent five years (at 89 Princess) feels like a real homecoming. What better place for us than a former warehouse for printers and bookbinders?
Transitioning from this big building we've been in, into a wonderful but smaller space is really making us be creative. (You're right, we're always creative.) And I know you're going to love what we do with the place. Imagine yourself walking down the street in 1920s Paris or Berlin. You see a lit doorway ahead. You enter, walk down the stairs. This place has been taken over by actors and musicians and artists. Are they supposed to be here, or have they broken in and beckoned you inside? But don't worry that you might not be cool enough. It's inclusive, not exclusive. As soon as you're inside, you're in. Like it so far?
We're taking the best of what we've been doing at 274 Garry Street and creating something the same, only different. At 274, we started doing our events (at least partly) as a way to get people into the bookstore and the restaurant. At 123, the stage is now the main event. The room is very open. You will know exactly what's going on the moment you walk in the door. What a great way to showcase all of the creative things that our friends and partners are doing. Producer Larry Roy will be creating an acoustic architecture for us that will blow the old theatre away. And all of this just a mini-donut's throw from the awesome and hated Cube. You know this is where you'll be able to find your favourite writers, actors, musicians, artists....interesting people, movers and shakers. You probably will not see Sam Katz here.
And you can do your bit too. Click below to donate to Winnipeg's Cultural City Hall Inc., and help us build a place where creativity flourishes.
Writer (and famous son of a famous son) Noah Richler anointed Aqua Books "one of the craziest, most amusing and
well-ordered second-hand bookstores I have ever frequented" in the Toronto Star. And truly, over the last decade, Aqua Books has become Winnipeg's most beloved bookstore. (Sorry McNally Robinson.)
A fierce bastion of Winnipeg culture, Aqua is Downtown Winnipeg's largest bookstore, nestled in the benevolent capitalist shadow of Portage and Main. The former Chinese restaurant at 274 Garry Street is now nearly 10,000
square feet of activity. Red Seal Chef Candace Hughes serves up plates full of joy at the onsite EAT! bistro (one of Ciao! magazine's best new
restaurants of 2008). Meanwhile, Bookstore Owner Kelly Hughes dishes up his brand of aggressive common sense in
This Week at Aqua Books and interviews Canadian greats like Tina Keeper and Kevin McDonald onstage at Kelly Hughes Live!. (While selling a few books on the side.)
Since our modest beginning on Notre Dame Avenue in 1999, we have strived to maintain the cleanest, most organized
and most affordable used bookstore in Winnipeg. Our sprawling location at 274 Garry Street features 40,000 books in a space ten times the
size of our old Notre Dame cubbyhole.
Aqua Books features one of the city's largest selections of literary fiction, kids' books and cookbooks, plus 2500 titles in faith and theology and Manitoba's largest selection of poetry and theatre books.
(But if you don't like any of those things, don't despair. We have a healthy assortment of titles in many areas.) Just like Nabob and their beans, we reject thousands of books a year that don't measure
up. All the books we do choose are cleaned (and repaired if necessary) before they are put on the shelves. We put out 500-1000
books weekly, and put the most interesting and sought-after titles on our new books page. The books
are joined by our in-store produced fridge magnets, and hundreds of vintage postcards and photographs.
THE CULTURAL HUB
Aqua Books is Western Canada's second-busiest arts and cultural venue (Banff is #1), seeing an audience of over ten thousand people at three hundred and fifty readings, book launches, meetings, workshops, concerts, plays, film screenings, lectures and shows every year. Our regular series schedule of storytelling (Stone Soup, Telling Tales), readings (Aqua Books Lansdowne series, Mondo!Poetry, Bons mots serie litteraire, Anthology), open mic (Speaking Crow, Soapbox), lectures (ideaExchange, Aqua U.), and music (Kelly Hughes Live!, feat.), is filled out by
participation in larger events like the Winnipeg International Writers Festival and the Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival. We also work with small theatre groups, arts organizations and multicultural associations. Our partners include the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, U of M Jazz Studies, the Manitoba Writers' Guild, the Writers' Collective,
the Manitoba Editors' Association, the Manitoba Association of Playwrights, and the U of M's Centre for Creative Writing and Oral Culture. Aqua Books is truly Winnipeg's Cultural City Hall.
In keeping with our commitment to Winnipeg's creative spirit, we also sponsor the Aqua Books Lansdowne
Prize for Poetry. (Le Prix de poésie Lansdowne de Aqua Books) Our poetry award
is one of the few bilingual honours at the Manitoba Writing and Publishing Awards, and carries a $1000 cash prize.
Aqua Books is one of only two bookstores in Canada with a Writer-in-Residence program (U of A Bookstore is the other one). We have three on-site studios for the use of our Artists-, Songwriters-, Photographers-, Artists-, and Writers-in-Residence.
The aforementioned Noah Richler Toronto Star article plus some of the other press coverage on Aqua
can be found here. In 2010, the Downtown Winnipeg BIZ awarded Aqua Books/EAT! bistro their award for
Most Innovative Small Business. Aqua Books is also the winner of a 2005 Exchange BIZ Award of Excellence
for developing ideaExchange (in conjunction with st. benedict's table) and BookWalk.
The award was for promoting Winnipeg's Exchange District
National Historic Site through marketing and event programming. Additionally, Aqua Books has been one of Winnipeg's top bookstores according to Uptown Magazine's Readers'
Choice Awards for several years running.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Come visit us.
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