Sunday, February 25, 2024

COVID-19 and the Arts: What’s Open, Closed and Cancelled in Hamilton

The declaration of COVID-19 by the World Health  Organization as a pandemic has caused a trickle-down effect to countries, territories and cities. The Public Health Agency of Canada has announced that Canada’s goals in the pandemic are to minimize serious illness and overall deaths and to minimize the disruption among Canadians. However, with little still known about this new virus and its evolving nature, information- and thus, the response- is changing rapidly.

Although the risk to Ontarians is still very low, the first cases of COVID-19 occurred this week in Hamilton, and any organization where a large number of people gather, or are in close quarters (such as a performance space) have begun to implement measures to minimize the risk to its audience. As of March 13, 2020, the Ontario Medical Officer of Health is expected to issue a statement recommending the immediate suspension of all large events and public gatherings of over 250 people due to COVID-19. Smaller events and organizers are encouraged to consult with their local public health unit.

Below is a list of arts organizations in alphabetical order who have upcoming shows and have announced their status. This article will be updated as more information becomes available or changes.

Bach Elgar Choir

The Choir announced on their website that the March 21 Masterworks concert featuring works for choir and organ has been postponed. The concert was to take place at Melrose United Church (86 Homewood Avenue). The choir has also suspended all rehearsals until further notice.

Burlington Performing Arts Centre

Through its website, the Centre has announced that they are suspending all main theatre events and regular box office hours of operation until April 6. The venue has cancelled the March 17 Bay City Rollers; April 2 May the Force Be With You; April 3 The Dreamboats; April 5 Burlington Teen Tour Band; and Cirque Eloize: Hotel on April 10 and 11. Performances in the Studio Theatre will continue as planned.

Five at the First

The 19-20 season marks the Chamber series’ tenth anniversary. However, an announcement on the group’s website states that the March 29 Cello Extravaganza V concert is cancelled. The concert was to take place at the First Unitarian Church of Hamilton (170 Dundurn Street South). Online tickets purchases are in the midst of being refunded, and organizers hope to reschedule for next season.


The 2020 Festival was shaping up to be a historic event for the organization; however, a statement on the Festival website has announced the cancellation of the Festival. GritLIT hopes to reschedule some of their 2020 Festival readings, discussions, workshops and special events in the future.

Guitar Hamilton

The classical guitar series’ annual fundraiser, scheduled for March 28 at Melrose United Church has been postponed. A new date will be announced as soon as possible.

HamilTEN Festival

Festival organizers announced late on March 12 via their website that the 2020 edition of the Festival would be cancelled. A statement from the organization reads “With the vast number of artists involved in the 15 shows in the festival plus the audiences for 9 show blocks over 3 days, we feel the rick of proceeding as planned is too great.” For those who have already purchased tickets, refunds will occur automatically, and the Festival promises to return for 2021.

Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra

The HPO has cancelled their March 14 concert at First Ontario Concert Hall, which seats just over 2,000 people, as well as their March 26 Intimate & Immersive: Earthshine, at the Cotton Factory. The organization has released an official statement on their website regarding COVID-19 and options for ticket-holders for the concert, which include exchanging tickets for another concert in the Orchestra’s season, or donating the tickets for a charitable receipt. At the time of publication, future mainstage concerts will continue as scheduled.

Mill’s Hardware

The live music venue continues to stay open, although a few events have been postponed or rescheduled, including the March 15 Amy Helm performance (rescheduled to June 7) and the March 20 Matt Holubowski concert (postponed). A statement on social media notes that the venue is increasing their cleaning regime as they continue to follow federal public health protocols.

Rook’s Theatre & Diversion Entertainment

The company’s much-anticipated collaborative effort of Every Brilliant Thing was slated to open on March 14 at The Infinity Forge. In an email sent to patrons, the companies announced the decision to postpone performances, with refunds being credited within seven business days.

The Socrates Project

As part of McMaster University, The Socrates Project is held to university policies. As of March 12, 2020, McMaster has cancelled all discretionary events- which includes all Socrates Project activities- through March and into April. This impacts the group’s March 18 Climate Migrations and Changing Health Systems talk; Animals Across Discipline, Time  and Space: A Reverse Panel on March 21 and a partner lecture on Migrant and Indigenous Justice on April 7.

Staircase Theatre

The Staircase Theatre is encouraging audiences to stay tuned to their website for latest updates and cancellations as they work with individual show producers on contingency plans over the next month. Staircase Improv is cancelling their workshops and shows. The group plans to experiment with online classes and shows at the current time and encourages anyone interested to check their Facebook page to stay up to date as information changes.

Theatre Aquarius

Theatre Aquarius is continuing to monitor the status of COVID-19 in Ontario and Hamilton, as per a statement on the organization’s website. As of the time of publication, the theatre company is honouring its performance schedule, but theatre classes are cancelled to coincide with the Ontario government’s two-week extension of March Break.

Westdale Cinema

The cinema continues to stay open as a venue for film; although a statement on social media confirms that upcoming live events (including their March 17 St. Patrick’s Day event and monthly comedy show on March 25) are cancelled.

Are you an organization or venue with an upcoming event? Share your status by emailing us at contact [at] to be included in this list.

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