Entertainment

Jazz, swing events cancelled

Omer Mahmood and Shannon Braithwaite will host the final Fat City swing dance on June 3. They will also no longer mount the annual jazz festival or swing dance events in Douglas Park.  - submitted photo
Omer Mahmood and Shannon Braithwaite will host the final Fat City swing dance on June 3. They will also no longer mount the annual jazz festival or swing dance events in Douglas Park.
— image credit: submitted photo


As the gates of Fat City prepare to swing shut for good next month, fans of the music and dance style will have to look beyond Langley’s boundaries to get their fix.

The annual Jazz Festival, held for the past several years in June, and Swingin’ in the Park, an annual dance event held in Douglas Park in July, have also been cancelled, said organizer Omer Mahmood, who co-founded and operated Fat City Swing for nine years.

Mahmood said it was important to make a formal announcement, because he has been getting questions about what is happening with respect to both the monthly dance club and the summer festivals.

“Our priorities have shifted,” said Mahmood, referring also to his wife, Shannon Braithwaite, with whom he started and ran each event.

“It’s all very rewarding, but it’s not paying the bills.”

Mahmood is stepping back to focus on his career as a financial advisor, while Braithwaite recently finished directing a play in Abbotsford and is working as front of the house manager at Terry Fox Theatre in Port Coquitlam. 

However the couple will continue to teach workshops where they’re asked. 

In the end, it came down to time and money.

“Envision has been very supportive,” he said of the jazz festival’s major funder.

However, he added, the credit union’s mandate is to help with an event’s start-up, with the idea it will become self-funding over time.

Last year, instead of a full festival, they hosted a day of live music in the park. 

This year, with no money to pay the artists, Mahmood said, it had to end.

“I’m not going to host a festival where musicians play for free,” he said. “That’s unacceptable.”

Meanwhile, at Fat City, attendance has dropped off somewhat since the club’s heyday, Mahmood said. 

Whether that’s due to a slumping economy or if the popularity of swing dance is waning, he can’t say.

And, nine years in, it’s no longer a top priority for the couple, meaning it no longer gets the focus and attention it deserves, he said. 

“We don’t want to get sick of dancing, we started out to have fun. In hindsight, we probably should have groomed someone to take over, but we never thought it would last.”

And it will last — for one more session. 

The final dance, on June 3, will feature Red Beans and Rice.

As always, doors will open at 7:30 p.m. with a beginner swing dance lesson beginning at 8 p.m.

General admission is $15 or $13 for students and seniors. Anyone planning a party of 10 or more, is asked to contact Mahmood at 604-825-7045 for reservations and a group rate. 

This is an all ages event. West Langley Hall is located at 9400 208 St. For more information, contact Mahmood or visit www.fatcityswing.com.

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