by Jake Pesaruk

Pressure yields diamonds. 

We’ve all heard the expression, yet, when it comes to the nature of the pandemic, what is the lustre of the gems produced?

Enter THE HUB, a broadcast and content capture studio that is the brainchild of a venue robbed of its means, a production team hungry for a new project and countless sound and lighting engineers deprived of work. 

THE HUB found its home in The Opera House, a venue situated within a landmark stage space in central Toronto. Its goal is to fill the void of live performance in almost every incarnation possible. 

“All of my team and those within the industry saw what was taken away almost overnight a year ago. I had teams working on productions all across Canada; one minute, they were loading gear for the next gig, then the signal came to shut down,” says Jessica Lemmon of Lemmon Entertainment, the team that helped launch THE HUB. 

Like numerous professional counter-attacks to the COVID-19 surge, THE HUB’s initial planning stages started last fall, at the time when there was a slight hope that a semblance of normal could be achieved. 

While this wasn’t the case, the groundwork paved the way for a secured launch this March and Lemmon Entertainment enlisted the help of PRG, a well-established production resource company within Toronto, as well as The Opera House, to host this ambitious venture.

Jessica Lemon of Lemon Entertainment – Courtesy of Lemon Entertainment

“PRG came out to help us in the early fall, they had finished their drive-in theatre series, and they didn’t want to put their gear back in storage,” says Lemmon with a chuckle. 

With all the players in place, work got started on making the creation and launch of THE HUB as seamless as possible.

“I really wanted the whole industry to feel involved and be seen as a solution to a common problem rather than be seen as a competitor. So this mindset helped us shift THE HUB into a studio that can be used by anybody, and we widened its use to producers, agencies and even corporations.”

THE HUB offers a comprehensive list of materials for anyone wanting to utilize its resources.

“Everyone on board can act as a producer and walk away with a very unique piece of content.” 

As for The Opera House, Lemmon not only has shouted praise for their team but has also implemented members of their staff in THE HUB’s projects. 

“The goal of THE HUB is for The Opera House to come out in a strong position after the pandemic; that’s why we started working with Athena and her team… The opera house has always reinvented itself with the change of the times, so it’s important to me to include the people who have been loyal to that venue. They get to be a part of this temporary version of The Opera House.”

Athena Ellinas-Towers, Owner of The Opera House in Toronto – Courtesy of RiversideTO

THE HUB is gearing itself to be a major institution for well-established producers, creatives and other professionals looking to use its space, but where does this leave smaller, more homegrown talent yearning for their stage and performance fix?

“Our development teams are working very hard to ensure that this space can be accessible to everyone. Right now, it’s a flat rate to access the stage for a single day. What we’re working on as well, is a secondary stage for up-and-coming artists called the ‘Lemmon Stage.’ We’ve implemented this in the past in outdoor spaces and we are planning for this to be a series at THE HUB as well. The programming is going to allow emerging artists who don’t have the means to access the space the ability to do so.”

As for how THE HUB ensures the safety of the staff and performers, the team behind it has numerous measures in place to comply with the rapidly evolving state of Toronto restrictions. 

“Every 6 weeks, there have been changes as the lockdown regulations keep adjusting and now we have landed on specific COVID compliance handled by our internal team. So anyone who wants to use the space gets to see that plan ahead of time.”

THE HUB launched their first event this past week, The Lost Tapes Live – a comprehensive multimedia musical dissection of mental health and how it impacts musicians. The event was hosted by legendary Canadian music ambassador Alan Cross. 

Legendary Canadian music broadcaster, Alan Cross – Courtesy of Alan Cross’ A Journal of Musical Things

With the stresses of its initial launch out of the way and a successful large-scale event in the bag, Lemmon is optimistic about how this space can help artists in the coming months until live performance returns to the fold. As for feedback thus far, it comes as no surprise that the community, artists and crew are grateful for a chance to feel a long overdue dose of the limelight.

“The feedback has been incredible; the first production had the crew and the talent doing what they loved again. That energy is hard to describe, but everyone was grateful. Since the launch of THE HUB. I’m getting a lot of messages from musicians and industry professionals letting us know their gratitude.”