Our History

Justin Lacroix
Justin Lacroix (Photo by Paul Mazurik)

Beginning in March 2013, the Purple Room — located in the heart of the Exchange District — become a creative “home” of source for countless musicians, comedians, dancers, poets, and fans alike. With basically no budget and a dream, slowly but surely Winnipeg’s “Best New Thing” (The Uniter, December 2013) added some touches that made it look and feel like a real venue and theatre, while never losing the rough-around-the-edges charm that made it feel so comfortable. It grew from a space mostly used for rehearsals into a venue hosting some of the best young and established music and comedy acts from Winnipeg (and across the country), along with regular blues dances, art shows, video dance parties, and J.D. Renaud’s 24-hour “Wonderful Christmastime” charity fundraiser of insanity.

During the Purple Room’s 2.5 years in its original home, Frame Arts Warehouse was not only a physical home to this weird creative space, but also a significant part of its identity. The creative energy of a building full of artists most definitely fuelled the artistry on stage. Unfortunately, as the space grew from a largely rehearsal room into a venue booked many nights of the week, it became apparent that certain amenities were just not available within the confines of 318 Ross Ave.

The Next Phase

Shortly before Frame Arts Warehouse closed down in 2015, the Purple Room had begun a process to find a new physical location and establish a new permanent, long-term location. We kicked things off with an Indiegogo fundraising campaign, and after moving everything out of Frame and into storage, spent the next while searching for a perfect location for Purple Room 2.0 and planning for our future.

This period was captured in the short film, The Purple Room is On the Move, from director Ben Stouffer and available via BellMTS On Demand.

That process hit several roadblocks over the following couple years, and eventually the “perfect location” was no longer available.

The search was back on for something permanent, as well as something temporary to fill our needs in the interim. We continued to produce CaRaVaN Open Mic + Open Stage after Frame closed down, moving it to different long-term and one-off venues, and slowly other opportunities came up to put on music and comedy events at places like The Rudolf Rocker, Wee Johnny’s, Frame’s old sister location at 72 Princess, and even the iconic Cube stage at Old Market Square.

Randi Johnson
Randi Johnson at the Cube

During the time from the fall of 2015 to 2019, we saw many restaurants, clubs, cafes, and venues open up, with some of them closing down just as quickly. Our following on social media continued to grow through CaRaVaN, a new music series (Sonic Spotlight), and our involvement in the comedy game show Pants on Fire. We were being asked to be involved with events such as the Manitoba Night Market & Festival at Assiniboia Downs, Open Fest on Portage & Main, and house concerts — and our summer presence at the Cube grew from our first events in 2016 to bringing back Cake ‘n Shake in 2018 as an annual event.

All of these one-off events, as well as working with great existing venues in the city, wouldn’t have been possible had we been focused on building or operating an every-night venue of our own. And it got us thinking…

The Purple Room 2.0

Pants on Fire
Pants on Fire at X-Cues

From the beginning of our search for a new, permanent location for the Purple Room — which began well before Frame shut down, and continued for years afterwards — we referred to the future space as “Purple Room 2.0”. But with the success of our various events over the last couple years, our relationship with various entities (the Exchange District BIZ which operates the Cube, venues like X-Cues Cafe & Lounge, and Assiniboia Downs), and without the stress of needing to fill 7 days a week on a calendar while meeting sales targets, it became apparent that Purple Room 2.0 was already upon us. More than one performer has told us that the Purple Room isn’t really a place, it’s an idea.

Between equipment we originally had in our Frame Arts Warehouse location, and things we’ve slowly acquired over the years since, we have a compact “mobile venue” set-up with professional-level sound and lighting we can bring to indoor and outdoor spaces as needed. We’ve been able to put on events at the Cube from May through September, and we’re incredibly busy with events at Assiniboia Downs all summer long.

The goal for our Purple Room 2.0 initiative was always to try to continue what we were able to do at our old space: bring various areas of the Winnipeg arts community together in a safe and accessible environment that felt like “home”. The fact that we’ve been able to do this without needing a single, permanent, physical home has been an incredible discovery. We hope to be a big part of Winnipeg’s cultural fabric for many, many years to come.