Shaw Festival

Photo by Andree Lanthier

As a not-for-profit enterprise the Shaw Festival has a significant impact on the local economy, arts and culture scene, and creative community.

The Shaw Festival honours and celebrates the work of George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) - a man who was passionately committed to the cause of social justice and to the importance of theatre as a means of promoting such causes through humour and reason. Using the work of Shaw as their inspiration, The Shaw Festival produces thought-provoking plays by not only Shaw himself, but also his contemporaries (1856-1950) and playwrights writing anywhere in the world during, or about, the era of Shaw’s lifetime and in the spirit of Bernard Shaw, offering a diverse, relevant mix of theatre for audiences of all ages. The Shaw Festival was started in 1962 by Niagara-area lawyer and playwright Brian Doherty.  In its first decade, the Shaw Festival enjoyed explosive audience growth, and the company toured extensively in the United States and Canada. Then on June 20, 1973, in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, the Festival Theatre was officially opened by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. This beautiful new building enabled the Shaw Festival to mount large-scale productions which drew national and international acclaim.

One of the most celebrated theatre companies in Canada, The Shaw now works in four theatres: Festival Theatre (the largest at 869 seats), followed by the Royal George Theatre, Court House Theatre and the Studio Theatre. The Shaw Festival is a non-profit charitable organization as opposed to a commercial theatre, and produces 10 to 12 plays each season, with approximately 800 performances in four theatres, to audiences totaling about 250,000 people.
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An Economic Powerhouse for Niagara and Ontario
The Shaw Festival contributes not only to the local regional economy, but also to the provincial economy. A study conducted by Enigma Research Corporation has concluded that the annual Niagara-on-the-Lake-based theatre festival generated $106.6 million for the province of Ontario in 2010.  
“A nine-figure impact is absolutely massive compared to most events or attractions in Canada,” according to Michael Harker, senior partner with Enigma Research. “The Shaw Festival is unique since the vast majority of attendees are from outside the region and more importantly, the event attracts the types of tourists who stay at upscale accommodations, enjoy shopping at boutiques and visit additional attractions in the area before returning home. These factors make the Shaw Festival an economic powerhouse for the region.”

A powerful regional and provincial economic force, The Shaw’s 2010 performance season impacted the health of many area businesses in the Niagara-area tourist destination. The continued draw of the Shaw Festival for both Canadian and American tourists translated into a $106.6 million economic impact for the province of Ontario, confirming that The Shaw continues to be a significant provincial economic driver. The Shaw Festival attracted an estimated 262,000 visitors during its 2010 season; supported the equivalent of 1,107 full-year job equivalents in the Niagara region; and generated $27.2 million in tax revenue at all levels of government. Shaw Festival visitors spent over $42.8 million on regional accommodations, dining, winery visits and other tourism-related experiences.
(Source: Shaw Festival impacts provincial economy to the tune of $106.6M, Shaw Festival Media Release, May 2, 2011,


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