Warren group pulls Town Common concerts after criticism

Town council approved concerts 3-2, but two opposed cited residents wrote that they would be 'disrespectful'

By Ted Hayes
Posted 4/16/21

A Warren arts organization has canceled plans to hold monthly summer concerts on the Warren Town Common, saying that although the Warren Town Council gave their approval last week, organizers were …

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Warren group pulls Town Common concerts after criticism

Town council approved concerts 3-2, but two opposed cited residents wrote that they would be 'disrespectful'

Posted

A Warren arts organization has canceled plans to hold monthly summer concerts on the Warren Town Common, saying that although the Warren Town Council gave their approval last week, organizers were unprepared for the backlash their plan received.

Last Tuesday, council members were asked by The  Collaborative and musician Elwood Donnelly to approve four concerts which would be held in the late afternoon hours one Thursday per month, from June to September.

The "intimate" amplified acoustic concerts would be staged on the north side of the common, away from the Warren war and firefighters' memorials. Council president Keri Cronin and councilors Brandt Heckert and Joseph DePasquale all spoke in favor of them, but council vice president John Hanley and councilor Steve Calenda voted against them, bringing the ultimate vote to 3-2 in favor.

Both Mr. Hanley and Mr. Calenda said they'd received letters from residents expressing their concern that the concerts would be disrespectful to Warren's veterans and fire department members.

"It's a memorial," Mr. Hanley said. "It's supposed to be a solemn place. It's not supposed to be bustling with people singing and dancing and doing things like that."

"I'm just wondering if ... another place in town" would be more appropriate, Mr. Calenda asked.

But counclors Cronin, Keckert and DePasquale questioned that disrespect, as did Uriah Donnelly, the president of the Collaborative.

"I guess I'm unclear about in what ways it's disrespectful," he said.

"I have the same question Uriah has," Mr. Heckert added. "It is the town common. It is not the war memorial park. It's always been a common (and) is there for people to get together. I think if (the Collaborative) were doing something that is truly disrespectful, I would oppose it. But I don't get the disrespectul part, I really don't."

Ms. Cronin agreed.

"The purpose of the town common originally was a place for an event of this nature to happen," she said; "to have public meetings, to have public markets, to have entertainment. So it seems perfectly in alignment with what the purpose of what a town common is."

Proponents also wondered rhetorically why there was no public criticism in past instances when the common was used by the public for similar events; one mentioned last autumn's Walkabout, when a pizza maker was set up on the common for several weeks.

The Warren Town Charter includes no official description of what the common's prescribed uses should be, and Warren Town Solicitor Anthony DeSisto said researching the matter would involve going through the town's land evidence records.

In his Thursday, April 15 letter to the town withdrawing the approved concert series, Mr. Donnelly reiterated that point:

"It is our opinion that the Town formally categorizes the Common and its usage so future issues are less likely to arise," he wrote.

"When Elwood Donnelly approached us with this concept, we had no idea it would draw up any resistance whatsoever and, particularly after this week’s Council meeting, we feel what was once a simple plan to bring joy and entertainment to the community is now tainted."

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