The Vancouver Folk Music Festival was founded in 1978 as a collaboration between Mitch Podolak, artistic director of the Winnipeg Folk Festival, City of Vancouver Social Planning staff under the leadership of Cultural Planner Ernie Fladell, and Vancouver community organizer Gary Cristall, who would and go on to establish the Festival Society in 1980 and serve for years as the Festival’s artistic director.
Initially held in Stanley Park, the Festival relocated in its second year to Jericho Beach Park, where it has remained ever since. The Festival Society itself eventually expanded into also organizing a series of folk music concerts during each year and founding its own record label, Festival Records.
I remember attending my first folk festival in 1978 in Stanley Park. I have attended every single annual folk festival since — the only exceptions being 2020 and 2021 when the Festival was not held due to COVID risks.
Folk Fest weekends were the highlight of my summers. Two and a half solid days of incredible music, foods that were always new and exciting, and so many many great impromptu conversations with friends and acquaintances.
Most, but not all years were spectacularly sunny. It was my annual escape from reality.
So, what brought about the probable demise of this landmark event?
COVID has had a devastating impact not only on attendance numbers but also on expenses. Most if not all of the Folk Festival’s regular service providers had disappeared during the pandemic, leading to the Festival needing to secure new suppliers and resulting in massive cost increases just to cover production costs.
Festival vendors were also now requiring up-front payments. In previous years, vendors had been willing to wait to be paid until after the event, by which time the Folk Festival Society would have received all of its ticket revenue.
The imminent demise of this incredible gathering makes it clear to me that governments should be investing much, much more in arts and culture. It is becoming harder and harder, and in many cases impossible for cultural events to be financially viable by relying only on ticket sales.
I still hold out hope that the Folk Festival will survive. Perhaps the provincial government will come to the rescue. Alternatively, perhaps a financial institution or corporation will be agreeable to sponsoring the event, as occurs with other large community events such as the annual Celebration of Light.
I’m also encouraged that Gary Cristall and a number of local musicians are speaking out about the importance of the Festival and are pressing for alternative solutions to closing down.
Let’s all keep our fingers crossed that this is not the end of the annual Vancouver Folk Festival.
Daily atmospheric CO2 [Courtesy of CO2.Earth]
Latest daily total (Jan 17, 2023): 419.07ppm
One year ago (Jan 20, 2022): 417.46ppm
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