Island music festivals on hold due to COVID-19

Island music festivals on hold due to COVID-19
WatchWith summer just around the corner, dozens of music festivals in B.C. should be getting ready, but COVID-19 has put that all on hold. As worries grow if some will make it through, many have come together. Julian Kolsut reports.  

Summertime is music time in B.C. as dozens of music festivals are supposed to be getting set to kick off across the province.

But that has been put on hold after the province’s top doctor said large gatherings will be prohibited over the summer due to COVID-19.

“Large parades, large mass gatherings where we come together will not be happening this summer,” said Dr. Bonnie Henry on Saturday.

The announcement has devastated Island festivals.

“It’s for the safety and I don’t want to see anybody get sick,” said Andrew Brown, the artistic director for Island Folk Festival.

“We are heartbroken about that, it was a very difficult decision. This would have been our 36th year and we have generations of family who come to the festival.”

The festival is looking at another option like an online celebration, and honouring bookings and tickets at the festival next year.

Sunfest and Laketown Shakedown, which are some of the biggest festivals on the Island, say they are in a holding pattern.

“It’s unprecedented in our industry,” said Mike Hann, Festival Manager from the Laketown Ranch.

“Things are going to change on our end for sure but we are trying to determine exactly what that is going to look like.”

Festivals already operate on thin margins, and some are worried about who will make it to the other side.

“Especially the start-up festivals. It’s just a gamble if you will make it to your second year. One rainy day can ruin a festival,” said Brown.

Artists also rely on festivals for much of their income, and local economies like Lake Cowichan will also take a hit.

“I know all the small businesses downtown and it’s a ghost town down there,” added Brown.

“It’s scary that our little bookstore, our little toy store, this could have real implications for them.”

But with B.C. home to several festivals, from rock to reggae, a group has emerged to support one another through the crisis.

“A few festivals came together to talk, that knew each other, and were like “how are you guys feeling about this” and they started reaching out to other festivals,” said Deb Beaton-Smith, spokesperson for the newly created B.C. Music Festival Collective.

“So the first meeting we had was 75 people on the call with 50 other festivals.”

In the group, members have a space to talk and figure out how to cope

“We came together and said wow we can listen to each other and we can do some lobbying. We’ve reached out to other individuals who are experts in the field and we are bringing them together for these meeting, people that can address certain people’s concerns.”

They hope that the group will help them keep one another going for the 2021 festival season.

The festivals in the collective include:

  • 5X Festival
  • Arts on the Fly
  • ArtsWells Festival Of All Things Art
  • Bella Coola Music Festival
  • Cumberland Wild
  • Electric Love Music Festival
  • Harrison Festival of the Arts
  • Islands Folk Festival
  • Block Rockin Beats
  • Kaslo Jazz Etc Festival
  • Kispiox Valley Music Festival
  • Midsummer Music Festival
  • Mission Folk Music Festival
  • Monashee Music Festival
  • Music on the Mountain-MoM Fest
  • Nelson International Mural Festival
  • NimbleFingers Bluegrass & Old-Time Festival and Workshop
  • Peace Valley Folk Fest
  • Ponderosa Festival
  • Q’emcin 2 RIVERS REMIX
  • Revelstoke Summer Street Fest
  • Rise & Shine FamJam Fundraiser
  • Robson Valley Music Festival
  • Rogue Fest
  • Ryga Arts Festival
  • Shambhala Music Festival
  • Squamish Constellation Festival
  • The Hornby Festival
  • ValhallaFest Arts and Music Festival
  • Victoria Ska & Reggae Festival
  • Wapiti Music Festival
  • Wicked Woods Music and Art Festival
Julian KolsutJulian Kolsut

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