Musicfest Vancouver grapples with debt
Members of the public and the arts community are offering encouragement as MusicFest Vancouver faces financial troubles, a festival spokesperson says.
MusicFest Vancouver has been put on hold for 2013 after festival organizers recently announced they are struggling to deal with mounting debt and a loss of revenue.
“We’ve heard from a lot of people that have said they’re very disappointed and that they’re very hopeful that we’ll be back soon,” said Sarah Sidhu, a board member of the Vancouver Summer Festival Society, which runs MusicFest.
“Honestly, the support we’ve received is tremendous and it was very encouraging for us,” Sidhu told the Straight. “We did get a lot of interest from both the arts community and from the general public, so we’re really hopeful. Now it’s just a matter of rolling up our sleeves and dealing with the hard problems.”
Sidhu said MusicFest experienced ticket sales that were lower than expected and a decrease in financial support from the public and private sectors. The festival, with an annual budget of more than $1.2 million, now has a deficit of around $180,000, she said.
“It came to a point where we had to look really hard and say, ‘Okay, we’re here now. How can we possibly move forward?’ It would be irresponsible to the artists and our creditors and whatnot to continue incurring debt,” Sidhu said. “The whole objective of suspending the festival this year is so we can look at what our options are and come back with a healthy organization.”
Sarah Ballantyne, managing director of Early Music Vancouver, said MusicFest organizers face a big challenge.
“If they want to try and come back, they’ve got a very difficult road ahead with the funding situation these days,” Ballantyne told the Straight. “Once you get out of the loop of funding, it’s going to be very hard to get back in. There’s a lot of artists and presenters waiting in the wings to get funding.
“I don’t want it to come back and just be hobbling,” she said of the festival. “If it were going to come back, I would want it to come back with really strong support from the audience, from the government supporters and corporate supporters, and I would want it to have a really strong mandate on what it is it wants to present to Vancouver.”
Ballantyne said Early Music will be able to continue with its programming for 2013, even though it has presented events in partnership with MusicFest in past years.
Spencer Chandra Herbert, a Vancouver MLA and the New Democrat arts critic, said he was disappointed to learn MusicFest had been suspended.
“I hope that they can find a model that works so that they can get back to putting on incredible concerts and bringing us artists we’d never get a chance to see,” Chandra Herbert told the Straight. “Obviously, when they’re successful, they’re providing good jobs to many people in the community, but giving us all an opportunity to see incredible music.”