Public Dreams to stop hosting Illuminares festival, faces uncertain future

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      Faced with financial problems, the nonprofit group behind Vancouver’s Illuminares and Parade of Lost Souls festivals is planning to curtail its operations.

      Public Dreams has announced it will cease producing the outdoor Illuminares Lantern Festival after hosting a scaled-down, 25th-anniversary edition on Saturday (July 20).

      After that, the group may take further cost-cutting measures such as reducing its three-person staff or stepping back from holding other events, artistic director Matthew Bissett said.

      “We are very well supported by governments. We get all sorts of grants and public money. It’s actually just been an issue of a creeping deficit over the last five or six years as the financial situation changed and lot of the private-sector money we used to get on contracts we weren’t getting anymore,” he told the Straight.

      Bissett said Public Dreams has accumulated a debt load of $50,000 “which we’re not able to sustain.” The group has an annual budget of around $375,000.

      “Basically it looks like the only way Public Dreams is going to continue is that after Illuminares we’re going to need to hibernate, essentially,” he said. “We’re going to need to sort of pull everything in and figure out if and how we can move forward. You know, spend as little money as possible and see if we can stabilize our financial position.”

      Bissett also said plans to hold the Parade of Lost Souls Festival in the fall are “uncertain”. He said Public Dreams hopes to find community groups willing to keep the two popular festivals alive.

      Bissett, who joined Public Dreams in February, did not rule out possibly shutting down the nearly 30-year-old organization. He said: “It is very possible that we may have to wrap up. I’m not going to kid you there.”

      However, he expressed optimism that Public Dreams can find a way to continue. In the future, he said, the group may instead focus on smaller-scale projects with a larger event every year or two.

      “The potential is vast for Public Dreams. It’s just unfortunate a number of circumstances have brought us to here,” he said. “But I think if we can get out the other side there are marvellous things we can do in this company.”

      The Illuminares Lantern Festival takes place at John Hendry Park in East Vancouver on Saturday from 6 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.




      Jul 16, 2013 at 2:45pm

      arts and culture are dying off one GIANT step at a time. i predict that in five years, Vancouver will be nothing but skyscrapers and Donnelly bars. work, drink, shop, repeat.

      captain hindsight

      Jul 16, 2013 at 10:12pm

      too late, your prediction is already a reality.
      musicians and artists are leaving in droves. plastic people rule.
      nice city for tourists and people from elsewhere to stop by for a while before discovering vancouver is a sham.

      thank you greedy real estate tycoons, crooked city councillors and foreign investors for unclogging your bowels on this city.


      Jul 17, 2013 at 11:21am

      Can't the City of Vancouver take it over? We need more cultural events like this!


      Jul 17, 2013 at 6:01pm

      Why not do a kickstarter, or something similar? With the reach you guys have, I can see that helping a lot.


      Jul 18, 2013 at 7:59am

      As a former employee of PD, I can say that this org has been well-supported by fans AND funds over the years, but it has been mismanaged into the ground, so it has no one to blame for its extinction but itself. (The first two commenters have missed the mark entirely in this case.)

      Martin Dunphy

      Jul 18, 2013 at 12:06pm


      Can you please give me a call at 604-730-7045 and leave a message or email
      Your anonymity will be preserved.