(This story is sponsored by the Harrison Festival of the Arts)
The setting for the Harrison Festival of the Arts serves as an important reminder that there are rewards for going local, especially when you live in super-natural British Columbia. You want idyllic? That would be having one of the most gorgeous pieces of waterfront in the province—majestic Harrison Lake—serving as the backdrop for 10 days of world-class music, film, theatre, and art.
There’s a reason the town of Harrison Hot Springs has long been a favourite escape of Greater Vancouverites, and it starts with the breathtaking scenery.
But while the Harrison Festival of the Arts is proudly local, right down to its artisan market and workshops, there’s long been something global about its programming, especially where the music is concerned. For almost all of its nearly half-century run the festival has spotlighted artists not only from BC, but also across Canada and the world. It’s the place where you’re as likely to be thrilled by legendary Vancouver mixmasters Delhi 2 Dublin as by African ngoni master Bassekou Kouyat. That tradition of building bridges through the power of music continues this year as the Harrison Festival of the Arts celebrates its 44th year from July 7 to 16.
The artists performing at this year’s festival fall under genres ranging from African, Asian, and Celtic to Latin, European, and North American blues. Performances—a mix of free and ticketed events—take place on both the outdoor Beach stage and the indoor Harrison Memorial Hall.
On the world-music front, watch Montreal’s Kizaba fuse traditional Afro-Congolese music with club-ready electro beats, Timba Cartel channel the magic of tropical mambo and son, and Namgar infuse the traditional music of Buryat and Mongolia with jazz and pop. And that’s just a starting sampler—over the course of its run the Harrison Festival of the Arts will offer everything from Chicano genre-jumpers Las Cafeteras to Italian folk explorers Kalàscima to Irish-American traditionalists the Seamus Egan Project.
Add to that adrenalin-jacked old-country folk (Polky, Balkan Shmalken), dance-floor detonating funk (Soul Motivators), and traditional roots music (James Keelaghan, Joe Craven), and the Harrison Festival of the Arts literally has something for everyone, especially the musically open-minded.
A strong roster of Indigenous artists includes Juno Award-winning powerhouse Celeigh Cardinal, modern roots revisionist Amanda Rheaume, Métis folk fiddler Alex Kusturok, and Indigifunk soul stalwarts Curtis Clear Sky and the Constellationz. The festival’s strong roster of local artists only starts with critically adored Ruby Singh and the Future Ancestors, with Canadian standouts including rising blues star Angelique Francis.
The Harrison Festival of the Arts’ adventurous streak doesn’t stop with the musical offerings. In addition to eight full-length concerts at Harrison Memorial Hall, there are also evenings dedicated to film, poetry, and theatre.
Billed as a perfect distillation of Carol Burnett, the Boswell Sisters, and The Muppet Show, the vaudeville-inspired Myrtle Sisters sing, dance, and create general mayhem on July 11.
The debut film from celebrated Roots drummer Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised) screens on July 7. Featuring performances by Stevie Wonder, Nina Simone, Sly & the Family Stone, Gladys Knight & the Pips, the documentary takes a look back at 1969’s largely forgotten (until-now) The Harlem Cultural Festival, framing it through the lens of the Black experience in America.
Headlining the Literary Café on July 10 as part of a partnership with the Vancouver Poetry House will be thought-provoking spoken-word artists Johnny D Trinh, RC Weslowski, and Tawahum Bige.
For art of a different kind at the festival, the Ranger Station Art Gallery will have Sylvie Roussel-Janssens trying to make sense of a world under environmental siege with Mend, a project that incorporates plastic waste materials gathered in the Fraser River during the pandemic. Outside the gallery Alyssa Schwan “draws' on the landscape with string, her work looking at the connections between art and ecology.
Those looking to create their own artworks will be able to join by-donation workshops providing guidance in mastering everything from Indigenous drum making and ukulele playing to brushing up on your square-dancing skills. Yes, barn dances are still a thing.
One of the most-loved parts of any Harrison Festival of the Arts is its juried beachside Artisan Market, items for sale ranging from handmade pottery and woodwork to jewellery and clothing. Watch for the tents July 8, 9, 14, 15, and 16, with free admission.
Got kids? Children’s Day is July 12 with the $6 entrance fee getting you live performances from Will’s Jams and Al Qahwa, a Vancouver Puppet Theatre show, as well as a climbing wall, arts and crafts stations, and a kids’ play zone.
The best part of the Harrison Festival of the Arts? That would be how it somehow seems global in its thinking, yet small-town in its charm and overall vibe. And then, of course, there’s that beyond-beautiful setting, the brilliant thing being you don’t have to go far to be part of the magic.
For full information on the Harrison Festival of the Arts, including tickets and showtimes, go here.