B.C. government announces $30M recovery grant to support festivals and events

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      The provincial government has announced it will offer $30 million in one-time grants to help support local events.

      “The past three years have been incredibly difficult for people in the tourism industry, including live events, and we know not every business has fully recovered,” Lana Popham, Minister of Tourism, Arts, Culture and Sport, said in a statement.

      “Our government is proud to provide funding to support fairs, festivals, and events throughout B.C. as they re-establish themselves. We know that these types of gatherings fill British Columbians’ hearts with joy. We also know that in many cases they support a greater economy right across the province.”

      According to the BC government, grant amounts will be as much as 20% of the total event budget, to a maximum of $250,000—though it may offer higher than 20% of event budgets depending on the number of applications received. Eligible events include arts and culture events, community celebrations, agricultural fairs, and sporting events. Some of the eligible expenses include operational costs, health-and-safety measures, venue rental, marketing, and wages.

      The government described the grant—which is a continuation of the B.C. Fairs, Festivals and Events (BCFFE) fund launched in 2021 to support the return of events during the pandemic—as a response to calls for more help from the sector. The Canadian Live Music Association submitted a letter in September 2022 requesting the fund’s renewal in B.C. 

      Earlier this year, the Vancouver Folk Music Festival (VFMF) announced that it would cancel its annual summer event this year, and perhaps cancel the festival altogether indefinitely. In an interview with the Straight, VFMF president Mark Zuberbuhler explained how rising production costs and a lack of resources that contributed to an unsustainable post-pandemic event landscape were the main reasons for the cancellation. 

      “There's two significant things that happened,” Zuberbuhler said. “One was the absolutely astronomical increase in costs, about 40 to 50 per cent, and that was not anticipated. And the other issue that came up is the suppliers demanding to be paid upfront before the festival, and we just do not have the cash to do that. A lot of our money comes after the festival ticket revenue and that comes in July—it doesn't come in May or April when you're booking a stage.”

      In response to the new grant, Zuberbuhler said in a statement: “This funding is an exciting announcement for the sector. Music audiences and festival partners have all asked for help to save their events. We can all use a helping hand right now, so this funding will go a long way to keep events happening over the next two summers.”

      Events between April 1, 2023, and December 31, 2024, are eligible for funding. Applications for the grant will be accepted until March 3, 2023.