Cancellation of Vancouver Folk Fest and a struggling Constellation Festival a double shot for local music fans

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      It’s been a dark day for West Coast music fans, as the Vancouver Folk Music Festival has announced it won’t be returning in 2023, and the upstart Squamish Constellation Festival has declared that it’s also in financial trouble.

      One of the city’s longest-running and most-loved cultural events, the Folk Fest surprised the city this morning with the following statement: 

      “It is with great sadness that we announce that the 2023 Vancouver Folk Music Festival has been cancelled, as the VFMF Society simply does not have the resources to produce an event this year. This has been an extremely difficult and heart-wrenching decision on the part of the Board, and one that reaches beyond this year’s Festival, something that will be addressed at the upcoming AGM on February 1.”

      The Folk Fest, which takes place on jericho Beach, cited a number of factors for the decision on its site, including long-time suppliers going out of business, ever-rising operational costs, and artists and providers increasingly demanding to be paid up front. It added that it was only able to mount last year’s festival thanks to government COVID-19 relief grants. 

      “As our staff set about the work of preparing for the summer of 2023, we have been confronted with the reality that our VFMF Society simply does not have the resources to produce an event this year,” the VFMF site reads. “The costs of the event, the cash-flow requirements, and our very limited budget for staff simply make it impossible. We postponed the decision for as long as we could as we strove to find a solution, but are at a point now where, even if the funding were to appear, we would not have time to pull the event together. 

      “Since we will not be producing a festival this summer, we do not have the capacity to retain our two staff-people and have had to give them notice of lay-off. Having fought for the festival for so long, they appreciate the challenges and are understanding of the decision.”

      Moving forward, the Vancouver Folk Fest suggests that the event might officially be done unless it manages to secure $500,000 up front to cover production costs for a return. 

      In a release this afternoon, the Squamish Constellation Festival Team said that it’s able to relate to the folk VFMF, stating: “For many of the same reasons behind Vancouver Folk Music Festival’s tragic and heartbreaking demise, Squamish Constellation Festival is contemplating the viability of producing its annual event in 2023. Decreased attendance, escalating operational costs, and upfront payments and deposits–without start-up resources after many challenging years–will make it next to impossible to launch the multi-genre, three-day event without a substantial and immediate influx of funds and support.”

      The Constellation Festival emerged as a Sea-to-Sky successor to the Squamish Valley Music Festival in 2019.

      Conceived by a group that included Vancouver music-scene veteran Tamara Stanners (noted for her work and support of local talent at the Peak), the festival was known for its focus on West Coast artists, from icons like Sarah McLachlan to upstarts like Peach Pit and mainstays like the Matinee. 

      Squamish Constellation Festival cofounder Kirsten Andrews is asking for a benefactor to step up, suggesting that without outside intervention there won’t be a 2023 edition. Noting that the fest is “actively seeking investment” she asked that interested parties reach out via email (info@constellationfest.ca) or social media channels.

      “It is going to take lovers of the arts, with an abiding passion for live music and appreciation of the positive impact music festivals have on people’s lives and mental health, to reinvent this industry to some degree and help bridge this post-Covid chasm,” Andrews said. “The Squamish Constellation Festival has never needed an angel more. We have only a number of weeks to determine whether a festival in 2023 is viable. We are looking for investment, for patronage. We need to join forces and bring this vibrant and important industry back to life.”

      Like the Vancouver Folk Music Festival, Constellation managed to make a post-pandemic return thanks in part to FACTOR, Creative BC, and the Province of British Columbia’s Fairs, Festivals and Events Recovery Fund.

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