In an open letter, Vancouver Folk Music Festival states all options to save the long-running event are being considered
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News on the future of the Vancouver Folk Music Festival (VFMF) is by no means great today, but at least it’s not as bad as it was earlier this month.
A just-released open letter from the VFMF board has suggested there might be a path forward for the event, which was cancelled on January 17 for financial reasons. Due to factors ranging from inflation to vendors and artists demanding to be paid upfront, organizers revealed that it would need somewhere around $500,000 upfront to make a 2023 festival feasible. In its open letter, the board acknowledged that the cancellation of this year’s festival, and uncertainty about the future, has led to an outpouring of support. As a result, the VFMF has began to explore avenues it’s long been opposed to, including corporate sponsorship.
“Since last week’s announcement, several parties have offered possible solutions to fund and support a Festival,” the letter starts. “This is very encouraging and the Board is actively engaging with these parties to see how these possibilities might be turned into reality. At this stage in our discussions, we must keep the details confidential.”
Fans of the Vancouver Folk Music Festival will able to learn more on February 1 at a town hall meeting where fest members-in-good-standing will be given priority access to the venue. Information gathered at the meeting, along with funding options, will then be discussed on March 1 at an AGM at the same location. Details, including venue and capacity, will be announced in the coming days on the festival website.
In the letter, the VFMF board makes it clear that something has to change if the event is to have a future. That reality is spelled out with:
There have been many incredible musical highlights in the 45-year history of the Vancouver Folk Music Festival. Unfortunately, our financial history has seldom reflected the same harmony. In the spirit of transparency, we feel it is important for the community to know and understand that the Vancouver Folk Music Festival Society’s financial situation has long been untenable and this approach to the running of the Festival is unsustainable. In tandem with our tenuous financial situation, there has historically been strong opposition to corporate funding to support the festival. As views began to change on this, it became apparent that we were far behind the curve in building relationships with potential corporate funders in comparison to other festivals. In consultation with our festival counterparts, we know that these relationships take years to build before substantial funding can be secured.
Although we have undertaken many cost-saving measures along with exploring options to increase funding while still upholding the values of the membership and responsibilities to artists, vendors, and suppliers; as a Board, we could not, in good conscience, agree to continue to allow the Festival to run into debt again. We have letters of assurance that all our grants are being held and we are still in good standing with our previous funders. We want to ensure the future of the Vancouver Folk Music Festival, in whatever form it may take, is sustainable and able to operate in the new reality that we face.
All this will likely enrage those long-time supporters who don’t understand why the ghost of Pete Seeger wasn’t headlining the 2019 Vancouver Folk Music Festival. As for everyone else, the fest is promising that it will be listening to, and considering, any an all ideas.
“As we continue to work together as a Board, we want to assure you that we are considering every opportunity that is being brought forward to us,” the letter states. “We are engaged in ongoing meetings and discussions, due in part to your commitment and desire to keep the Festival going. We thank you for this support. We would like nothing more than to keep the Festival alive, vibrant, and financially sustainable for the entire community. We are also dedicated to continuing to listen to you, the Vancouver Folk Music Festival supporters, as we work towards the future."
For more information, including the full letter, go here.