Vancouver Folk Music Festival | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Vancouver Folk Music Festival

Vancouver Folk Music Festival.

Vancouver Folk Music Festival

Vancouver Folk Music Festival. It was founded in 1978 by Mitch Podolak and Colin Gorrie of the Winnipeg Folk Festival, Ernie Fladell and Fran Fitzgibbon of Vancouver's social planning department through its Heritage Festival Society, and Gary Cristall, who co-ordinated the first festival, 11 to 13 Aug 1978, in Stanley Park. In its second year, the festival was relocated to Jericho Beach Park, and rescheduled to the third weekend of July. Sponsored by the city in 1978 and 1979, the festival came under the control of the newly-established, non-profit Vancouver Folk Music Festival Society late in 1979, with Cristall continuing as co-ordinator and artistic director. By the early 1980s, the festival presented 60 to 70 acts each year in a multi-stage format of daytime workshops and evening concerts. It has avoided the promotion of star performers but attendance has averaged about 30,000 annually, making this one of Canada's most successful folk festivals.

Under Cristall's hand, it has developed the strongest international character of Canada's folk festivals, serving as a forum for the folk cultures of Europe, Asia, Africa, and Latin America, as well as for traditional and contemporary North American folk and pop music. Several specific themes are programmed each year - eg, in 1991, contemporary folk music from Czechoslovakia, Native North American songwriters, contemporary and traditional music from Thailand, young traditional instrumentalists in the United Kingdom, and Afro-Caribbean music from Jamaica, Haiti and the Atlantic coast of Nicaragua. The festival's place on the Pacific Rim has been reflected by the strong presence in its programming of Asian and Asian-Canadian performers. Furthermore, it was the first festival in Canada to acknowledge feminist music as a distinct, contemporary folk genre (in 1980; see Feminist Music) and has offered many other concert series with a decided socio-political focus.

The festival has maintained a year-round schedule of 30 to 40 concerts at the Vancouver East Cultural Centre and other venues. It established its own record label, Aural Tradition, in 1980 and subsequently developed a distribution company, Festival Records, which has handled Aural Tradition among 200 other labels from around the world. Aural Tradition had issued more than 25 LPs or CDs and cassettes by 1991, including albums by Diana Braithwaite, Stephen Fearing, Marie-Lynn Hammond, Connie Kaldor and Bim (Roy Forbes), Anne Lederman, Faith Nolan, the Polka Dogs, Uzume Taiko, and Takeo Yamashiro, as well as by artists from the USA, Latin America, the Philippines, and China.