New keeper in the comfortable old house

Bobbie Blue is waist deep in preparation for her first go-round as the director of the Islands Folk Festival. -
Bobbie Blue is waist deep in preparation for her first go-round as the director of the Islands Folk Festival.
— image credit:

The phone rang at Bobbi Blue’s place on Jan. 1 at 11 a.m.

That timely call changed her life, and coaxed Cowichan’s 30th-annual Islands Folk Festival into reality under Bobbi’s watch as Cowichan Folk Guild’s new artistic director.

“A folk-guild board member said, ‘We’ve decided to hire you’ and I started booking acts.”

About 30 have been hired so far for the valley’s annual lawn party for 3,000 at pastoral Providence Farm, July 18 to 20.

Bobbi, fresh to Cowichan from Campbell River, knew she was several months behind in planning IFF30’s many details to please festival faithful, and newcomers.

But after decades of running other events — including up-island’s famed Filberg Festival — she hit the ground running with headlining friends such as Spirit Of The West, and Murray McLauchlan.

Bobbi found it ironic she’d visited IFF about 18 times, and knew many folk guild members, but never took note of the festival’s groundwork.

“I’ve never volunteered here, or paid any attention to the organization before; I also attended folk-guild coffeehouses. “Think of the homework I could have done over the years!”

So she talked to former CFG artistic directors Robert McCourty and Brent Hutchinson.

Bobbi also got tips from board members about making the 30th-annual festival a real pearl of a party.

“I know how to do the job,” she said of fielding other events, “but not this specific festival.

“This festival works and everyone likes it, so why fool around with it?”

Besides, most volunteers have helped all 30 years. McCourty and ex-CFG boss Bill Levity had also booked some acts.

Bobbi also gained a list of IFF’s founding members invited to play: Deb Maike; Mike Ballantyne (and the Hokum Steamers); Al Eskelson; Paul Ruszel (and trio); and Jenny Allen.

They’ll offer tunes and tales of festivals since 1985 at a special 30th-Anniversary Workshop.

That yarn session joins a whack of workshops during the bucolic bash featuring a beverage garden, performing MCs, water, shuttle transportation, recycling, camping (sites open at 1 p.m. July 18 to respect the farm’s programs), kids’ Sparkle Zone, a menu of food and retail vendors, no pets or fires, security, first-aid, bathrooms, dependably good weather, and a half-dozen stages under Mount Tzouhalem’s gaze.

The annual Islands Songwriting Competition winner will also be declared.

Despite some cool surprises, the festival hasn’t really changed, but improved, Bobbi signaled.

“It’s gotten to be a comfortable old house.”

House-band members this year also include Tim Williams, David Essig, David Gogo, Alpha Yaya Diallo, Tannis Slimmon, Chris Chandler and Paul Benoit, Daniel Lapp, Dave Harris, Incendio, Gary Comeau and Cannery Row, Jake Galbraith, Locarno, Andrews & Lawrence, Mark Stuart, The Kerplunks, and Uncle Wiggly’s Hot Shoes Blues Band (with sax maniac Hutchinson).

Bobbi was proud IFF30 ticket prices costing basically the same as last year’s, but making the folk guild enough dough to stage IFF 2015.

Despite her stellar roster — helped by CUPE, sponsors, and some government-grants — Bobbi was already writing a wish list of acts she wants to hire during her three-year folk-guild contract.

“There’s always a budget with only so many slots, so you try and get it next year.

“Brent Hutchinson told me there’s a three-year cycle to make it all happen.”


Your ticket

What: 30th Islands Folk Festival

When: July 18 to 20

Where: Providence Farm, Tzouhalem Road, Duncan

Tickets: Click here, or visit any island Thrifty Foods store, or call 250-748-3975.

We encourage an open exchange of ideas on this story's topic, but we ask you to follow our guidelines for respecting community standards. Personal attacks, inappropriate language, and off-topic comments may be removed, and comment privileges revoked, per our Terms of Use. Please see our FAQ if you have questions or concerns about using Facebook to comment.