Edwards, the founder and former artistic director of the festival, is currently in Europe, but after reading the Mission Record article (posted online in mid-April), he felt the need to contact the paper.
In an email to The Record, Edwards said Hawes’ comment that the folk festival used to receive approximately $15,000 a year in grants from the city in not accurate.
“In the 28-year history of the festival, it has never received $15,000 from the city,” Edwards said in the email.
“In 1997, the society that runs the festival – at that time called the Missionfest Music Society – received a one-time grant of $15,000 from the district, but not for the festival. The funds were used primarily to present the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra in an outdoor concert at the Fraser River Heritage Park and for the society’s Classical Music series that ran during the year.”
Edwards went on to clarify that less than $5,000 of that grant went to the folk festival
The former artistic director also objected to Hawes’ comment that Edwards was “a paid employee of the society and it wasn’t a small amount of money that he was receiving.”
Edwards believes the mayor’s comment “infers the amount was excessive,” which he said it is not.
The top wage Edwards earned during his 28 years with the festival was $38,000 for a one-year contract, which he said is below the national and provincial average for this kind of position. He cited the National Compensation Study (Deloitte & Touche, March 2009) which concluded the average wage of an executive/artistic director in the arts in Canada is $51,641 (for organizations with a budget exceeding $250,000 but less than $1 million).
Edwards said the artistic director of the Vancouver Folk Music Festival receives between $60,000 and $65,000 a year and at the Harrison Festival, the duties of the executive/artistic director is spread between two positions at a cost of nearly $90,000.
Edwards also explained that the festival society is a registered Canadian charity, dedicated to the promotion of the musical arts. There are no shares, no profits to be distributed and it is not a commercial venture.
“As with any non-profit group, it hires staff to run programs and pays for goods and services needed to deliver the programs.”
When asked about the claim of $15,000 in funding, John Vissers, chair of the Mission Folk Music Festival Society, said he personally was unaware of any funding at that level from the district.
“What we know is that, in terms of money from the district, I don’t have any information anywhere that we got anything more than $5,000,” said Vissers.
He added that $5,000 would be given to the Mission Heritage Association for use of the park.
He said if, in fact, the festival received more money than the $5,000 from the district, it would have to have been “a long time ago” and a “temporary arrangement” but he could find no record of it.
As for Edwards’ wage, Vissers said he knows there are many years when Edwards was paid less than $37,000.
“I also know there were many years when the festival would have been cancelled without his personal sacrifices.”
Vissers said when it comes to music festivals, “There isn’t a lot of money out there.”