From board chair Lodi Kieken to artistic director Peter North and festival director David Gonella, the word is “turnaround.”
This was the term all three used to describe the state of affairs at the Salmon Arm Folk Music Society’s Jan. 20 AGM.
Chair Lodi Kieken said several folks at last year’s festival offered comments along the lines of “we’re back.” He thanked North, Gonella and office manager Cindy Diotte for their hard work.
BDO Canada’s Angie Spencer provided an unaudited statement of operations, calling this year’s $30,074 loss remarkable compared to the $127,871 loss in 2014.
Spencer also reported that grants, donations and memberships were down slightly but in-kind contributions were up from $159,659 in 2014 to a whopping $223,136 in 2015 – a significant factor in the lower overall loss.
In his report to the board, North said 2015 proved to be a “light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel” year for the festival in terms of his role and the vision for the festival.
He said he felt it was necessary to revisit the mandate of the festival when it was first born.
“The decision was made to go back to the template of the folk festivals that started in Winnipeg so many years ago,” he said, noting Shuswap festival’s roots and blues banner covers a big slice of musical territory.
“My feeling as artistic director was that if we are indeed a roots and blues festival, that is what our event should reflect, so any thought of drawing pop and hard rock music acts into the mix was dispensed with in 2015.”
North says the mix of the 2015 festival was of a much broader scope as “it incorporated more world sounds that included representation of West African, Afro-Cuban, Celtic, traditional and funk, along with singer-songwriters, a variety of blues styles and traditional country.”
Another goal was to contract artists who were “all in” for the festival and not using the event as a quick pit stop for one-off concerts.
“Artists like John Oates were on site all weekend, posting multiple positive statements about Roots and Blues, while Cyril Neville could be seen wandering the site interacting with longtime fans and catching shows from other artists,” he said. “Marty Stuart did likewise, spending extended periods in the merch tent and the food court chatting up fans and signing autographs and having his picture taken with our patrons.”
North attributes that “all in” attitude as being an important component in being able to present workshops where artists wanted to collaborate at a high level, making the experience as memorable and unique as possible for festivalgoers.
Themed workshops such as a barn event that focused on 50 years of the Grateful Dead songbook also worked well, he said.
“The chemistry of the workshops, the themes and titles seemed to work and all the artists were afforded the proper amount of time to deliver their talents to our audience,” he said. “As we entered the fall, it seemed obvious the Canadian dollar was not going to be our friend… I made a point of contracting a number of Canadian acts as quickly as possible.”
And that’s working both ways, as many artists are contacting the festival to express an interest in taking part. The interest extends to enthusiastic volunteers, many of whom have already made a commitment to return to help in 2016.
For information or to buy tickets still at earlybird prices, visit www.rootsandblues.ca.