This year's Vancouver Folk Music Festival cancelled amid uncertain future

Jan 17 2023, 11:18 pm

One of the city’s most popular summer events has cancelled its 2023 festival, and organizers say that it may be done for good.

Vancouver Folk Music Festival (VFMF) announced on its website and social media today that it will not be producing the fest this year due to financial “challenges.”

“After two years of COVID-related shut-downs, we came back in 2022 to find the festival environment greatly changed,” said Mark Zuberbuhler, the VFMF’s Board President, in a release. “Many of our service providers and suppliers had completely disappeared which necessitated herculean efforts and massively increased costs just to cover the basics of production, like stage, fencing, and tents.

“We had a great festival, but we did not break even.”

VFMF Society is a registered charity renowned for celebrating folk and roots music from around the world. Its first festival was held in 1978 at Stanley Park.

Due to rising costs that festival organizers say are the “new normal” moving forward, VFMF would require an estimated additional $500,000 upfront every year.

Vancouver Folk Music Festival/Eric Scott

Because of these “difficult realities,” the VFMF Board is asking the members to approve a resolution to dissolve the Society at its upcoming AGM on February 1.

“We have determined that there is not enough grant or sponsorship funding available to support this budget increase, nor could our community sustain the increase in ticket prices that would be necessary to close the gap,” VFMF shared in a special announcement.

VFMF Board Vice President Philip (FiL) Hemming added that it was a difficult and emotional decision for board members to recommend that the festival end.

Vancouver Folk Music Festival

“The Vancouver Folk Fest has been a part of the fabric of the City for decades,” Hemming said in a statement. “We looked for ways to continue, but in the end, none of the available options worked.

“It’s been an incredible 45 years and we wish to conclude well with our bills paid. We are extremely grateful to our audience, funders, volunteers and staff who have made the festival happen through the years.”

Squamish Constellation Festival (SCF), BC’s largest zero-waste fest in the heart of the Sea to Sky Corridor, also announced today that it faces similar challenges to VFMF. It is seeking investment of a “substantial and immediate influx of funds and support” in order to produce its 2023 event.

Squamish Constellation Festival

Dave Humphries (Squamish Constellation Festival/Submitted)

“It is going to take lovers of the arts, with an abiding passion for live music and appreciation of the positive impact music festivals have on people’s lives and mental health, to reinvent this industry to some degree and help bridge this post-Covid chasm,” said Kirsten Andrews, co-founder of Squamish Constellation Festival, in a release.

“The Squamish Constellation Festival has never needed an angel more. We have only a number of weeks to determine whether a festival in 2023 is viable. We are looking for investment, for patronage. We need to join forces and bring this vibrant and important industry back to life.”

Daniel ChaiDaniel Chai

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