Feature

I’m jealous that Toronto’s getting a ‘Be Kind Festival’

Tragedy Ann are set to play the Be Kind Festival in January. Photo by Alex Lam.

Is it wrong to be jealous of people being kind? 

SPEAK Music announced last week that it’s scheduled the first ever Be Kind Festival in Toronto for Jan. 17-19 at the Tranzac Club – and the line-up is a fabulous cross-section of up-and-coming roots, folk and world acts – with more artists to be announced. So far, the list includes Abigail Lapell, Dave McEathron, The Barrel Boys, BLISK, The Lifers, Tragedy Ann, So Long Seven, Lunar Bloom, and Al Qahwa.

Seriously, all that AND kindness for an early bird price of just 15 bucks?

How do we get festivals like this everywhere??!!

OK, that’s NOT one of the questions I asked festival organizer Bev Kreller,- I guess that’s more a question for you … and maybe me – but Bev and I did chat by email about how she conceived of the festival and how she envisions it.

RMC: Obvious first question:  what’s the inspiration behind this?  I mean, lots of people are feeling that the world needs more kindness, but what was the moment of truth or the tipping point for you that actually made you decide you needed to do something about it?

Bev:  There was no actual tipping point, but currently, too many peoples’ behaviour seems so much more divided, broken, and cruel than it ever has been before. In my own experience, I’ve struggled with a series of increasingly vicious and greedy corporate landlords, toxic masculinity in the music industry and elsewhere, the lowering of standards among human beings, and the jealous back-stabbing of people who form their silent opinions without ever having walked a mile in my shoes. Par for the course these days, but I don’t want this to be the norm. It may sound idealistic, but I wanted to take direct action to firmly counterbalance this by inviting more kindness into my own environment, and hopefully into the world at large. Since starting work on the festival, there’s already been a concrete result in my own life. I’ve noted that I’m actually stopping myself, much more than I usually do, before saying or doing anything that might be unkind.

RMC:  The festival is a benefit for charity, but are there other ways that the kindness theme will manifest itself through the event?

Bev:  With the SPEAK Music Be Kind Festival, we’re making every effort to ensure that every person in the process is coming from a kind place. From the musicians to the songs they sing to the sound people and their interactions – even in a difficult or tense tech setup – to our volunteers and MCs to the sponsors and partners, we’re trying to make it so that we’re all sharing the common goal of mutual love and respect. And that also includes a safe space for all. We’re planning to provide unique reminders and keepsakes at the beginning of every set and throughout the event for all those in attendance to be kind to each other. Already the enthusiasm and very kind support with which the festival has been received has been surprisingly powerful and encouraging.   

RMC:  Have you ever organized anything like this before?

Bev: Not quite like this. I’ve promoted big events at clubs like Hugh’s Room Live and the Tranzac in Toronto. That said, I co-presented the Toronto City Roots festival from 2007-2010 and as well, I’ve been the artistic director, booker, fundraising event organizer, publicist, and performer for the Winterfolk Blues and Roots Festival for the past 12 years. I learned a lot of what works and what doesn’t through those experiences.

RMC:  Why January?

Bev: The holiday season seems to be the time when kindness really comes into play, when people are doing their best to remember what the real meaning of Christmas is. We wanted to extend that warm feeling into the New Year, and hopefully have folks acknowledge and continue it beyond that. Plus, there’s not a lot happening YET in January. There’s so much going on in the city all through the year, it was difficult to find a time when there wasn’t any competition for audiences… though we’ve already had a few conversations to explain our choice of timing to other organizers who have events scheduled simultaneously.

 

RMC: $15 is a very kind early bird ticket price.  Tell me about the thinking behind that.

Bev: Well, we want to be kind, of course, but also we really want as many people as possible to join us for this inaugural edition of the festival. Folks will be buying presents, and we hope to take advantage of the time of year, in the hope that music lovers will use this opportunity to give something special to their loved ones for an extremely reasonable price. Plus, they’re taking a chance on a new festival, and we want to give them a chance to see how great it is!

RMC:  Why did you choose the Unison Benevolent Fund as your beneficiary this year?

Bev: The Unison Benevolent Fund provides counselling and emergency relief services to the Canadian music community. This is more important now than ever. With venues in the cities dwindling, getting paid for music is more difficult than ever, and album sales are quickly becoming a thing of the past. Artists don’t have pensions they can rely on when in need in their old age. This charity is so necessary, in my opinion. I’ve seen so many artists suffer and with nowhere to turn, sometimes losing everything.  

RMC: What kind of response have you had to this project so far?

Bev:  It’s been awesome! I’m overjoyed and overwhelmed with the positive feedback, and with the excited responses of artists who really want to perform at the fest. I’m truly blessed to know so many very kind and extremely talented artists. Within our first couple of hours after launching, we already had our first media coverage online, and many offers to do so … Roots Music Canada being the first to respond. Thank you for this wonderful opportunity, Gordy. ;))

RMC:  Anything else you want to add?

Bev:  Ha ha! I’d like to say, “Grab those early bird wristbands! Be kind and buy some for all of your friends!”

Seriously though, I think people of all ages are going to be thrilled to bits by the artists we’ve lined up. To be clear, we’re not planning to have only folk, roots, and blues. I promise it’ll be a tasteful mix of genres. Something for everyone. Except maybe metalheads… though I should never say never… there are some very kind metal musicians in the world. 🙂

 

 

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