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Vancouver Folk Music Festival delays dissolution vote while board considers new offers of help

Golosa-La-Orquesta. Photo by Reid Jamieson and Carolyn Mill.

The Vancouver Folk Music Festival board of directors has rescheduled the society’s annual general meeting for March 1 while it considers proposals to save the financially beleaguered festival.

Earlier this month, it announced that the 2023 event would not go ahead this year, and it would put forth a resolution at its AGM, then scheduled for Feb. 1, to dissolve the society.

Since then, a number of current and former members of the festival have rallied to try and encourage members to vote down the motion.

“Since last week’s announcement, several parties have offered possible solutions to fund and support a festival,” the board said in a written statement posted on the festival’s website.

“This is very encouraging, and the board is actively engaging with these parties to see how these possibilities might be turned into reality.”

The board has now replaced the Feb. 1 event with a townhall at which members will be invited to ask questions.

Board members said earlier this month that the festival would need an extra half million dollars up front each year in order to produce the festival, in part because suppliers were now asking for payment up front.

What’s more, some suppliers went out of business during the pandemic and others were unable to continue to supply the festival.

Costs skyrocketed.

While other folk festivals have professionalized their operations over the years, squirrelling away reserve funds, developing additional revenue streams, and pursuing corporate sponsorship – an admittedly uneasy marriage for a folk fest, as Geoff Berner demonstrated when he famously skewered Volkswagen for its Nazi connections during a Winnipeg Folk Festival performance – the Vancouver festival has, for better or for worse, had a longstanding reputation for placing ideological purity ahead of financial sustainability.

It has resisted corporate sponsorship and, until recently, rebuffed suggestions of an onsite beer garden.

“It is important for the community to know and understand that the Vancouver Folk Music Festival Society’s financial situation has long been untenable, and this approach to the running of the festival is unsustainable,” the board wrote on the website.

“In tandem with our tenuous financial situation, there has historically been strong opposition to corporate funding to support the festival. As views began to change on this, it became apparent that we were far behind the curve in building relationships with potential corporate funders in comparison to other festivals. In consultation with our festival counterparts, we know that these relationships take years to build before substantial funding can be secured.”

The board said it is “considering every opportunity that is being brought forward to us. We are engaged in ongoing meetings and discussions, due in part to your commitment and desire to keep the festival going. We thank you for this support. We would like nothing more than to keep the festival alive, vibrant, and financially sustainable for the entire community.”





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