Tickets go on sale next week for the Vancouver Folk Music Festival; here’s how it’s going

Tickets for the Vancouver Folk Music Festival go on sale next week, at which point the board will also announce the first details of its 2023 lineup.

The festival will be similar to the 2022 event, with a main stage, three workshop stages, one less gate and no backstage kitchen, according to board president Erin Mullan.

One of the board members is serving as its volunteer artistic director and collaborating with ADs from other festivals, she said.

The festival is going ahead this year, thanks to an 11th-hour funding announcement from the British Columbia government, and the new board – with a couple of substitutions since the March 1 annual general meeting – is meeting multiple times a week to put systems in place to make the festival sustainable long-term.

“We’re saying to the community, ‘Okay. You have said you want the festival…This is the year for you to step up, to buy tickets, to volunteer, to become a member, to donate to the festival, become a sustaining donor.’”

In January, the previous board of directors announced it was canceling the festival and moving to dissolve the society, saying that COVID-19-related changes to the event landscape had raised costs to such an extent that it would need an extra half million dollars up front each year to cover the production costs.

“We’re saying to the community, ‘Okay. You have said you want the festival…This is the year for you to step up, to buy tickets, to volunteer, to become a member, to donate to the festival, become a sustaining donor.’”

Some of the festival’s fans organized to defeat the board’s motion, and it agreed to withdraw it and postpone the AGM while it investigated options for saving the festival.

The possible death of the event helped provoke the province to announce $30 million in new festival funding in February, Erin said.

“The festival community had been talking to government about their struggles,” she said. “But I think that the Vancouver Folk Festival hit home for the government and for a lot of people. You know, [a] 45 year history.”

Former board president Mark Zuberbuhler had been among those lobbying the tourism minister to help out with funding, she added.

The March 1 AGM elected seven new board members to join Mark, Erin, Fil Hemming, Tess Kitchen and Trina Plamondon, whose terms were not yet up for renewal.

Some of the new directors were endorsed by the previous board, while others were endorsed by FolxVoteNo, an ad hoc group aimed at defeating the motion to dissolve.

Kris Klassen subsequently had to resign due to personal reasons, Erin said. He was replaced by Jeff Finger, who had tied for seventh place during the board election and voluntarily stepped aside.

Trina Plamondon also had to step down and was replaced by previous board member Yee Chan, who had narrowly missed being re-elected.

“It’s a combination of the old board and the new board,” Erin said. “And we’re working really well together and working really hard because we have to.”

The board has applied for funding to hire a fundraiser, and it continues to review its sponsorship policy, but Erin said she doesn’t anticipate attracting sponsors that present a serious ethical conundrum for the festival’s progressive base.

Some suppliers already backing down on cash-up-front demand

“They’re not going to be interested in us,” she said. “We’re going to get, like, the yoga pant people. That’d be nice.”

The board is not in a position to hire an executive director, right now, but it will work with a number of sub contractors for services such as artist liaison, media relations, site management and production, Erin said.

Their site manager has already been negotiating with suppliers of fencing and other costly infrastructure items, and some have been willing to forego upfront payment for services after signaling last year that they would insist on it going forward.

The board has become like a second full-time job, Erin said, as members work to save the festival, not just for this year, but going forward.

Members of the previous board are working well with the FolxVoteNo slate, she added, despite an acrimonious campaign by the latter to defeat the former.

“It cost us some good people,” she said of the sometimes personal attacks on the board members’ loyalty and dedication to the festival.

“However, some of us have thicker skins. … Personally, speaking purely for me and not for the board and not for the festival, I really wish they had focused their anger on the financial situation, the lack of funding, the inflation, instead of the volunteer board who were busting their butts doing the very best they could.”

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