Music is a part of the festival, not the point of the festival.

So the Peterborough Folk Festival pulled off beautifully; The opening Gala with Ian Tamblyn was perfect, standing-room-only.  The Saturday free festival was somewhat hampered by tamblyn-gala-at-canoe-museumrain in the morning, and I think we had half our usual attendance (I also didn’t realize, I think, how many people come from out of town to PFF) due to the forecast sounding dire and miserable.  But it turned out to be a beautiful day, with people saying ‘best PFF ever.’  And the workshops at Sadleir House were well-attended (better-attended than I anticipated by half) and really, really good.

I am continuing, as I had planned, as Artistic Director, and stepping down as Executive Director.  Partially for continuity, and to be there in a mentoring role to whomever becomes ED, and partially because I really love being involved with the festival, and the things I’ve always dreamed of doing will be possible if I’m freed up in other areas.  Also because I’ve already started booking acts for next year.

Raging Asian Women were the runaway success; they’re  incredible, and wonderful, gracious people who completely get the festival and the spirit of the event and enhanced it by their presence.  Unity were also amazing; I wish the weather had been better before their set, as more people ought to have heard them, but the first song in particular was freakin’ crazy-good. David Newland soldiered on throughout the entire weekend, inspiring and enlightening wherever he went.  David Simard is always a treat to be around, and his music is gorgeous.  Sheesham and Lotus were fabulous evening hosts, and put on a terrific set (as attested by their CD sales, which were through the roof).   Elliott Brood were brilliant, and the perfect end to the evening, and the super-sweetest guys on earth to work with.sheesham-and-lotus

But I’ve been telling people that music is a part of the festival, not the point of the festival, and trying to impress on anyone I talk to about it that the whole point is to work with decent people and create a community spirit that everyone can carry away with them into their real lives.  There are too many good bands out there; I don’t ever need to book assholes, people who are going to be dicks to my sound techs, my volunteers, my hosts, my audience or me.  This is a community festival, not a music festival; this is not one of those horrible, insane events where 20-somethings are herded like cattle into enclosed spaces, charged exorbitant rates for water and food, and sponsors decide and brand every aspect.  This is the sort of festival where you can spread out a blanket on the hill, alone, with friends, or with your family, listen to music you don’t hear every day, soak up some sun and see people in your community out doing the same thing.   The music is what brings people to the park, but what sets our festival apart from anything else in the County is the sense of the broader community.

And when I say ‘community festival,’ I don’t mean that I only book bands who are from the community (which is not the festival’s mandate, and if I did book only local bands I’d lose 1/3 of our funding), but bands that serve the event in some way – by exposing our community to new sounds and ideas, by celebrating diversity, by cracking open doors to musical styles and genres that you don’t otherwise hear, by presenting music you’d never listen to on your own in a setting without risk or judgment.  My goal is to bring together people from all over our community in an inclusive space where no-one feels like they don’t belong, where everyone is welcome; free, accessible, comfortable, easy-going, and lovely.  I want everyone to see something of themselves reflected on the stage, and everyone to see something completely outside of their experience.

This is the first year where I feel that we’ve really made significant moves towards that vision; I’ve always been proud of the work we’ve done, but this year it seems like we’ve finally found the right format for the festival that will make it possible to achieve that dream.  We’ve got a long way to go, and a million tiny kinks to work out, but I am so proud of the grace and patience and quiet strength of our volunteers, especially our Board of Directors, of the talent, ability and friendliness of the musicians that joined us this year, and the open minds and hearts of the people who joined us in the audience.

Our community: much bigger and more interesting than a scene or a genre.  Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.