Vancouver Folk Music Festival Retains Its Progressive Spirit With Eye On Diversity

Sunday 14th, July 2019 / 11:56
by Yasmine Shemesh

When Gary Cristall co-founded the Vancouver Folk Music Festival (VFMF) with Mitch Podolak in 1978, he was a self-professed political activist who saw the stage as a platform for exciting ideas. Forty-two years later, the festival has retained its progressive spirit alongside principles of inclusivity and environmental stewardship. According to artistic director Debbi Salmonsen, those ideals are what has kept the fest going all these years.

“Because of those values, people feel free to speak openly or identify however they wish to, and to speak to issues that might not be sanctioned at a festival that’s more corporate,” she says.

For Salmonsen, honouring the festival’s legacy is about creating a mosaic of music that reaches and respects a multigenerational audience in a broad way.

“Maintaining the festival’s artistic integrity, which has developed over many decades, is important,” Salmonsen adds. “Our festival has always been very proud to embrace diversity, gender identity, sexual orientation and various cultures of people from around the world.”

This all-encompassing sense of awareness is also reflected in VFMF’s goal of being zero-waste. They refuse to sell plastic bottles — you can bring your own refillable containers or buy one on-site — have a composting program, and work with the Parks Board, as Salmonsen says, “to leave every blade of grass as we found it.”

PICKS OF THE FEST

Zaki Ibrahim
The wracking emotion Zaki Ibrahim experienced with the death of her father and the birth of her son months apart fuelled her latest, The Secret Life of Planets. As joy met grief there, the South African-Canadian artist fuses all the different parts of herself to create a soulfully sci-fi sound.

Sunny War
Ever wondered what American blues legend Robert Johnson would sound like in 2019? With a claw-hammer style that recalls another time and a soul-rattling vibrato, Venice Beach busker Sunny War is the closest you’ll get to your answer.

Corb Lund
Backed by his band, the Hurtin’ Albertans, alt-cowboy crooner Cord Lund is a celebrated writer of agricultural tragedies; a real-deal Canadiana troubadour who is also dynamite on the guitar.

Basia Bulat
If you’re looking for Good Advice — which also happens to be the name of Basia Bulat’s heartbreakingly beautiful new album — we suggest going see the chanteuse perform live with her signature auto-harp.

Larkin Poe
They might be descendants of Edgar Allan Poe, but sisters Rebecca and Megan Lovell are brilliantly unsettling in their own right, performing a unique brand of spooky Southern Gothic-tinged blues.

Vancouver Folk Music Festival
Where: Jericho Beach Park
When: July 19-21, 2019
Tix: $40-$175: thefestival.bc.ca