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.”


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