While the province is known for its vast and colourful language and sayings, there’s perhaps no term that best describes the spirit of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians than “Lawnya Vawnya.” The fun and lively expression, which means “to have a good time at a dance or a party with plenty to eat” brings to mind kitchen parties, music and friends and all of the things that makes this province so great. It’s also the name of St. John’s preeminent exposition of independent art, music and culture (happening this year from May 4-8).
For six years now, the non-profit Lawnya Vawnya festival has been bringing together musicians, music lovers, artists and fans from all over the province and merging them with national and international talent in a spirit of creativity, camaraderie, friendship and fun. Featuring live performances, panel discussions, workshops and much more, the event allows artists and audiences to share skills and knowledge in an open, collaborative and supportive environment.
Like any great party, events like Lawnya Vawnya wouldn’t be possible without the support of a dedicated army of volunteers, community supporters and business sponsors. It’s local businesses like Rocket Bakery & Fresh Food that pull together every year to make the festival a success, for example, by donating the use of the Rocket Room (a reception/meeting/event space located on the third floor) for early evening concerts and panel discussions. Festival organizers have also used the Rocket Room as a place for artists to gather and share meals, ideas and conversation.
“We serve two meals a day during the festival. Artists come feast, get to know each other, form friendships and, hopefully, working relationships. It’s a warm, welcoming space where artists know they can go,” says Andrea Vincent, Festival Director.
“This year, we are making Rocket more of our public home base as well. We’re bringing the record/small press fair there…We want people to pop downstairs, grab coffee and a snack and peruse the record fair offerings.”
In exchange for the space, Rocket receives ad space, gets thanked publicly at events, and festival organizers purchase catering and coffee. This mutually-beneficial partnership helps the artists as well.
“What we really want to see happen is local artists form working relationships with artists who live across the country. We want to see gigs, tours, records and music being made together!” Andrea says.
“In previous years, meal time was only offered to visiting artists due to time and financial constraints. Last year, a handful of really great, community-minded restaurants came on board and we were able to open up meal times to all artists. The interactions were wonderful and we’re going to keep going this route.”
Kelly Mansell, Co-owner/Sales & Marketing Manager with Rocket, says the business was on board as soon as they chatted with one of the festival’s founders.
“From day one, my business partners, Dave Hopley and Mark McGann, and I have been interested in having music as part of Rocket’s DNA…I love how the festival is expanding and growing with panel discussions, readings and a record fair, yet remains an arts incubator of sorts,” she says.
“Investing in arts and culture is critical to everyone’s quality of life. There are huge social and educational spin-offs for a society rich in culture which, in turn, enhances the economy. Rocket is a microcosm of that symbiosis. We do what we can as a small business to support the arts and arts organizers. And the attending public, I think, understand that when they buy a coffee or supper at Rocket, they’re keeping us going so that we can, in turn, support events and so on.”