There’s nothing quite like St. John’s in the summertime – from the lush greenery that surrounds the city, to the sounds of buskers floating on the breeze and a variety of festivals and events to suit every taste, it’s a pretty magical place.
Perhaps one of the most hotly-anticipated events each year is the Newfoundland & Labrador Folk Festival. Featuring performances with some of the best folk and traditional musicians in the province and country, recitations, workshops in song and dance, and more, the festival has been helping to keep our traditions alive, while solidifying the province’s place as a cultural capital, for 40 years now.
This year’s festival (which runs from August 5-7 in Bannerman Park) is packed heavy with local talent including headliners Amelia Curran, The Once, and Sherman Downey, and featuring favourites Figgy Duff, Old Man Luedecke, Jenn Grant and many more.
“(It’s) very local this year – lots of reunions, lots of people who have played the festival for years and years, lots of young groups like The Dardanelles and The Freels who grew up playing on the Neil Murray Stage, doing the Young Folk at the Hall program and stuff,” says John Drover, Chair of the Newfoundland & Labrador Folk Arts Society (which operates the NL Folk Festival).
As with previous years, perhaps one of the most important aspects is the youth programming, which passes the folk torch to young musicians while they get the opportunity to learn from, and perform alongside, the very best. It is this emphasis on youth, and the nurturing of their skills and talent, that is the cornerstone of Statoil’s Heroes of Tomorrow sponsorship program.
“We’re especially excited about the activities we have lined up this year in support of talent development for youth in the arts,” says Kyra Grue, communications analyst with Statoil Canada Ltd.
Two of those youth programs include the Statoil MusicNL NewFound Talent Contest (which gives musicians under the age of 19 the opportunity to gain performance experience, and a shot at winning a prize bundle to help kickstart their music career), as well as a new songwriting workshop called a Twist on Tradition, hosted by Juno-Award winning children’s group The Swinging Belles. The workshop will bring together children under 12 to re-imagine a classic folk song in their own words before joining the band onstage for an afternoon performance.
“Both programs provide youth with opportunities to learn about and build skills related to folk music, while also helping to keep Newfoundland and Labrador’s rich folk heritage exciting and relevant for younger generations,” says Grue.
This year marks Statoil’s third as the presenting sponsor of the NL Folk Festival. Besides providing the company with the opportunity to give back to the local arts community, Grue says it also gives their employees the chance to connect with the arts. She says they are currently looking into staff volunteer opportunities for this year’s event.
“Folk arts and culture are deeply embedded in Newfoundland and Labrador’s heritage and it’s important to Statoil that we connect our employees to these local traditions through partnerships like the one we have with the Folk Festival,” Grue says.
“By encouraging our employees to get engaged in the local arts community, we can help keep the cultural legacy of the province alive.”
Considering our unpredictable weather, holding an outdoor event is always somewhat of a gamble in this province (due to poor weather in 2013, for example, some of the festival’s events were cancelled, causing money to be lost). But Drover says corporate sponsorships like that of Statoil’s helps to mitigate that risk.
“It gives us a bit of peace of mind knowing that whatever the weather throws at us, we’ll be able to soldier on,” he says.
“Business support has been very important us. So hopefully it’ll be something that keeps going.”