Planning an outdoor event in Newfoundland and Labrador in the summertime certainly comes with its challenges, namely, the weather. From RDF to hail and heatwaves, we never know what Mother Nature’s going to throw at us. Toss in a global pandemic and event organizers have really got their work cut out for them. But this year, whether it’s rain or shine or snow or COVID-19, the show will go on – that is, if you’re talking about one of the province’s biggest and most beloved music and cultural events.
Since 1977, the Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Festival has drawn thousands of people to St. John’s each year to celebrate the province’s rich music, dance and storytelling traditions. When it looked like the COVID-19 pandemic was going to cancel this year’s event (originally scheduled for July 10-12 in Bannerman Park), the Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Arts Society (NLFAS) decided to take things in a new direction by taking it online.
The theme of the Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Festival 2020 Digital Edition is “living our traditions at home” and will consist of a weekly online series featuring musical and dance performances, storytelling sessions, interviews and more. It kicks off on July 16 at 8:30pm (island time) with a feature performance by Newfoundland singer/songwriter Amelia Curran, with new episodes airing each Thursday throughout the summer. Music lovers can view the performances for free on the festival’s website (where they can also make a donation to the NLFAS if they wish).
“The past few months have been such a whirlwind for us all as we adjust to new ways of living, of interacting, of enjoying culture and performance. I’m so proud and appreciative of the board and staff of the NLFAS for coming together and pulling something totally new out of our hats. It was important to us all that we keep celebrating the traditions of Newfoundland and Labrador,” says Erin Whitney, Executive Director of the NLFAS.
While the energy of a crowd enjoying a live performance is truly something special, going online does have its advantages, like reaching music lovers who may not be able to attend a physical event due to distance or other factors.
“Moving our festival to a digital platform is a way for us to continue reaching our loyal audience and gain new fans from around the world. We have an excellent and diverse festival on the books for all to enjoy and we hope to meet again in person in 2021,” says Anna Brophy, President of the NLFAS.
This year’s event is sponsored by Equinor, with other major funding coming from the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, Government of Canada, City of St. John’s and ArtsNL.
“Equinor is happy to support the Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Festival again this year and we applaud their innovation and determination to continue the long-standing tradition of celebrating the province’s music and culture with a new approach,” says Unni Fjaer, Acting Country Manager of Equinor Canada Ltd.
According to the press release issued by the NLFAS, this year’s festival “is dedicated to the essential workers who have worked so hard for all of us, and to the Newfoundlanders and Labradorians we lost to COVID-19.”