The Newfoundland & Labrador Folk Festival is a much beloved institution here in the province. Every August, thousands of music lovers gather together at Bannerman Park in downtown St. John’s to enjoy the sounds of some of the finest folk and traditional artists in the province, country and beyond.
Last summer, the pandemic forced a break in this tradition, but the folks at the Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Arts Society (NLFAS) found a way for the show to go on by moving the festival to a digital platform, allowing artists and fans to come together in a safe way. In addition to sharing submitted videos from performers, festival organizers also arranged to have performances recorded at St. John’s-based Canadian AV Inc., which were packaged into eight episodes and shared through YouTube and Facebook.
“I think it amounted to something like 14 hours of material in the end…that was the first time we ever did anything like that, so we had no benchmark for viewership. But I think we estimated that we got about 8,000 views on the series as a whole,” says Erin Whitney, Executive Director of the NLFAS.
This summer, while things are slowly getting back to some semblance of normal, COVID-19 still presents some challenges when it comes to planning and putting off events. That’s why the NLFAS have opted to take a different approach again this year by hosting a hybrid of small, pop-up performances around the city, as well as a series of concerts, with a digital series planned for the fall.
It all kicks off this weekend (July 9-11) with three shows at the First Light Centre for Performance and Creativity, featuring performances by Matthew Byrne and Wape’k Muin (Friday), Nico Paulo and Ana & Eric (Saturday), and a song circle with The Dandelion Few and Rube & Rake (Sunday).
First Light is just one of the community groups that the folk festival has partnered with to help promote a diverse lineup of traditional/folk music, dance and storytelling. Others include DanceNL, Le Réseau Culturel Francophone du Terre-Neuve et Labrador, and the St. John’s African Roots Festival.
Throughout the month, the festival will also host live music at a range of locations from Wednesday to Sunday, including Folk Night at the Ship Pub (Wednesdays); music at the Botanical Gardens (Thursdays); “Folk’d Up Fridays” at Quidi Vidi Brewery; Trad Tunes at the gazebo in Bannerman Park, as well as Young Folk at the downtown pedestrian mall (Saturdays); and outdoor concerts at The Rooms amphitheatre (Sundays). Events are free of charge, with the exception of shows at the Ship Pub, the Botanical Gardens and First Light Centre for Performance and Creativity.
This summer marks the festival’s 45th year running. Equinor Canada is once again the presenting sponsor for the event this year.
“Equinor believes arts and culture are important assets to the community and we are pleased to be the presenting sponsor for our eighth Newfoundland & Labrador Folk Arts Festival,” says Torstein Hole, Country President, Equinor Canada.
“We continue to applaud the determination and creativity we see from the festival and its staff and artists to promote this proud tradition of arts, culture and wonderful music during these challenging times. Offering the festival through multiple live venues and a digital platform supports broad engagement to share the talents of these many artists, and showcase the province’s diverse culture and musical talent.”
For more information on this year’s NL Folk Festival, click here.
(Header photo by Alick Tsui)