Over the past decade, Lawnya Vawnya has built a solid reputation as THE place to check out some of the best in independent arts and music, drawing music lovers and creatives from home and abroad, while helping solidify St. John’s position as a vibrant arts and cultural hub. Featuring performances from artists from across the province and country, the festival also helps artists in a number of ways by providing professional development opportunities, helping foster connections between local and visiting artists, and providing a platform for emerging artists.
With a diverse range of programming that also includes an Artist in Residence Series and this year’s Cyber Spring event, which featured free online performances, artist interviews, a film screening and more, the Lawnya Vawnya team has also found innovative ways to reach out and connect with audiences even when they couldn’t gather in person.
From August 25-28, Lawnya Vawnya 11 blasts onto the scene with four days of in-person events including performances, workshops, readings, a record and print fair, pop-up shows, a music crawl and more. And with 30 bands and solo artists in the lineup, there’s a lot to look forward to.
We spoke with Christina Dicks, Executive Director of Lawnya Vawnya, about what’s on the slate for this year, and the power of partnerships and collaboration.
Business & Arts NL: At the end of May, Lawnya Vawnya hosted a new initiative, Cyber Spring, an online symposium of music and art featuring an array of cool events including online performances, a film screening in partnership with the St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival, a Drone Day with the Sound Symposium, and more. How did that go and is this something you plan to do again?
Christina Dicks: Cyber Spring came to fruition when we had to postpone our May 2021 festival dates again this year due to the pandemic. We moved our in-person festival to August but still wanted to present programming in the spring with a few of the artists we already had lined up. LV’s Programming Coordinator Sarah Harris and I conceptualized an online symposium that eventually evolved into Cyber Spring. We commissioned three artists from out of province and three local acts to create video presentations of their music. It was really incredible to see how each act interpreted their music through video in completely different ways, even though they were all given the same general parameters for the project. We live-streamed these videos online alongside a talk show with artist interviews over the course of the weekend. You can still see most of this content by visiting our YouTube channel. Cyber Spring also included a music doc film screening in partnership with the SJIWFF, a panel discussion on making and sharing music in 2021 and beyond, and a Drone Day event in partnership with Sound Symposium.
We were fortunate enough to receive funding through the Digital Now program through the Canada Council for the Arts to help support this special programming. It was a great way to pay artists for work while live shows were still largely off the table. As it was online it also reached a broader audience than our regular in-person festival. Depending on what the future has in store, we may revisit Cyber Spring. For now we are focusing on getting back to in-person events.
Business & Arts NL: This year’s Lawnya Vawnya features a great lineup of 30 artists from this province and elsewhere in Canada, with events like the record and print fair, a reading series, workshops and more. What are some of the highlights that Lawnya Vawnya staff would encourage people to check out?
Christina Dicks: We are so excited to be presenting a full in-person festival again this year! For the first (and likely only) time, Lawnya Vawnya is going to be happening in summer from August 25-28. Welcoming visiting artists back to the festival is a highlight in itself after booking an entirely local festival last year. Some visiting artist highlights include 2020 Polaris Prize winner Backxwash, a Zambian-Canadian rapper who will be joining us from Montreal; Toronto-based rapper DijahSB, who just released an incredible album called Head Above The Waters; we are also presenting PoWowStep pioneer DJ Shub. He’ll be performing both a free all ages show at The Rec Room and a 19+ show on closing night at Eastern Edge Gallery. He’ll also be offering a free, all ages workshop on DJing 101 at First Light’s Centre for Performance and Creativity.
We also have so many exciting local acts this year. We will be kicking off the festival with Kelly McMichael’s album release show on opening night at the Black Sheep featuring Atomic Clock and the Catalina Reapers. We will also be launching Megan Gail Coles’ new book of poetry, Satched, with a special guest reading by visiting writer Michelle Good from her stunning new novel Five Little Indians. Performances by newcomers Immali, Call Back, and Bus People are also exciting additions to this year’s festival. Plus, we are bringing back everyone’s favourite downtown music crawl on Friday, August 27. That event is free and all ages.
Business & Arts NL: The festival is ringing in its 11th season this year. Are there any interesting stories of artist collaborations or partnerships that have come about through the festival over the past decade?
Christina Dicks: As an organization, we pride ourselves on establishing strong partnerships with like-minded arts organizations across disciplines. I believe collaboration is integral to a healthy, thriving arts and culture community. Some of our strongest partnerships this year are with First Light St. John’s Friendship Centre, Eastern Edge Gallery, and Riddle Fence Arts Magazine.
As for artist partnerships over the years, we’ve heard lots of great stories about bands making connections at our festival and planning tours across the country together. We’ve also had a few visiting artists move to St. John’s after coming to play LV, that’s how much they loved it here.
Business & Arts NL: Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
Christina Dicks: Check out lawnyavawnya.com for artist bios, the full schedule and ticket links. We are really proud of what we’ve put together for this year and we hope to see you at the shows!