Stories & Visions

Edmonton Folk Music Festival puts down deep roots

Shared by Ken Davis Edmonton Folk Music Festival puts down deep roots Photo

I wasn't at the very first Edmonton Folk Music Festival held in the summer of 1980. No, my first experience came a few years later. On that occasion, I remember spending a couple of days under a crude plastic shelter while the heavens opened relentlessly and the temperature was cold enough to make your teeth chatter. It didn't seem to matter, however, because the vibe was magical and the music was fabulous.

I attended various renditions of EFMF in the years that followed, eventually joining the legions of folks who serve as Festival volunteers. I spent 8 years on the Festival's media crew, running all over the site linking artists to media people who wanted to interview them. Just writing this, memories flood back of all the wonderful people I met and sometimes even befriended - so many fellow volunteers, artists such as Miriam and Amadou, Steve Earle, Jim Cuddy, wonderful Festival organizers such as artistic director Terry Wickham, volunteer co-ordinator Vicki Fannon and the legendary production manager Don Snider.

One time I was in too much of a hurry while on assignment and ran around a corner behind main stage, only to almost bowl over Alison Krauss with her fiddle. If looks could kill... And I was there the night that lightning hit one of the sound towers near mainstage as k.d. lang was finishing her performance. And there was the year that I went to the volunteers after-party at the Edmonton Inn and, dead-tired at 4 in the morning, sat in a small room packed with people, listening to Alejandro Escovedo and his musical pals playing an amazing set of beautiful acoustic music.

EFMF was the one place and the one time where I could guarantee that I would see almost everyone I knew in Alberta at least once. Over the years, the Festival has evolved, no longer just an entertainment event but a giant community of connected people. I love that there are tens of thousands of us who share the same magical memories and who came to love the same extraordinary light and sound of the Festival on Gallagher Hill.

Edmonton Folk Music Festival puts down deep roots Photo

Home Away from Home

Shared by Eva Marie 10322 83 Ave NW, Edmonton, AB T6E 5C3, Canada Home Away from Home Photo

I was an awkward theatre nerd in high school, more prone to sing along to Gilbert & Sullivan than listen to Top 40. Walterdale Theatre & Associates became my home away from home in high school and the early university years - the scene of countless hours scribbling blocking notes in rehearsal halls, skulking in dark corners backstage as props runner or assistant stage manager, up in the booth calling cues and running lights, or magically under the lights in gorgeous costumes performing in pantomimes, melodramas, comedies, and dramas.

Walterdale was the scene of my first stage kiss and my first real kiss, first drink, first adult friendships. I ditched my grade 12 grad dance in favour of the Walterdale year-end party and, over 13 shows, built a passionate love affair with the arts. Other adventures and priorities led me away from the old firehall, but the love affair remained. It led to stints as an arts journalist, commentator and reviewer, marketer, arts administrator, and communicator. (Although if you'd asked me then, I was going to win a Tony!)

I feel deep gratitude for toward that welcoming and inclusive community; it continues to challenge and support every person who joins in the fun of putting on a show whether as audience, technician, or performer. I hope spaces such as Walterdale, which bridge the divide between "professional" and "amateur", become more accessible, more prevalent, and thrive as Edmonton moves into the next chapter of its cultural life.

(photo by C. W. Hill Photography; The Mumberley Inheritance, 1987 - Walterdale Klondike Melodrama @ the Shoctor)

Home Away from Home Photo

Sparks my love for Edmonton

Shared by Laurie 10030 102 St NW, Edmonton, AB T5J 0V6 Sparks my love for Edmonton Photo

I went to my first concert at the Starlite room at 17. I had never really been in downtown Edmonton before that. No real reason to go. It was dark out and the snow was falling. Seeing people crowd around this alleyway made me feel so cool. The mixing of cigarette smoke and the breathe of conversation in the air. It made me feel like I invited to this secret party as we waited in line.

Tall brick buildings squishing it's patrons two by two as you hear the opener through the walls. This started my love for Edmonton. I've become a large participant in public events and buying through local businesses. I advocate for this city whenever I can.

Sparks my love for Edmonton Photo

Symphony Under the Sky / Freewill Shakespeare Fest

Shared by Dan Rose 9330 Groat Road, Edmonton, AB T6G 2A8 Symphony Under the Sky / Freewill Shakespeare Fest Photo

The Symphony Under the Sky and the Freewill Shakespeare Festival are two incredible opportunities to take part in the arts and culture scene in Edmonton, in an accessible venue and without the intimidating crowd or space usually associated with orchestra music and theater. It's so great to sit outside on a warm summer evening and immerse yourself in something new. Would love to see more opportunities to bring art, music and theater outside of the usual brick and mortar institutions, to where people are, and to create new experiences for new audiences.

Symphony Under the Sky / Freewill Shakespeare Fest Photo

So many treasures...

Shared by Craig William Hawrelak Park, Edmonton, T5J 2R7 So many treasures... Photo

I've been very fortunate to have a number of friends and family involved in the Edmonton arts community... to experience the wonder of live performances in many of our fine facilities and peek behind the scenes to see how the magic happens.
From the auditory perfection of the Winspear to the natural simplicity of Symphony Under the Stars, the expansive Jubilee to tiniest Fringe stage, the intricate sets of the Shoctor Theatre to the lone street performer who captivates her audience – we don't realize how lucky we are... or how much we still have to enjoy.

So many treasures... Photo

Where Bodies and Ideas Meet

Shared by Sydney Lancaster 10816 95 St, Edmonton, AB T5H 2E3, Canada Where Bodies and Ideas Meet Photo
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Mile Zero Dance has been such a tremendous asset to this city since its inception. It has always been a place of risk-taking, experimentation, and innovation in dance and dance-related arts - but Mile Zero also has (and continues to) provide a place of welcome and community for dancers and non-dancers alike. This organization has shown leadership in community outreach, school programs, kid's programs, health-related movement workshops ... the list goes on. Spazio Performativo has created a home for artists of all disciplines to come together, work together, take chances together - and feel safe doing it. As a visual artist, Mile Zero has offered me the opportunity to take some tentative steps outside my regular practice: my participation in the SubArctic Improv series allowed me not only to create work with and for artists of other disciplines, but also to take some steps toward understanding how performance practice could contribute to my work going forward. The value of spaces such a Mile Zero, that offer places for experimentation cannot be underestimated! Risk-taking makes artists better at what they do, and builds community and new collaborations - and we need more opportunities and venues to do that - and we need to actively support Edmonton institutions like Mile Zero that gift our community with these resources and support.

Where Bodies and Ideas Meet Photo

From language learner to arts participant

Shared by K. Baron 9831 75 Street NW, Edmonton, AB T6A 2Y8, Canada From language learner to arts participant Photo

My family lost our ancestral language due to the assimilationist policies of the provincial government and the bigoted attitude of other Albertans in the mid-twentieth century. My father purposely forgot how to speak it, so I never learned as I child. As an adult I've been trying to recover this lost gateway to my culture. For this reason, my wife and I started taking курси (classes) at St. Andrew's, the last place left in the city that still offers adult evening classes in Ukrainian. My progress in the language wasn't great, but being part of that community led me to other discoveries in arts and culture. One of the instructors, Mr. Ludvik Marianych--one of Alberta's unsung cultural heroes--recruited my wife and I to be part of Чайка (Chaika) a youth orchestra that plays Ukrainian-language music. This was a big step because, although I could (barely) play the guitar I had never been part of a band (never mind an orchestra) and hadn't played in front of anyone in years. But Mr. Marianych made it seem totally possible that anyone could participate, even me: someone who could only bang out a few chords. The next thing I knew, not only was I the group's guitarist but I was volunteering to learn to play the mandolin as well, so we could add that instrument to the band. Mr. Marianych has the gift of making music accessible to everyone, and inspired me to believe I could do more.

From their I went on to singing with the Верховина (Verkhovyna) choir under the amazing Orest Soltykevych (of CKUA fame). I 'm not a natural singer--to put in mildly--but was again taken by the hand and told that anyone (even me) could sing. And not just sing, but sing both baritone and tenor, stay in tune with the choir, and do it all entirely in my third language, one that had only just started to learn (Ukrainian). Somehow I did it (or at least felt like I did).

The highlight of this cultural journey for me (so far) was appearing on the main stage during the "Svieto 25" celebration in Churchill Square in August of 2016, honouring the 25th anniversary of Ukrainian independence and 125 years of Ukrainian settlement in Canada. I was there twice: once to play with orchestra, and once to sing with the choir. It was something I wouldn't have thought possible just a few years earlier.

Since the birth of my second child, I've had step back from some of my commitments. But those years when I was actively participating in the arts were made much richer because of the involvement I did have: arts and culture made my life better. Soon, I hope, they will be doing the same for my children.

It matters that I learned that I could participate in the arts and culture through an ethnic community. That is not an accident. In our ethnic communities we find examples of true participatory culture: it's not about listening to or watching professionals. It's about having pride or curiosity enough that you to want to live out the community's traditions, whether they are part of your birthright or something you are learning along the way.

My vision for the arts in culture in Edmonton is that others will have a similar journey to my own: using one part of culture as ladder to reach for the next one, and being welcomed and included along the way. And I hope that the city as a whole can recognize the value of ethnic communities in that process. Having a thriving arts and culture scene should really mean that we have a cultural ecosystem that include niches for the ethnic arts.

And yes, I'm still working on that language! Language is the conduit through which the rest of culture flows. Any arts, culture, and heritage vision MUST include a language component or it is fundamentally incomplete.

From language learner to arts participant Photo


Shared by Ahmed 'Knowmadic' Ali 9228 128a Ave NW, Edmonton, AB T5E 0J8, Canada Relating Photo

I remember attending Mee-Yah-Noh School during read in week and being amazed at how engaged the students were. We related through videos games and anime. When I told them the ones I liked, I saw their eyes light up. I spoke about my favorite scenes and like lightning, their hands shot up in excitement to give theirs. Before leaving, I encouraged them to read often, because reading is what allows the mind to create magic.

Relating Photo

Dance for anybody, any body

Shared by Michelle K 11805 94 Street Northwest, Edmonton Dance for anybody, any body Photo
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There’s a community of dancers here. A community which has become a family over time. A family full of support and creativity and acceptance regardless of any differences. A group of open arms, open minds, and open hearts; and the beautiful movement of dance binds them.

Dance for anybody, any body Photo

Fringe as Community

Shared by Matthew Ward ATB Financial Arts Barns building, 10330 84 Ave NW, Edmonton, AB T6E 2G9, Canada Fringe as Community Photo

Seeing the Fringe Festival grow and become more inclusive over the past 8 years that I've attended, I'm really excited about how these spaces in community can become places for everyone. On-going support of local theatre and performance art created by and for diverse members of Treaty 6 territory will be integral to the continuity of a thriving arts scene in Edmonton.

Fringe as Community Photo

Nuit Blanche

Shared by Susan Burns Sir Winston Churchill Square, Edmonton, AB T5J 2E5, Canada Nuit Blanche Photo

This magical night in downtown in late September 2015 brought thousands of citizens together to celebrate the power of art to build community and to have fun in the dark and the cold. Let’s keep it going!

Nuit Blanche Photo

Dancing in the aisle

Shared by Annette 4 Sir Winston Churchill Square NW, Edmonton, AB T5J 4X8, Canada
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I’ve always loved attending performances and events at the Winspear... it beautiful space and sound. But my heart overflowed when I took my one-year-old to the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra Candy Cane Christmas concert this past December. The pure joy and excitement she had seeing the live performance and dancers was contagious. We can’t wait to make this a family tradition.

Found Festival

Shared by Andrew Ritchie Dr. Wilbert Mcintyre Park, 104 Street Northwest, Edmonton, AB Found Festival Photo

This is where Found Festival was born! In 2012 Elena Belyea, Molly Staley, Tori Morrison and Andrew Ritchie founded the Found Festival, a multi-disciplinary found space arts event. In the first year we met at the Gazebo to begin our two day adventure to take in eight one-off performances by emerging artists all over Old Strathcona. It is now 2018 and the festival has grown so much in 7 years! It began with just a few artists thinking "Hey what if we did a festival where we didn't pay for a single venue"

Found Festival Photo

Festival City

Shared by Chelsea Boos ATB Financial Arts Barns building, 10330 84 Ave NW, Edmonton, AB T6E 2G9 Festival City Photo

The festival came to my neighbourhood once a year, face painting, street performers, green onion cakes, art and music filled the city with a magical atmosphere that captured my nine-year old's imagination and opened my world to a greater community.

Festival City Photo
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