Winter Folkfest Festival 2012
Music, conversation and laughter filled the air on February 16th as the tenth annual Winterfolk Festival kicked off its official launch party at the Delta Chelsea Hotel in Toronto, Ontario. Presented by not-for-profit organization, The Association of Artist for a Better World, and running from February 17th to the 19th, volunteers, media and artists were treated to a night of music at the hotel’s Monarch Pub. Attracting close to 7000 people per year, the event is free and is run solely by the support of volunteers, granting agencies, and a series of fundraising events throughout the year.
Since its inaugural year in 2002, founder Brian Gladstone, a musician himself and one who has a large passion for music and its power to change the world, has seen his Winterfolk Festival vision evolve from an event he begged musicians to join, to a festival that has musicians begging him to participate in. With a mission to “entertain, educate, enlighten, engage, and encourage [the] community about various folk music styles”, Gladstone and his team set out to create a stage that could give emerging young artists the privilege and opportunity to use their words and music to change the world for the better. Deeming himself a child of the 60’s, when folk and roots music was more mainstream than it is today, Gladstone realized the power of music and how it was a catalyst for social justice around the world.
Although new challenges arise constantly, the process of organizing Winterfolk has become more streamlined as each year has passed. With a core team of six organizers (consisting of a festival director, publicist, volunteer coordinator and an artistic committee), organizing generally starts 6 months before the festival start date. After a venue and theme is established (this year being “Alumni”) the team starts to plan. For the past nine years, Winterfolk situated itself within certain areas of Toronto where several establishments were being used throughout the weekend. The festival was held around the Danforth and Broadview area for the last six years, and it was a win-win situation for both the businesses in the area and the festival itself. There was an increase in revenue for the restaurants and bars during the industries generally slow winter season, and it brought awareness to the event. However, with that said, Gladstone felt the festival was outgrowing this kind of set-up so organizers tried an entirely different route and set up a meeting with the Chelsea Hotel in Toronto for its tenth year. This particular choice in venue allowed the festival to stay in one spot for the weekend, and it provided a more credible, mainstream feel to the event. Around 65 volunteers helped to fuel the event this year, taking charge in such areas as monitoring the sound boards, stage managing, selling CD’s, collecting money, and running the instrument check-in.
After establishing a theme for the festival, organizers start to gather the talent. Auditions are held throughout the Greater Toronto Area where to date they have evaluated over 1500 artists in the ten years. There are four sets of live auditions that see only two people get selected per audition (with over 1000 people applying this year). Organizers look for people who create buzz, generate publicity and are established within the folk/roots music community. Artists from Australia, England, Yukon, BC, New Jersey and California have come to play at this event over the years, proving how successful this event has become. In addition to the live auditions, Gladstone gathers artists from his open stage nights at The Monarch Pub, and publicist Beverly Kreller gathers artists she deals with through her company, Speak Music. Jazz FM radio-host Laura Fernandez, who also helps organize the event, selects musicians from the hundreds of CD’s she receives throughout the year.
Additionally, Gladstone receives and accepts over 500 online or email submissions, and MySpace music links from various artists around the city, and many music organizations and establishments that promote music around the GTA, such as the Seneca music program and The Moonshine Café in Oakville, ON, are offered stages at the festival to “increase their public visibility and membership, offer exposure for their events” and meet their musical goals. When the auditioning process is completed, 150 artists are selected and each musician gets paid. Funds to pay the artists and to run this event are raised through fundraising conducted throughout the year and grants and sponsorship provided by organizations such as SoCan Foundation, Long & McQuade, Canadian Heritage, Trillium Foundation and Toronto Arts Council.
As another fundraising activity, CD compilations are created through many song submissions organizers receive from various musicians and are sold throughout the world. Benefit concerts are held, and monetary contributions from artists around the globe are collected. As well, Gladstone receives close to 300 tracks each year from artists that pay to have their songs considered for the CD compilations.
To market this event and to increase exposure, many marketing tools are used. Gladstone touched base with many roots and folk radio stations around the area, such as Jazz FM 91, and HOWL CIUT 89.9, and ensured the artists they chose for the event were featured on the radio programs through interviews conducted and songs played. NOW Magazine did a big feature on the festival, and media outlets such as Eye Magazine, The Toronto Star, and Globe & Mail included Winterfolk in their publications. Close to 1000 posters and 5000 postcards were created and distributed around the GTA, and 50,000 festival programs were handed out prior to the festival and at the door. Direct emails were sent out to the contacts in their extensive database, and the utilization of Twitter, Facebook, and their website proved to be successful mediums to create buzz about the event.
To learn more about the Winterfolk Festival please visit http://www.abetterworld.ca/.
Long & McQuade – http://www.long-mcquade.com/
Delta Chelsea – www.deltachelsea.com
Socan – http://www.socan.ca/
Toronto Arts Council – http://www.torontoartscouncil.org/
Trillium Foundation – http://www.trilliumfoundation.org/
Canadian Heritage – http://www.pch.gc.ca/
Jazz FM 91 – http://www.jazz.fm/
Seneca College – http://www.senecac.on.ca/
DATE: February 16-19, 2012
AUTHOR: Lianne Gravitis
PHOTO CREDITS: Victoria Ilgacs