A performance during Tiny Lights Music Festival in the small Kootenay community of Ymir is seen here in 2017. The annual music festival has been postponed to 2021. Photo: Tyler Harper

A performance during Tiny Lights Music Festival in the small Kootenay community of Ymir is seen here in 2017. The annual music festival has been postponed to 2021. Photo: Tyler Harper

Will the show go on? B.C. music festivals consider options over coronavirus

Summer events are running out of time to stay on schedule

The sound of silence may be the only music heard at B.C. festivals this summer.

Tiny Lights, a music festival held in the small Kootenay town of Ymir near Nelson, has postponed this year’s event to 2021. It may also be the opening act in a slew of postponements due to the COVID-19 outbreak and restrictions on public gatherings.

Carla Stephenson, the festival’s executive director, said Wednesday the ninth annual event will be moved from its original date of June 12 to 14 this year, back to June 11 to 13, 2021. The decision to postpone the popular event was the right call, she said.

“I actually feel really relieved, because I feel like the stress of keeping my community safe was making me more stressed out than actually just calling it,” said Stephenson.

Tiny Lights is the biggest event of the year in the small community of 245 people. A report published in June 2019 by Victoria’s Royal Roads University and Creative BC found the three-day festival had a $700,000 economic impact on the region.

It’s also among the earliest summer festivals to run in B.C., the majority of which are scheduled throughout July and August, and the first to announce postponement.

Stephenson said organizers across the province are grappling with whether or not to delay their events. Many of the considerations for doing so are tied to financial concerns.

“I know that every single festival is struggling with this right now, because they are booking people,” she said. “How do you advertise right now? You can’t.”

Several of the biggest music festivals across the globe, such as Glastonbury in England, and Coachella in California, have already announced postponed dates to either later this year or into 2021.

Debbi Salmonsen, executive director of the Vancouver Folk Music Festival, is among those organizers weighing their options.

The festival, which is currently scheduled to run July 17 to 19 at Jericho Beach Park, is one of the biggest in B.C. Salmonsen said 10,000 to 15,000 people attend the event daily, along with up to 1,500 volunteers and more than 40 acts.

The logistics of training those volunteers and signing contracts to bring in staples such as fencing, public toilets and food vendors, means a minimum of 14 weeks to bring everything together ahead of the scheduled dates.

“They are complex things to organize, small or large. Large is just a bigger scale, more people involved, longer timeline to be set up,” said Salmonsen, who added that a final decision will be made about the folk festival in April.

“So we are consciously optimistic. We haven’t made a decision for our own festival yet, but certainly the board and three key staff we have are monitoring it daily.”

Tiny Lights and the Vancouver Folk Music Festival, like many such events, are run by non-profit organizations that depend on grants and ticket sales to operate.

In B.C., grants come from organizations such as Creative BC and the BC Arts Council, the latter of which has said it won’t ask for refunds on expenses already paid for.

But Stephenson said many funders have yet to make a decision about the grants they’ve committed to for this year. That uncertainty is weighing on all non-profits in B.C., and not just music festivals.

Festivals have also been collecting ticket sales for months.

Tiny Lights opened ticket sales last October. Stephenson said her team is hoping to hold onto those sales until next year since refunds aren’t an option.

“If we had to refund all of our ticket payments we would not be OK. If we can hold onto them until next year, that gives us a chance to be financially OK for next year.”

Salmonsen said her festival’s sales began in December, and that a decision about refunds is among the many her team is being forced to contemplate. Revenue from ticket sales, in many cases, has also already been spent on deposits for booked artists.

At smaller festivals like Tiny Lights, those deposits give musicians financial certainty during tours where Stephenson said they might make around $500 per show. For larger shows like the folk festival, the deposits might cover expenses for artists travelling from abroad.

But for organizers, that money can’t be recovered once an artist is booked, which in turn delays lineup announcements by festivals hesitant to spend during the outbreak.

Stephenson said she recently spoke to another organizer at a festival outside the Kootenays currently scheduled for August that pays a $2,500 deposit to musicians.

“They were like, if we pay all these out, they’re not refundable. If we pay out $15,000, $20,000 deposits to people and it’s not refundable and our funders pull out our funding because we postpone, we are screwed as an organization. We can’t do this ever again.”

But if the shows don’t go on, Salmonsen said it will place a considerable financial burden on an entire industry in the province.

“Musicians, arts administrators, none of us know what’s going to happen to our jobs, our ability to pay rent, etc,” she said. “So we also care what happens to the musicians as well as our festival, our contracting crew who rely on us, the vendors who come in and sell scarves, carved artwork, food.

“All those things, it’s a really big ecosystem.”



tyler.harper@nelsonstar.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

CoronavirusLive music

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

There are only two EV-charging stations in Campbell Heights, one in Clayton, and one in Cloverdale—with an additional station currently under construction, according to plugshare.com The federal government recently announced Surrey is getting 40 more charging stations with construction to begin immediately. (Image via plugshare.com)
Chamber director hopes Cloverdale area not forgotten when new charging stations installed

New charging stations need be built in Cloverdale, Clayton, and Campbell Heights: Scott Wheatley

Desmond Tompkins helped curate and host a youth art show at the South Surrey/White Rock Learning Centre. (Contributed photo)
South Surrey/White Rock Learning Centre art show highlights ‘diverse perspectives’

With COVID-19 protocols in place, youth art show underway

The SACH Community Hub team, from left to right: Upkar Singh Tatlay, Gary Thandi, Allysha Ram, Jassy Pandher, Harman Pander. (Submitted photo)
There’s help for South Asian men wrestling with drug addiction in Surrey

South Asian deaths related to toxic drugs increased by 255 per cent between 2015 and 2018

Surrey residential construction. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)
Surrey councillor says city needs more accessible housing

Linda Annis expected to introduce notice of motion to that end at tonight’s council meeting

Crews with Discovery Channel film as an Aggressive Towing driver moves a Grumman S2F Tracker aircraft around a 90-degree turn from its compound and onto the road on Saturday, Jan. 23, 2021. It was the “most difficult” part of the move for the airplane, one organizer said. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: Vintage military plane gets towed from Chilliwack to Greater Victoria

Grumman CP-121 Tracker’s eventual home the British Columbia Aviation Museum on Vancouver Island

Chilliwack Law Courts. (Black Press file)
Man sentenced to 20 months for sexual offences involving a minor in Mission

Will Laws Clark was 22 and victim was 13 at time offences began

Rolling seven-day average of cases by B.C. health authority to Jan. 21. Fraser Health in purple, Vancouver Coastal red, Interior Health orange, Northern Health green and Vancouver Island blue. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
Second doses delayed as B.C. vaccine delivery delayed again

New COVID-19 cases slowing in Fraser Health region

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talk about the next steps in B.C.’s COVID-19 Immunization Plan during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, January 22, 2021. Two more cases of the COVID-19 strain first identified in South Africa have been diagnosed in British Columbia, bringing the total to three as of Jan. 16.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. now has three cases of South African COVID-19 variant, six of U.K. strain

Both variants are thought to spread faster than earlier strains

Rodney and Ekaterina Baker in an undated photo from social media. The couple has been ticketed and charged under the Yukon’s <em>Civil Emergency Measures Act</em> for breaking isolation requirements in order to sneak into a vaccine clinic and receive Moderna vaccine doses in Beaver Creek. (Facebook/Submitted)
Great Canadian Gaming CEO resigns after being accused of sneaking into Yukon for vaccine

Rod Baker and Ekaterina Baker were charged with two CEMA violations each

Police discovered a makeshift nightclub in a Vancouver apartment on Jan. 23, 2021, and say it wasn’t the first time this month officers have been called to the unit over social gathering concerns. (Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
Doorman of makeshift ‘booze-can’ in Vancouver apartment fined; police look to court order

This marks the fourth complaint about social gatherings inside the apartment in January

A Kelowna couple welcomed their Nooner baby in December. (Flytographer)
Kelowna couple welcomes baby girl from Hotel Zed Nooner campaign

Nicole and Alex will now have 18 years of free stays at the hotel

The Abbotsford Tulip Festival is permanently closing, with plans to eventually set up in Armstrong, B.C. (Abbotsford News file photo)
Abbotsford Tulip Festival is closing, with plans to rebloom in Armstrong

Event organizer says pandemic and sale of land were factors in decision

Most Read