Elly on the Arts: Looking at festivals and major events

I hope everyone is sheltering in place and staying healthy during this time of COVID-19. It sure is different. Sometimes, we can watch too much news and it seriously makes us want to shut down. Sometimes, leadership in other countries just makes us want to cry. We have taken to Netflix in a serious way and have been enjoying all of the seasons of Murdoch Mysteries - we are up to season seven so far. It’s fun and truly escapist. Who knew?

Last column, we began to discuss what we could learn about the arts as a driver of economic development and since there is no way for live performances to take place or for visual arts exhibits to happen, we hoped to continue with that for this column. Of course, there are loads of YouTube performances and the NorVA Centre’s quarantine gallery works of art on social media from our very own artists, so please do enjoy them and comment to let them know how much you appreciate them and want to be back to normal.

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To remind you of the six themes of cultural development in small communities, they are the nature of arts and creative activities in rural communities, capacity and related challenges, community factors and critical ingredients, population-related issues and opportunities, economic issues and opportunities and governance factors.

Last time, we identified local performing arts groups and said we would talk about festivals and touring shows. Duxbury states that arts activity in rural communities tends to focus in three areas - the impacts of local artists, the impact of festivals in the community and the impact of touring shows. We know that local performing artists are wonderfully popular. Festivals and touring shows seem to be less so.

That is interesting to us as particularly festivals have mainly local people involved. The Flin Flon Trout Festival, in its 2019 incarnation, had lots of people out on Main Street during the daytime hours and had lovely audiences for the free stage on both Saturday and Sunday. Where things began to fall apart was at the Fish Fry event. Only 200-250 people came to that celebration, a remarkable downturn for an event that used to draw 1,000 folks to celebrate summer in the north.

Granted, there are many fewer people living in Flin Flon now than in the 1960s, but that cannot be all of the answer. The other two festival events, the Blueberry Jam Music Gathering and Culture Days, are very well attended. Last year, Blueberry Jam drew over 7,000 participants. It was free and many of the performers were from out of town. It also had a rather narrowed scope in that it was only music, versus the broader scope of something for everyone that marks the Trout Festival. Culture Days is very broad in its scope of activities and it manages to attract 1,000+ visitors.

We think that the Trout Festival could easily be the beginning of an amazing festival “season” in Flin Flon that will highlight the summer and bring visitors and former Flin Flonners home to celebrate. Now that COVID-19 has possibly changed those plans for this year, perhaps we can take the time to plan for 2021. We need to engage some of the young creative minds that are beginning to lead in successful venues like Ham Sandwich and Johnny’s Social Club.

Next time, we will get to why, in my humble(?) opinion, we need touring shows.

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