The producer of several major downtown Victoria festivals is calling on the City of Victoria to increase its support for free family festivals held in the city.
“This isn’t a matter of wanting the city to spend more money on festivals as much as where the city directs arts funding it already has”, John Vickers, executive director of the Victoria International Buskers Festival Society and the Victoria Chalk Festival, said in a news release.
“When you have an event like the free admission Buskers Festival that requires year-round effort to produce, $9,000 in direct funding just doesn’t cut it, particularly when you consider just how much arts funding the city distributes.”
Vickers said the 10-day Buskers Festival injects millions of dollars into the local economy, attracting both locals and visitors. However, it receives much less city funding than similar programs in cities like Halifax and Edmonton, and less than local summer programming at Beacon Hill Park’s Cameron Bandshell, for example, through Vickers said when he attended, he saw few people at the venue.
“Why aren’t we supporting mass public arts events that are really making a difference in our downtown?” he asked.
The same holds true for the free Chalk Art Festival, Vickers added, saying this year the city provided $2,000 in direct funding to that festival, which also required months of planning and attracted thousands downtown.
“I am not looking for the city of Victoria to pay all the bills, on behalf of families and our community, I just want fairness and right now the Buskers Festival doesn’t receive fairness,” he said, adding the Buskers Society is closing its downtown office and relocating to his residence.
However, Mayor Dean Fortin noted that overall the city distributes about $528,000 annually in grants and services through its Arts and Culture program, including to local festivals, in addition to its funding for the Royal and McPherson theatres.
The online criteria for the city’s Festival Investment Grants notes that grants are provided through four funding streams: Community Celebration Grants; New Festival Grants; Established Festival Grants; and Signature Festival Grants. The city will not fund more than 25 per cent of the overall operating costs of the festival and applications are evaluated on factors such as artistic merit, economic impact, community impact and involvement, and organizational effectiveness.
Each year, groups are invited to make application and each is evaluated through a fair and open process, Fortin said, noting “there are some pretty strong festivals in the city.”
Despite cutbacks in similar funding at the provincial and federal levels, “the city has fought to maintain that investment and continue to support our local arts,” Fortin said. “We look forward to his (Vickers) application every year.”
He also questioned Vickers’ characterization of the public concert program, noting that 43 concerts were scheduled at the Cameron Bandshell through latst spring and summer with attendance of about 17,000. The performances are generally well-liked and well-received, Fortin said.
The Buskers Festival also typically receives funding from additional sources, such as the Capital Regional District, provincial and federal governments, plus sponsors such as Tourism Victoria and private businesses.