It is a wonderful thing that Victoria’s downtown is experiencing a renewed sense of activity, thanks in part to the response from the City of Victoria and the Downtown Victoria Business Association (DVBA).
I don’t think it can be ignored, though, that the recent actions of the DVBA around usurping an already existing, highly visual public festival are nothing short of cultural mutiny and theft.
Although I understand there was strong internal resistance to the move, the DVBA board and members made a concerted effort to displace the existing Victoria International Busker’s Festival with a new festival — with a very similar name, on the same weekend, at the same location and utilizing the same funders.
Effectively the DVBA, with the direct support of the City of Victoria, targeted a well-established cultural establishment and decided to take it. This should be sending shivers down the backs of everyone promoting events and festivals in Victoria. If the city and the DVBA like your event, your festival, your idea — but not you or your politics, should you express them — they have the ability to just take it.
The result is a visibly disorganized, under-prepared event that projects only a portion of the attendance of the original event, with reasonable estimations projecting only 25 to 40 per cent attendance compared to previous busker festivals. That is a significant drop given the significant resources of this new festival.
In short, they took over a festival and expect to lose most of its audience. I wonder what the effort was for. I understand that John Vickers, who established and championed the Victoria Busker’s Festival for more than 15 years, is a controversial figure with more than a few unpopular views stated publicly. But they didn’t just take his festival, his idea and his passion, they took that of everyone who contributed to the success of the festival and its vision over the years and privatized it.
This should be ringing alarm bells in the larger events community. The city and the DVBA have made it known that your event, your festival, your interest, your passion, are now open to public acquisition. I don’t envy anyone with an original idea that may help downtown today.