- BC Games
Cowichan Folk Guild retrenches in bid to make sure Folkfest turns 30
Peter W. Rusland
News Leader Pictorial
Hard times have hit the venerable Cowichan Folk Guild, sparking a fiscal revamp to pave the way for next year’s 30th Islands Folk Festival.
Guild president Bill Levity said the guild’s cash crunch nearly cancelled July’s folk festival — which later sold-out. He called the scare a “curse and a blessing.”
Still, he was confident next July’s festival will happen.
“We’re going through a year of complete restraint, and our approach to financial stress.”
He confirmed the looming departure of Robert McCourty, CFG’s current artistic director, as his contract expires Oct. 1.
“It’s become obvious we can’t afford a full-time artistic director, and that’s a reflection of our fiscal standing,” Levity said, awaiting more numbers about the guild’s exact financial health.
Instead, the guild will rely on a director on a limited contract to oversee IFF30. That person will be complemented by guild members and board directors helping stage the guild’s various coffee houses and other concerts, Levity added.
The songwriter pinned part of this summer’s festival crisis on unreliable news about B.C. Gaming grants.
“They made a major shift, from June to Aug. 31, to let folks know if they’re getting money, and how much.”
The guild finally got gaming cash after the Aug. 31 deadline of informing applicants of approval and payouts, he noted.
“It was very tense.”
So tense, guild brass negotiated deals with various suppliers to reduce festival charges, boost in-kind help, and other tactics.
“You can’t totally rely on (gaming money),” he said of Victoria’s funding pool created to help community groups.
But the gaming grant system underwent a restructuring in recent years. Those changes left many groups, such as CFG, annually applying for gaming grants, then guessing if they’d get any dough while planning events.
That fog left folk-guild brass scratching for cash in January to host July’s folk festival.
“We cut back everywhere we could; we just squeaked through. But even by the end of August (2013) we hadn’t heard,” he said of the CFG’s Gaming application.
He didn’t see any “red flags” on CFG’s books right now, and didn’t foresee a major hop in festival ticket prices.
“I think we’re in good shape. We hope to be in better shape by IFF 30. We’ve been edging up ticket prices, but not significantly, to cover costs.”
Those bills may be addressed by more festival sponsors, raffles, higher beverage-garden prices, and other ideas, Levity explained.
“There are other ways to raise money at the festival.”