Some of northern B.C.’s biggest names in music have spoken out to help save the 2015 Kispiox Valley Music Festival, which will be cancelled if organizers cannot find more people to help coordinate the event.
Smithers-based artist Alex Cuba and rock band The Racket, whose members are from the Hazeltons, Kispiox and Smithers, last week expressed their disappointment at news next year’s festival might be cancelled.
Held in July, the annual event attracts about 2,000 people and has a budget of about $50,000.
Next year would mark the festival’s 20th anniversary, but the Kispiox Valley Music Society announced last week it may be forced to cancel the event due to a lack of personnel.
The society has been unable to fill a number of board and committee positions left vacant by long-standing members who have stood down.
Society spokesperson Darren Pierzchala said an emergency meeting on Nov. 30 had failed to garner more interest from the community.
“There was a group of people there that cared deeply about the Kispiox Valley Music Festival, people who have been there since the beginning,” he said.
“The feeling in the room was there’s not the energy to carry this festival.
“To put on a festival is a huge thing and it is very much a community event and there just wasn’t an accurate representation of what is needed from the community to make that feel like ‘okay we are going ahead in 2015’.”
The society needs a new secretary and a performance committee to help choose and coordinate the musical acts.
According to Pierzchala, work on some aspects of the festival was already two months behind.
He said there was still time to revive next year’s festival, but new blood was needed to bring it to life.
“A lot of [the previous organizers] have been dedicated to the Kispiox Valley Music Festival since the beginning and so we’ve gone 20 years now and 20 years is a long time to uphold things,” he said.
“The reality is what we need to see a future of the Kispiox Valley Music Festival is new energy getting involved, is young energy getting involved, is people who are passionate about Kispiox and willing to offer their dedication to realize it.”
The Racket vocalist Eli Larsen grew up in South Hazelton and his bandmate, drummer Simon Stockner, lived a five-minute drive from the music festival grounds.
Along with Smithers-raised bassist Stephen DeWit, they are currently studying music at Selkirk College in Nelson, B.C.
Larsen said he and his bandmates “grew up on this festival.”
“Simon hasn’t missed a year since he’s been alive, and he’s going to be turning 20 this year,” Larsen said.
“Honestly I think it would be a huge shame, both for musicians, because I know musicians love this festival … everybody wants to come to Kispiox.”
Before he moved to Nelson, Larsen was on the performance committee for two years.
He said even then the festival had been on the brink of cancellation until community members stepped in at the last minute.
Larsen said cancelling the festival would be as much of a loss to the community as it was to festival-goers.
“Festivals have always been great for making connections and [KVMF] has always been an amazing way for the musicians of Hazelton and the surrounding area to make connections with travelling musicians and people from abroad,”
“There’s a lot of local talent that comes to Kispiox and they kind of cross-pollinate with more renowned artists and it’s kind of great if you are a starting-out band like us, you can make those connections.”
He said his role on the performance committee had also been an opportunity to network with other musicians.
Latin Grammy and Juno Award-winning musician Alex Cuba, who is based in Smithers, played at the festival in 2005.
He said if next year’s festival had to be cancelled it would impact the capacity for local bands to gain exposure performing alongside well-known acts.
“They have done a really good job at allowing young musicians to play and making an interesting line-up that goes from beginners to fairly well-known artists,” he said.
“It’s important because experience on the stage, from a musician’s perspective, in order to become a really good performer you have to do it, the more you do it the better.
“If they don’t have those opportunities I’m afraid that the incentive for young people to become performers … will also be compromised.”
Cuba also said locally-run festivals like the KVMF helped to keep communities strong.
“Music is a very powerful, unifying thing that brings people together and festivals do that very well,” he said.
“I would be sad to see it go and I will speak whenever possible to try to save it and bring it back.
For more information about the festival and how to volunteer visit www.kvmf.ca.