Committee: Neighbourhood Liaison (Coordinator)
Number of years volunteering: Around 20 years
As Neighbour Liaison Coordinator what I love most about volunteering with the Vancouver Folk Music Festival is the community we create each year whose make up starts first with my fellow coordinators who spend oceans of time sweat and the occasional tear to build the base of the fest, and along with the staff and board innovate new ways of being an even more accessible, green and connected happening.
Yes, happening, for we are made up of so much more than amazing music from around the world. Our little nonprofit has only a few hardworking dedicated staff, so our body is composed of new and returning volunteers who are the foundation of the fest. Their enthusiasm, diligence, and warmth are essential to the very spirit of this gathering. Then there are our festival goers who bring their anticipation and delight. We have festers who have been coming for decades who set the tone of our weekend community. Nowhere else have I found people to be so engaged and interactive. Strangers share food and fav bands and some even become irl (in real life) friends! New festers are surprised by the easy going fun they find around them, where people from all walks of life and all ages ebb and flow in ways our larger society could learn a lot from. Year after year I hear these new folks, many younger, coming from much more chaotic festivals getting in the groove of ours, saying things like “see I told you, people are so friendly here!” I heard that after I had a chat with a group of teenage girls in the portolet line after we admired each other’s hats and shared which booth we got them from. A simple interaction that clearly meant so much to them.
As part of access I feel very passionate about our inclusiveness, a rare and beautiful thing in a world seeming to be racked by increasing ‘isms’ and prejudice that bode ill for peace in our world. But at our festival we celebrate music from far flung places like Mongolia and Estonia, Uruguay and Spain, Australia and Israel. We create a space for all ages, not just through our accessibility programs but by our main stage audience set up which creates not only dance areas but ensures that our families with little ones, our pregnant patrons, our folks who are saging and any and all festers who might have any kind of health challenge can sit and enjoy our fest.
Standing for hours on end just isn’t doable for many people and our younger festers coming from other events have slowly become excited about our inclusiveness once they understand why we do what we do. You see, having that all ages inclusive interaction is critical to individual and community health. I grew up in NFLD where parties were from babies to grandparents. And that kind of intergenerational bondedness is critical to a larger sense of belonging in our city, something the Vancouver Foundation found that we were really craving. Well, once a year we at the Folk Fest stand as a beacon for how that can be achieved. And I am really proud to be a part of that.