Sun Times staff
Lupercalia + ? = ?
With a buzz downtown, still, after last weekend’s Lupercalia, festival, founder Josh Richardson was already musing ahead earlier this week. What’s next for his growing grass roots celebration of local music, dance, film, visual arts and spoken word?
Food, among other things.
Richardson is onto something again, don’t you think?
Full, quick disclaimer: With Scatter the Cats and others, I’ve enjoyed the pleasure and privilege of fiddling at both Lupercalia festivals. And I’ve written here about fellow musicians involved in Lupercalia, and its sister event Otherfolk, running the night before Summerfolk, and about Richardson, who I admire for what he’s accomplished.
It’s clear all four of these growing grass roots events which embrace and showcase our local culture have quickly become an important aspect of that culture.
They unify and liven up the downtown – and in mid February – while filling venues and drawing visitors to the community.
Good enough reason to stretch Lupercalia to three days?
“I do think that’s the next step. I’ve been thinking about the food and the popularity of local food now and how many great chefs there are around here.” Richardson said during a Bean Cellar chat this week.
“I just thought it would be great to have a bunch of chefs come down to the farmer’s market and have all sorts of food and have a feast. Because that’s what we were doing on the Sunday anyway, was eating with all the artists. It was a great wind down.”
With the addition this year of a new, artistically and financially successful Friday night concert at The Roxy, in addition to some 20 venues Saturday, and 50 acts, about 1,500 people passed “through the gate” during Lupercalia 2012.
The event was a feast of more than just music, though.
As well as the links with supporting music venues, Richardson has also built relationships with downtown cultural facilities, and included dance, film, poetry and spoken word.
Films were at the library. A partnership with the Tom Thomson Art Gallery put visual art, including work from Richardson’s brother Joel, on display in conjunction with Lupercalia. They included design work from Jes Donovan, collage from Cleo Markowitz-Dyer at the gallery.
John Fearnall’s photographs of last year’s festival were on display at The Griffin Gallery in the Roxy lobby, while the gallery at Foto Art featured roller derby by photographer Carlo Obillos.
The Legacy Project highlighted young visual artists work focused on music and performance, at the Owen Sound Artists’ Co-op. Painter Kyle Haight created art on stage during Friday night’s Roxy concert.
With sponsorship to support the advertising, this year’s Lupercalia festival ran with a budget of just over $10,000.
That’s a fraction of how much money the city’s ill-fated Owen Sound Celtic Festival lost trying to achieve essentially the same goal; a downtown, shoulder season cultural event to boost tourism and showcase a mix of local and imported talent.
Where Lupercalia eventually lands on the local tourism map remains to be seen, but without government grants, so far, about 50 volunteers, led by Richardson and a core group, including key contributors Steve Armstrong, assistant artistic director and graphics expert, and sound coordinator Eric Warren are off to a grand beginning.
The bars, restaurants and other venues pay a fee to the festival, which helps cover the performers’ fees.
For the first time this year, headliners at some venues were out-of-town bands with growing provincial and national profiles, while most of the talent was still drawn from the local Grey-Bruce area.
Lupercalia’s success – more or less doubling ticket sales from last year – bodes well for continuing events and garnering more sponsorship and additional downtown support.
“It means I’m looking forward to Otherfolk,” Richardson said. “Again the bar is going to be raised a bit higher, I think. We’ve already booked some recognizable talent from the national scene, and I think it just bodes well for musicians locally. It means we’re going to have another series of festivals and concerts.”
It should also help when Richardson and his team launch their first drive to seek cash donations and investment in future festivals. So far its been advertising sponsorships and ticket sales.
“We’ve stayed clear of government and grants and focused on local and small business. That’s going to take us to a certain level of growth.”
“To move to the next level we’ll have to have larger business contributing significant funds and that’s what we really need next,” he said. “We’re getting the attention and the numbers necessary. What will really determine the direction of the festival will be the investment we get.”
A possible new focus on food and maybe a third day for Lupercalia are among several ideas Richardson and his team are talking about. Look for an added Otherfolk show for all ages, Wednesday, Aug. 15.
“I’d like to do something big and free for downtown to get things started on the Wednesday night, that doesn’t have the pressure associated with the obligations to choose between venues.” he said.
But food now, I like that idea, and so does Richardson.
“I do think that’s the next step because food is such a big part of the community here. It would make sense,” he said.