This is the final instalment of a three-part series about Vancouver Island MusicFest funding.
Edwin Grieve is a founding member of Vancouver Island MusicFest and served seven years on the board of directors.
Grieve, Area C director and board chair of the Comox Valley Regional District, is aware of the challenges of running a festival and staying on budget year after year. He recalls the first few years were very tight.
“In fact, we ended up about $48,000 in the red the very first year and had to go begging to the regional district committee of the whole for a deferral of the rental fee for the site and the campground,” he said.
In years past, user groups needed to run water and power lines at the fairgrounds then remove them to allow the next group to run water and power for their event. But 2011 and 2012 saw the completion of more than $1 million in “long-awaited infrastructure upgrades that will service the site for years to come,” Grieve said.
The CVRD provides grants-in-aid to a variety of arts, cultural and community activities and organizations.
MusicFest received $1,000 toward sponsorship for water crews in 2011 and $900 for water crew/zero waste T-shirts in 2010. The district also contributed $2,000 and $600 towards signage sponsorship in 2010 and 2009 respectively. It did not provide a grant last year.
Comox Mayor Paul Ives said each Valley municipality has contributed to MusicFest through the CVRD towards upgrades at the grounds. Each year, the Town provides about $20,000 and in-kind services to Nautical Days. The Filberg Festival receives a full-time gardener (year-round), seasonal parks workers and other in-kind services from the Town.
Cumberland supports festivals and events in-kind, not with cash.
The City of Courtenay supports the arts and cultural community but does not directly support festivals — though council considers requests. It gave $5,000 to the second annual Elevate the Arts festival, which received the same amount from the Downtown Courtenay Business Improvement Association.
The City does not have a grant-in-aid program, but permissive exemptions can be given to waive taxes.
Mayor Larry Jangula understands the frustrations of MusicFest producer Doug Cox when it comes to municipal funding or the lack thereof. He feels the subject needs to be discussed on a “Valley-wide basis” because each municipality and electoral area benefits from the event, not just Courtenay.
“Even if half the people coming are from out of town, that’s still 5,000 people. That’s a lot of people,” Jangula said. “It (MusicFest) is definitely the most significant thing crowd-wise that probably happens on the Island.”
He notes MusicFest appealed to council for assistance through gaming funds but said this year’s money had been allotted.
“I think in years going forward from now that we should be looking at that,” said Jangula, who suggests money from hotel room taxes could also help the festival. “I would be very in favour. I think they have a good cause.
“There’s no doubt it is a big thing. It’s positive for our business, it’s positive for our community. If we can help, I think we should.”
Cox notes the host city of Regina provided about $150,000 to support the annual Break Out West music conference.
“That money comes from hotel taxes,” Cox said, noting money that comes back to the community is tenfold.
He feels it is a “welfare mentality” to fund only organizations or events that are struggling.
“I think supporting excellence in the arts is always good for a community,” Cox said. “Supporting cultural tourism events in this community that have a humongous spinoff financially for the local business sector has proven over and over again to be one of the main sources of creating economy.”
Over the next couple of years, MusicFest personnel will work in conjunction with the Comox Valley Economic Development Society to conduct economic impact studies.
But for Cox — who has invested 16 years into MusicFest — the bottom line is not money.
“As a citizen and a father whose trying to raise his kids in a place where the quality of life and artistic value is recognized, it’s important to me that support of the arts and a culture here becomes real and significant from mission statements that are made by local government.
“That in a way is more important than how much we would get, because that is going set the ball rolling for how people manage and recognize cultural tourism and culture in the Comox Valley.
“We’re years behind in that. It’s backwards…It’s not really about the amount of money. It’s about how recognition of a healthy cultural community creates a healthy community.
“The more that it becomes recognized and supported by government, the healthier the community becomes from a business and a cultural perspective.”