The Westfest media launch and fundraiser, held at the beautiful Cube Gallery this past Sunday afternoon, did much more than announce this year’s lineup. The 15th year of the festival was celebrated by all those who have played a part in helping to support and shape Westfest over the years. In addition, much needed funding was raised, talented featured artists were showcased, and well-deserved awards were handed out.
But more than that, it raised to the forefront an acute awareness and importance of what the Westfest mandate is all about, and how those ideals of togetherness and inclusion for all continue to inject a positive impact in our community, and in Ottawa as a whole.
DJ del Pilar was on hand spinning some great tunes while people mingled in the warm and open atmosphere. Hosts for the afternoon were Kitchissippi Ward Councillor Jeff Leiper and Canadian singer-songwriter Jim Bryson who introduced various speakers and performers. Mayor Jim Watson had the pleasure of handing out awards to some of the supporters that have helped to ensure that Westfest remains a free and accessible festival. Award recipients included Tierney Stauffer LLP, Real Canadian Superstore, The Ottawa Mission (Chef Ric Watson), Thom Fountain, Councillor Jeff Leiper, and others.
Fifteen-year old traditional drummer, singer, and hoop dancer Theland Kicknosway kicked things off with a ceremonial drumming song that set the positive and healing vibe of the afternoon’s festivities. Elder Claudette Commanda began first in the round of speeches. In her captivating words, she described Westfest founder Elaina Martin as “…a natural leader, yet one who gives of her life to place herself behind all others. You are a true leader, Elaina, and you are a woman with a big heart.” She spoke with grace and emotion about the unsurrendered land of the Algonquin people on which we live, about their silenced ancestry, racism, stereotyping, the dark truth of Canada’s history, and the meaning and utmost importance of reconciliation through real communication and education.
Other speakers included Cube Gallery owner Don Monet; Executive Director of the Wellington West BIA, Dennis Van Staalduinen; Attorney General Yasir Naqvi; Ottawa Mayor and Westfest Awards presenter Jim Watson; and of course, the woman who started it all, Elaina Martin. Her larger-than-life presence filled the room with her colourful words, her strong convictions, her boundless optimism, and her enthusiastic vision:
“It’s always a privilege for me to not only acknowledge, but include and wholeheartedly thank the Algonquin people, while honouring their strong history in this area, their stories, and their people. I’ll take this moment to remind you all that Westfest is 100% volunteer-run. This is a passion project, this is about community, this is about humans, this is about everyone, and about everyone being equal.”
From June 8-10, the Westfest 2018 Thom Fountain Team Main Stage Lineup will once again bring a cultural variety of local and Canadian artistic disciplines involving music and dance. This year, the festival will move a short distance from Laroche Park to the grounds of the Tom Brown Arena, bringing back a more intimate setting, reminiscent of their beginnings behind the Real Canadian Superstore 15 years ago.
Headliners include Bear Witness (A Tribe Called Red), The Pursuit Of Happiness, and Cody Coyote. This year, all outdoor festivities will shut down at 10pm and the party will continue inside the fully accessible Tom Brown Arena until 1:30am. Friday night will feature the Westfest Dance After Party and Saturday night will feature the Westfest Live Music After Party. There will be food court and bar areas, and an Indigenous Pavilion featuring various artisans and a 30-foot tipi. The Napkyn Family Fun Area, will house a playground paradise for kids on Sat. and Sun., including climbing walls, a 90-foot obstacle course, and a Westfest Youth & Community Stage. Westfest has also partnered with the Ottawa Immigrant Community Association to showcase artists new to Canada, to bring further cultural dimension… another strong Westfest mandate.
This year will also mark the first ever Cross Community Collaborations panel discussion, which will take place on Saturday June 9 at 1pm inside the Tom Brown Arena. The discussion will revolve around the 83rd Call to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission which signals collaborative art making as a priority. The panel is being assembled to reflect on how artists, cultural producers, organizers, and institutions can foster meaningful exchanges.
Following the speeches and Westfest lineup announcement was a musical performance by solo artist, Grey Gritt, as well as Juno-award winning duo Quantam Tangle, of which Gritt is a member. Their performance was a highly atmospheric blend of guitar, and looping techniques that involve drum and vocal work including throat singing. Each song was a riveting audible experience that reflected stories of their First Nations ancestry and families. The entire afternoon’s festivities were positively-charged, educational, humbling, and succeeded in connecting us all in bettering our community, and our world. From the bottom of my heart, happy 15 years to Westfest, and its creator, Elaina Martin. Meegwetch!
Westfest 2018 will take place June 8-10 at Tom Brown Arena and Park. For the complete lineup, event schedule, and more information, please visit www.westfest.ca.