Revitalization

Pearl Company Proposes New Ward 3 Festival

By RTH Staff
Published January 05, 2011

The Pearl Company has just issued a press release announcing that a group of Hamiltonians "has begun to undertake the development of a new multi-disciplinary festival that will have its beginning in August of this year."

This comes in response to today's news that the Festival of Friends is leaving Gage Park to a new home in Ancaster.

According to Gary Santucci, co-owner of the Pearl Company, the strength of the Festival of Friends was its central location and accessibility. "[W]hether on foot, by public transit or by car, thousands of people converged on Gage Park and shared a common musical experience in an urban setting second to none."

The proposed festival would take place in a variety of locations and venues throughout Ward 3 and would comprise a mix of paid and free events.

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By Andrea (registered) | Posted January 05, 2011 at 19:07:40

Sounds awesome, and this plan embodies the original concept of the Festival of Friends.

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By Sound off (anonymous) | Posted January 05, 2011 at 19:51:57

Yes, like Canadian music as a focus!

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By misterque (registered) - website | Posted January 05, 2011 at 20:49:55

The beauty of a Pearl organized festival is that it will be able to avoid all the expensive permits!!

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By HamiltonBrian (registered) | Posted January 05, 2011 at 21:47:09

I wonder how big an audience Ancaster Fair Grounds will actually get. Kudos to Santucci.

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted January 05, 2011 at 22:15:27

Ancaster Fair Grounds? Now there's a winning choice....

I really hope they pull off a Ward 3 festival. This town desperately needs more of such things, not less.

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By HamiltonFan (registered) | Posted January 05, 2011 at 22:49:23

I would support this for sure. I have enjoyed going to the FoF at Gage Park. I was reading this and folk festivals can generate monies as well.

"Folk festivals generate dollars along with ideals - Though Canadian folk festivals are grassroots affairs where lots of patrons reflect the ideals of the 1960s, they nevertheless generate big dollars."

http://www.canada.com/edmontonjournal/ne...

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By jason (registered) | Posted January 05, 2011 at 22:57:56

Awesome news. Thank you Pearl and Gary.
I can see an event that grows into a large central city festival, highlighting the amazing venues and spaces that exist in an easily-forgotten part of town:

Gage Park, of course http://thepearlcompany.ca/ of course http://heartofthehammer.wordpress.com/ Paper Box Studios - http://forum.skyscraperpage.com/showthre... http://imperialcottoncentre.com/

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By Supporter of arts (anonymous) | Posted January 05, 2011 at 23:28:58

Yes yes yes!! We do need more of what Gary proposes!! I sense something very real and very good coming from this turn of events.

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By Mogadon Megalodon (anonymous) | Posted January 06, 2011 at 01:14:54

jason: "I can see an event that grows into a large central city festival, highlighting the amazing venues and spaces that exist in an easily-forgotten part of town"

The parts outside the downtown? Agreed.

The Pearl and the Cotton Centre are both around 2.5km from Gage Park (I believe the Pearl is actually block or two closer to Gore Park than Gage Park). It's somewhat like linking James North and Locke South – there may be a number of compelling parallels, but it's possibly a bit of a reach.

If I might make another totally implausible suggestion, how about bringing back Earthsong? Wouldn't it acknowledge a gaping hole in the festival landscape, and perhaps be an easier funding sell than more of the same Folk/Roots/Country/Blues fodder that is a little too familiar/flat?

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By Steve (registered) | Posted January 06, 2011 at 09:03:33

Sounds great. Outside concerts and stages during the day thru early evening and then the party moves inside to different venues (maybe with different musical genres) for the night.

No neighbourhood complaints about noise late at night, family oriented, promoting local talent. And you'd never have a complete rainout because the indoor venues would still provide dry performance space.

I'm in!!

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By Cityjoe (anonymous) | Posted January 06, 2011 at 09:54:47

This is the Best News I've heard in a long time! Those Pearl Company folks are AMAZING!!

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By JimmyS (registered) | Posted January 06, 2011 at 09:56:50

Awesome idea!!

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By Mogadon Megalodon (anonymous) | Posted January 06, 2011 at 10:41:11

Devil's Advocate? Ancaster Fairgrounds is viable as a festival site because of the mobile nature of festival audiences. It positions FoF as a regional draw, and I imagine that might make it easier to obtain provincial funding... within 20 min radius of the site you've got Brantford and downtown Hamilton, within 30 min Burlington, within 45 min radius of the site you've got Cambridge and Oakville. It works for them, and it clears the ground for creative growth in the old city's open-air festival circuit (which would include May's Spring Music Festival, June's Wingfest, July's It's Your Festival, and August's Mardigras Carnival -- the most obvious benefactor of FoF's move to the city margins). Win-win, I'd say.

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By Mogadon Megalodon (anonymous) | Posted January 06, 2011 at 10:46:44

*SMF isn't open-air, but still an established part of the city's festival DNA

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By Sad Festivalhead (anonymous) | Posted January 06, 2011 at 11:57:31

The move from Gage Park is simply the latest hugely disappointing step in Festival of Friends' never-ending death spiral. Ancaster may have a nice new Fairgrounds but, as far as I can see, it's an awful venue for something like the FoF. Barren fields might work for livestock and tractors but not leisurely days exploring new art and music (although the FoF line-up in recent years has been pretty casino-grade anyway).
For now, I guess I'll have to join the 130,000 others who go to Victoria Park in downtown London each for the free Home County Folk Festival (and other events). Home County is what FoF should/could be and shows the slide that has occurred with our event here over the years all too clearly (google to find their website if you're unfamiliar with it!).
Best wishes and high hopes to Gary and whoever might want to fight to bring back original arts and music to our City's heart! FoF in its Gage Park setting will be really missed.

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By Steve (registered) | Posted January 06, 2011 at 12:46:27

ok, it's official Festival of Friends is dead to me! Bring on something new.

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By mrjanitor (registered) | Posted January 06, 2011 at 13:00:34

Remember the joy of finding some shade under a tree and sitting in the grass with the other music fans for the side stages/workshop shows? That will now only be a memory, never a reality.

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted January 06, 2011 at 15:09:45

The constant act of putting anything and everything out in the middle of nowhere so as to position them as a "regional draw" has become something of a sick joke. Has anyone beyond Hamilton heard of the Festival of Friends? How exactly is taking this out of the exact middle of the lower city and putting it on the limits going to bring more people in? Or is this simple an attempt to escape the "ghetto" that is Cumberland, or Kensington Avenue (giggle)? It's festival sprawl.

Hamilton needs festivals with character. The ones we have (especially since Earthsong left) have a really lowest-common-denominator feel to them. What exactly is a Hamilton Mardi-Gras anyway, and why does it happen in the summer? I've been to a real Mardi-Gras, and it works because it's a colourful and different experience rooted strongly in a place/community (New Orleans). The point of a festival is not to appeal to everybody in the usual ways, but to take one or two days to appeal to what people might be interested in for a day or two.

Wanna see a really successful local tradition of this sort? The re-enactment of the battle of Stoney Creek. Now there's something that's different, largely home-made, educational and very Hamiltonian.

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By Enraged (anonymous) | Posted January 06, 2011 at 18:15:26

There are some serious issues going on with this crazy city! Is there any possibility that they could link the West Harbour into something that would bring the Festival of Friends there? I was very shocked to hear about it moving to Ancaster, but still getting municiple money. That is in no way urban renewal. Loren Lieberman, Tara Crugnale and Bernie Morelli should be put in stocks and paraded through down town...oh no wait we probably don't have a permit for that!

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By Those Nutcases (anonymous) | Posted January 06, 2011 at 22:28:45

Just cannot believe how some of our supposedly civic minded leaders can't stop shooting themselves and Hamilton in the foot.
Bratina should be jumping up and down about the move to greenfield Ancaster Fairgrounds by a city funded urban festival. Instead he rolls over and plays dead.
And Crugnale, Lieberman, and company? What can I say? They will do anything for money.
Morelli, is asleep at the switch.
No, I am glad the Pearl people will come up with a replacement and all forward thinking Hamiltonians should organize a boycott and picket of the Festival of "Fiends" at Ancaster Fairgrounds.

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By Sad Festivalhead (anonymous) | Posted January 06, 2011 at 22:38:48

Undustrial: FoF did used to have character and be a huge regional draw, just like downtown Hamilton. It took years of pathetic decisions (some within the festival's control and others beyond it) to bring it to its knees. At the same time "competing" festivals sprouted elsewhere.
Regardless, shipping it into bland and sun-baked highway access land is no more an answer to the festival's woes than one way streets were to downtown's. They both ignore real plausible solutions that could create beauty, and prosperity, instead of smog and sprawl. The FoF in Ancaster will be like going to a big box when a perfect local option used to exist. As I said before, I will pass and go to London where the powers that be have had the power to make things work.
BTW, I agree with on Earthsong - years ahead of its time in notion and programming. Sadly killed by infighting and NIMBY's I understand.

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By Steve (registered) | Posted January 07, 2011 at 10:59:52

@Enraged, per this Spectator Ediorial from September Bayfront Park (WH) was considered; http://www.thespec.com/opinion/article/2...

@Those Nutcases, Morelli is anygthing but asleep at the switch. He's a cold, calculating bully who put the festival move in play with Ferguson who was coveting putting something of significance at AFG.

The parking debacle of last summer was simply a play to move this one step closer to moving elsewhere. How last minute and typical Morelli was the parking permiting last summer?

  • A friend of mine received his at his door (mailbox)
  • He was surprised when it arrived because he didn't ask for it, and wasn't told one was coming
  • Went to City Hall and said "Hey can I get another 2 of these in case my kids decide to visit on that weekend" and was given 2 more permits just like that.
  • Then he said to me do you want to have one to photocopy because they are just photocopies on coloured paper.....

A bush league, but effective way to remove the Festival from where Morelli no longer wanted it.

Like I stated previously, dead to me, and time to invent a new longterm festival.

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By Andrea (registered) | Posted January 07, 2011 at 12:06:03

It's sad, but the Festival of Friends has not only grown in size, but there has been a huge departure from ideals of its origin. I guess that is inevitable, things change and morph and adapt over time. In the grand scheme of things, I am in favour of preserving the park and the historic trees for the same reason I think it is ridiculous to pave over Confederation Park for a stadium; it's a PARK. Obviously something smaller scale is needed at Gage Park to replace the FoF and I applaud the quick response from our local artists and musicians.

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By Henry and Joe (anonymous) | Posted January 08, 2011 at 15:19:49

^I agree with Andrea. I am ok with the FoF moving to Ancaster, if the intent is to continue to grow it to a larger and larger draw. I think Lorne Lieberman stated that the FoF is already a regional tourism draw, but it is under pressure trying to attract international acts in the same venue. I attended this year, and the crowd was impressive, although the lineup was not really my taste. I can appreciate the contributions of Peter Murphy, Squeeze, and Gord Downie, but it's not exactly what I am listening to currently. Nevertheless, these names are a draw for many people, so it's a good thing. The Sound of Music Festival seemed to have more hip Canadian performers, in my opinion. Lieberman's comment, if I remember correctly from the Civic league conversation, was that the residents were not the one's responsible for the complaints about parking. He said that the feedback the organizers received from neigbours did not support what the city was saying about the issue. Was there real concern from residents about the direction this festival was going? Was it a minority that was complaining? Does anyone know?

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By Sad Festivalhead (anonymous) | Posted January 08, 2011 at 23:13:38

The idea that you can't have large crowds AND protect trees is ridiculous and typical Hamilton.
Once again, running to greenfield wins out over managing, preserving and benefiting from a site's heritage "constraints". MUCH larger festivals have faced MUCH larger challenges like this and handled them with grace. Here, it seems too easy to simply runaway. Sad.

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By Sam R. (anonymous) | Posted January 09, 2011 at 15:38:27

I too applaud the local arts community for stepping up to fill in the gap here... Good for the Pearl Company for doing just that!!! I will sign up anywhere to help where I can!

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