UTV is one of the largest annual activist events in Canada and offers our audience and grassroots/ non-profit organizations the opportunity to come together to build alliances, celebrate successes and outreach to a wide variety of people. For sixteen years, countless volunteers, hundreds of artists and one hundred thousand people have gathered in Cates Park/Whey-ah-Wichen to share, inspire, and celebrate.
WHO PUTS THIS TOGETHER?
The festival is organized by a small coordinating committee, some of whom work all year round and none of whom are paid staff. Some amazing activists have been involved throughout the years, having short tenures with the festival before moving on to other important community work. People like Elsa Pang, Megan Oleson and founder Irwin Oostindie have contributed political knowledge and many hours of invaluable work to build UTV’s framework. Some current co-ordinators have also been instrumental in maintaining the grassroots nature of the festival, while simultaneously creating a larger event, which includes programming international and national artists.
Some of the core co-ordinators have been involved with UTV for many years, including Jeremy Galpin (who has been with UTV since ’92), Lorraine Grieves (4 years), Lukas Maitland (3 years), Krisztina Kun (4 years), Gisele Da Silva (3 years) Brian Williams (3 years), Mandy Hardwick (5 years) and Meegan Maultsaid (10 years).
WHERE DOES OUR BUDGET COME FROM?
Unlike most festivals, we do not rely on corporations to underwrite costs through logo placements and advertising. Aside from one annual arts grant ($7,000 in 2005) from the District Of North Vancouver and a community-building grant from Vancity ($2,500 IN 2005), most of UTV’s revenues are generated on the day of the festival. We have maintained our “by-donation” ticketing system, to ensure that we are an accessible event, and though we stand by this as an ethical policy, in practise it has not worked in our favour. On average, the per person donation is less than $5, and this means we barely break even each year.
In ‘04, the District of North Vancouver changed funding rules, (requiring us to apply through a special events fund, rather than through the North Shore Arts Commission which had supported us since 1990), and this new application process has impacted us with a significant cut to our funding.
Another recent development is rumblings of a “sunset clause”, which would see the District of NV phasing out funding altogether for successful festivals, including UTV. This is bizarre and without precedent in Canada, and we feel it has severe ramifications that may include the festival not continuing.
The uncertainty, in the meantime, means we have to increasingly rely on at-the-gate donations. It is a very risky way of organizing, and so far we count ourselves lucky for good weather and good attendance. But this risk factor has forced us to ask the hard question - how can we continue to sustain a festival of this size with limited funding? The answer is…… we simply cannot.
We believe that it may be time for the festival in Cates Park/ Whey-ah-Wichen to go back to it’s “roots”- to become a much smaller, financially sustainable event. However, since many of us are moving on to other projects and personal endeavors after this year’s festival, this can only happen if a new group of people are willing to get involved in the project. Rather than the “size” of the festival, we feel the continued success will be measured by the ability to remain true to our original goals of producing an event that highlights local and international political struggles and gives airtime to marginalized voices.
Through our larger umbrella organization (North Shore Youth Art Works Society), many of the departing co-ordinators intend to pursue other arts projects. UTV founder Irwin Oostindie plans to build the Dragonfly Children’s Festival into an annual event, (starting with it being a component at this year’s UTV), and he is also continuing his important work with the whey-ah-wichen.org project. Meegan Maultsaid, Brian Williams and several other co-ordinators are in the very early stages of discussing a UTV Hip Hop youth festival for 2007.
We’d like to take this opportunity to say we are grateful for the solidarity we have felt with local political communities, and we are honoured to have supported and built many alliances over the years. We thank you for your long standing support of our work.
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