Who we are
Calgary Folk Music Festival – the 4th weekend of July at Prince's Island Park
39th Festival: July 26 – 39, 2018
Part of a unique Canadian folk festival model with its own special vibe
In 1961, Estelle Klein created the Ontario's Mariposa Folk Festival, which began the Canadian folk festival model of outdoor, community-based events with stellar artist hospitality and a programming format incorporating collaborative workshops, or sessions. Now, in major centres, small towns and rural areas, a handful of professionals and thousands of volunteers have created a singular festival format.
Founded in 1980 as part of a celebration of Alberta’s 75th anniversary, and held at Calgary's iconic Prince’s Island Park since its inception, the Calgary Folk Music Festival (organized by the not-for-profit Folk Festival Society of Calgary) has grown from a locally based one-day event into a four-day extravaganza with a national and international profile and a broad, cutting-edge programming vision.
The annual Festival is a four-day, family-friendly, cultural and musical jamboree at the bucolic Prince's Island Park. The festival hosts and celebrates over 70 artists from ranging from Calgary, around Alberta, throughout Canada and around the world on six daytime and two evening stages. Our diverse and exciting line-up will perform in concerts as well as sessions – unpredictable mash-ups where artists share songs, stories and collaborate in unique and often unexpected ways. It is a must-attend event for music and festival lovers; an essential community gathering for 53,000 Calgarians and tourists.
A small staff and a small army of 1850 community volunteers take care of everything, including site set-up, ticketing, staging, hospitality and recycling. The site boasts a family area with interactive activities and live entertainment, a talk tent, an international craft market, global culinary delights, a record tent and tree-shaded beer garden within earshot of two stages. Our multi award-winning environmental initiative program covers plate and cup recycling, composting, wind-powered energy and secure bicycle parking.
The Festival’s dedicated audience, idyllic setting, artistic calibre, long history and fabulous hospitality place it at the forefront of North American music festivals. In 2006, The Globe and Mail dubbed the Festival "one of the seven musical wonders of the world," noting it has the best programming of the post-folk music fests; a genre-bending affair that cleverly brings in roots, world and indie icons and upstarts from around the globe.
For two years the Talk Tent has enhanced the vibe with comedians, panels and other spoken word programming. In recent years, distinctive features include a modified grain silo where audiences created their own music concrete, an interactive sound igloo made of speakers and Theatre Replacement’s short, intimate bilingual show BioBoxes.
The Calgary Folk Music Festival is a multi-tentacled creature: one of Canada’s flagship, trailblazing music festivals plus a year-round presenter of music, art and cultural performances at its own curated space, Festival Hall, the first of its kind for a music festival. The organization also spearheads key mentorship and educational programs (Boot Camp, the Song Contest, educational outreach) which are key to developing the skills and careers of Alberta’s budding songwriters and musicians.
Every year, budding artists have a unique opportunity to learn from their favourite guitar heroes and song craftsmen as part of master classes, lovingly referred to as Folk Boot Camp. Held at the National Music Centre, festival artists teach songwriting, singing and guitar playing to students for three hours over three consecutive days during the week of the Festival. The Centre features a collection of rare keyboards, organs and theremins and other unique instruments.
This multi-faceted programming reflects the ethos that has guided the Festival for over three decades, from its community-based beginnings, eccentric kitchen-party writ large. The Festival has kept its Woodie Guthrie-inspire folky mantra, but now attracts marquee artists and local favourites, history-makers and innovators, pioneering godfathers and grandmothers plus current rebels, romantics and revolutionaries.
For 12 years we hosted the Song Writing Contest. Through this annual celebration of new Alberta songs, over $25,000 in prizes are awarded in six categories - Sonic Youth, Untapped Newcomer, Prose and Pros, Beaver Tales, Upstart and one unique annual category - and shine a spotlight on our province's songwriters, helping to increase their profiles and jump start their careers.
After eight years of planning, fundraising and building, the Society opened Festival Hall in September 2012. Information on the Hall’s offices, volunteer centre and performance space can be found at festivalhallcalgary.com.
Attendees can expect the unexpected at Festival Hall as we present live performances that encompass everything from music, film, food, theatre, spoken word and even advice panels. Individuals and organizations can also rent the Hall present their own curated programming and other fabulous events.
Mission and vision: The Folk Festival Society of Calgary’s vision is to enhance our community’s quality of life through the celebration of music from diverse cultural traditions. Our mission is to creatively engage audiences and artists in live music experiences through unique approaches.
Artist archives: www.calgaryfolkfest.com/artists/archives