Lisa Wilton, Metro Calgary: These folk can put on a festival

Posted by on 25 July 2012


When British troubadour Richard Thompson played the Calgary Folk Music Festival in 2000, City of Calgary officials spent an hour discussing whether his tour bus would be allowed onto Prince’s Island Park.

Twelve years later, organizers of this year’s Folk Fest are trying to figure out how to squeeze four of the behemoth vehicles into the backstage area on Thursday night.

“In the late ‘90s, (we) hadn’t dealt with a lot of buses or tech,” says Kerry Clarke, artistic director of the festival.

“Now bands bring their own electronic soundboards … and artists who you wouldn’t think were big enough to have a tour bus, bring a bus.”

The logistics of putting on a four-day music festival on Prince’s Island Park can be daunting, but Clarke has been at the job long enough to efficiently deal with any last-minute hiccups that may arise.

That can mean anything from dealing with immigration and border issues to rescheduling workshop stage appearances and tracking down hard-to-find instruments.

While it seems little fazes Clarke, new Folk Fest artistic associate Derek McEwen admits the amount of organization that goes into the festival can be overwhelming.

“There’s definitely been a learning curve,” says McEwen, who has held the position since May.

“Most of it has been the little details. Taxes and stuff like that.”

In addition to taxes and immigration, McEwen has been keeping busy honouring requests from the more than 60 artists playing the Calgary Folk Fest this year.

“There was an eight-page hotel rider for one band,” he says.

“It included the way check in was supposed to happen, how to distribute key cards and all that stuff. That was pretty impressive.”

 “(Another act requested) a certain amount of towels of one colour and then a certain amount of towels of a different colour,” McEwen says.

 “We could open a towel store right now,” Clarke adds with a laugh.

So what’s the most important thing McEwen has learned from the job so far?

“Jameson’s is now the international standard for booze for bands,” he reveals.

“Every country we have represented wanted a bottle of Jameson’s.”