Province boosts Inglewood's musical dream, Stephen Hunt, Calgary Herald, July 24, 2009

Posted by on 24 July 2009

In Texas, all the best music flows through Austin. In Calgary, soon it may flow through Inglewood.

On Thursday, Calgary Fort MLA Wayne Cao announced the provincial government has committed $500,000 towards the construction of a new festival hall in Inglewood that will be part of an ambitious $5.3-million development undertaken by the Calgary Folk Music Festival--an initiative that has the Inglewood community excited, but others wary.

For Jon Lovink, the festival hall executive director, the provincial grant was a welcome show of support.

"They're really the first government funder that's come in," said Lovink. "That's a big step forward for us. When you're raising a little hall, $500,000 is pretty encouraging."

Plans call for a multi-use concert hall that seats up to 250.The festival hall will also become the permanent administrative home of the folk festival, with about half of it being used as office and meeting space.

Along with the Cantos Music Foundation's plans to reinvent the King Edward Hotel as the National Music Centre at the King Eddy only blocks from Inglewood, the folk festival's initiative has some dreaming of a whole new music strip that could rival Austin's thriving music scene. The proposed location for the hall is at 1215 10th Ave. S. E.

Concerns, however, have been raised that the existence of a new music venue in Inglewood will erode the audiences drawn to the Ironwood Bar & Grill, a longtime venue in the neighbourhood that programs live music seven nights a week.

Ironwood executive chef Mike Provo expressed a combination of wariness and guarded optimism that having a new cultural venue in the neighbourhood could be a good thing for his restaurant.

"It could be a good thing if we work together," said Provo, "but it's also like a Wal-Mart opening up next to

you: there's still the worry factor with a place opening up a couple blocks from you.

"If everybody works together and is on the same page, everybody could benefit, especially local and independent artists."

Lovink says folk festival organizers don't view themselves as competition for the Ironwood or any other live music producers.

"We see us as helping people like that," Lovink said. "It's always been the case that more music is better --and we'll work closely with businesses in Inglewood to make sure that this place works for them. As far as competition is concerned, we are a not-for-profit festival society and our vision and mandate is to endeavour to increase the cultural and musical space in Calgary. That's what we're going to do."

Lovink anticipates programming five or six nights a month at the hall, with the remainder of the time being rented out to other arts groups, such as the Calgary Fringe Festival, which is based in Inglewood for 10 days every August.

Inglewood community association president Gian-Carlo Carra expressed unqualified support for the project.

"The community is totally excited about it," Carra said.

"The opportunity to have something like a cultural venue like the festival hall there is just spectacular. It's the perfect fit; it's near the (planned) LRT station and it's a cultural anchor for what's going to be a vibrant, awesome part of the community."