Mel Dunster and Andy Hillhouse present this year's poster for the Harrison Festival of the Arts. This is the first year for the new general manager and artistic director.

Festival builds on success of the past

Stenson's work 'something we can be really proud of'

The lineup for this year’s Harrison Festival of the Arts was officially announced last week, in a special event hosted by the Festival Society’s new managers.

Mel Dunster, general manager, and Andy Hillhouse, artistic director, said they are staying true to the history of the festival and commending the hard work of their mentors, Ed and Phyllis Stenson.

“The festival is in great shape and we don’t want to fix what’s not broken,” Hillhouse said.

He added that Stenson “had a knack for discovering excellent emerging performers and bringing them to the Festival before they became well known on touring circuit.”

To honour her work, they are bringing back some of those great early finds, including Kobo Town, Eric Bibb and Pacific Curls.

They are also focusing on some young acts, and have planned for a night of local music to open the show, Friday, July 11. The evening’s title is Straight for the Valley, and will feature the UFV Bhangra team, the Langley Ukulele Ensemble and the popular fiddle family, The Sabir Sisters.

The festival will feature all the same favourite events, including Children’s Day, the juried art market, music on the beach, concerts in the hall, a literary night, UFV plays, workshops, and an accompanying art show.

This year’s art show, at the Ranger Station, will feature Mae Moore. Children’s Day will feature the very popular children’s entertainer Norman Foote.

Hillhouse said that Stenson was one of the first festival directors in Canada to bring African music to the forefront, and that will be continued this year as well.

“That is something we can be really proud of here,” he said.

He spoke of several highlights to look forward to at this year’s festival, which runs from July 12-20.

“Last fall I got word that Juno winning alternative country band Nathan Music Co., from Winnipeg, were hitting a few Western festivals this summer and I jumped on the opportunity to book them right way,” he said. “Formerly known as just Nathan, this is a band with haunting songs and harmonies that evoke the expanse of the prairies through the sweet voice of singer Keri Latimer.”

Hillhouse said going forward, they hope to build on the festival that is talked about around the world.

“Looking down the road, the things that we will keep working on are increasing youth involvement in the festival and getting more people to participate in music and art making, whether through more participatory workshops or events such as social dance and choral singing,” he said.  “However, this year, it has been really important to us to plant our feet firmly in the soil that has been tilled by Phyllis and Ed, and to bring a balanced program that offers lots of dancing, singing, cultural variety, and just good music and performing arts.”

To learn more about this year’s festival, visit www.harrisonfestival.com.

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