A small crowd gathered at the Ranger Station Art Gallery Wednesday evening was audibly shocked and awed by the news that this year’s Festival of the Arts will include a performance by none other than Buffy Sainte-Marie, the social justice, singing and songwriting warrior known across North America for her activism and music for the last 50 years.
The festival society released the summer’s full lineup of incredible artists last night – marking the 40th year the festival has brought world class art and music into the Harrison community. Executive director Andy Hillhouse told the room that to honour four decades of world music and art, the 2018 festival theme is ‘generations.’
Back in 1978, while the world was “shifting, politically and culturally,” the Harrison Festival of the Arts was born, he told the crowd.
“At 40 years, we are at a point where children and grandchildren of these founders and early community supporters are now visiting and supporting the festival.”
Hillhouse said the ‘generations’ theme will be honoured through the return of some performers with their children and grandchildren, through special acknowledgements at the festival and through a donated art piece by local artist Ernie Eaves.
Hillhouse told the Observer that having Sainte-Marie –who has been performing since the 1960s – at the festival this year not only speaks to the theme of generations, but has personal significance to his own life.
“My mom had an album of Buffy Sainte-Marie in the early 70s when I was a little kid,” he recalled, adding that the 1964 song ‘Universal Soldier’ has stuck with him through the years.
“She became a big voice for Indigenous people and beyond, to all people involved in social change. She’s a very inspiring voice. And what’s really cool is she continues to be [that.] She’s 75 and she won the Polaris prize two years ago,” he added.
Keeping with the festival’s theme of diversity and world music, the 2018 lineup includes artists from around the globe with a variety of backgrounds and musical styles. Between July 6 and July 15, locals and tourists alike can expect to be dazzled by folk, rap, reggae, celtic, blues and everything in between.
Some notable artists include spoken word performer Shane Koyczan, fiddler and step dancers The Step Crew, roots reggae artist Exco Levi and High Priest, blues singer Shakura S’aida and the legendary rock band Chilliwack – plus many more.
Singer-songwriter Leela Gilday will be returning to the festival and collaborating with fiddler Wesley Hardisty and rapper Ostwelve for a performance on the beach.
Kid’s music duo Bobs and Lolo will take the stage for Children’s Day, and the Ranger Station Art Gallery will be transformed into a time machine when Phyllis Stenson and Heather Robertson curate retrospective visual arts to display throughout the festival. As usual, the artisan market will delight visitors at the waterfront.
Between its spectacular lineup, ‘generations’ theme and continued spirit of inclusion, progress and of course, art, the 40th Harrison Festival of the Arts is shaping up to be one of its best.
“It’s about the legacy…we’re feeling like we are finally established…We’re still here, and going strong!” said Hillhouse.
To check out the full lineup and information about purchasing tickets and passes, visit harrisonfestival.com.
Tickets to see Buffy Sainte-Marie will go on sale May 1, all other show tickets are available for purchase now.