Cancellations and funding gaps: Vancouver events scene off to rocky start

In the wake of the Vancouver Folk Musical Festival Society announcing it would be cancelling its 2023 event and potentially all future interactions, other event planners are sharing their concerns about cancellations of events in 2023.

In December, Daily Hive published a story about the 2022 events scene in Vancouver, which was marred by some very notable and high-profile cancellations.

While some big names are scheduled to make stops in Vancouver this year, long-running events with a strong history in the city are in danger of going extinct because of a lack of funding and sponsorships.

A vote at the Vancouver Folk Music Festival Society’s annual general meeting is set to take place on February 1, which could ultimately decide the fate of future events. The Folk Fest has been running for 45 years, and the society says that the annual event draws 40,000 attendees yearly.

“Save the Vancouver Folk Music Festival” is a Facebook group started by residents who have been brainstorming a multitude of ways to try and keep the event going, but based on what the Vancouver Folk Music Festival Society is saying on its website, the odds of the event being saved aren’t good.

The Vancouver Folk Music Festival Society says it would need a financial infusion of approximately $400,000 to $600,000 per year to stay alive. With sponsorships shrinking, where does the money come from?

The Vancouver CelticFest, another long-running event, is also in danger. CelticFest is scheduled to take place on March 17 to 18 in downtown Vancouver, but the event going ahead is in doubt due to financial concerns. This event has been running for 17 years.

Someone connected to the event shared their concerns with Daily Hive in an email.

“The board and organizers of the not-for-profit CelticFest Vancouver are feeling the crunch, wondering if their festival will scrap together the funds to go ahead as planned.”

The email also shared concerns about the city’s arts scene.

“If arts and culture festivals can’t survive downtown, where does this leave Vancouver?”

The 2023 Vancouver International Auto Show was also cancelled.

Will 2023 be a 2022 repeat?

Several high-profile events were cancelled in 2022.

Among them, the most notable was likely the Formula E event that was supposed to take place in the summer, with Nickelback expected to headline the show, scheduled to kick off on Canada Day.

Canada Day fireworks were cancelled, and so were the New Year’s eve fireworks.

Cancellations were the norm when COVID-19 was more prominent. Many hoped 2022 would mark the return of events. 2022 was indeed a much better year for events, but there were still significant setbacks that had nothing to do with COVID-19.

Cabaret Bijou was another cancelled event, advertised as a cabaret-style dining experience.

It isn’t just organizers in Vancouver that are dealing with issues related to event costs.

It’s not all bad. Some notable events on the way for Vancouver include the highly anticipated Just For Laughs comedy festival, the 2023 Vancouver Mural Fest, Bard on the Beach, the PNE Fair and several high-profile musical artists like Shania Twain and Coldplay visiting the city.

Earlier this month, the LunarFest had a stellar showing of support from the public.

What can the City of Vancouver do?

During a recent State of the City address, Vancouver Mayor Ken Sim addressed the Vancouver events scene, saying he wanted to bring a “renewed swagger” to the city.

He reflected on the “feeling” during and after the 2010 Olympics and the buzz in the air.

“You wore Vancouver on your sleeve like a badge of honour. We need to get there again, and we will get there again, and it’s going to take a lot of hard work,” said Sim.

While the City of Vancouver may be preparing to embark on some hard work to bring this supposed “swagger” back to Vancouver, for many event organizers and the attendees that made those events such long-standing fixtures in the city, it’s too little too late.

In a statement to Daily Hive, the City of Vancouver said, “As our arts and culture sector continues to recover from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, Council will be working to make it easier [for] events and festivals to be hosted in Vancouver.”

With files from Kenneth Chan

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