ARCHIVED - Fostering Northern Talent

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There is a lot of talent in the North, and for the past 30 years, Folk on the Rocks has been fostering it. Northern performers whose careers began at the festival have gone on to succeed at the national and international levels, including Jesse James (Diga), Tanya Tagaq Gillis, and Leela Gilday. Originating as the Society for the Encouragement of Northern Talent, Folk on the Rocks, held annually in Yellowknife in the Northwest Territories (NWT), provides a venue for Northern performers to work together and to showcase their gifts alongside musicians from the South and around the world.

Leela Gilday rocking out on Main Stage. (Photo by: Pat Kane Photo and Artless Media) 

There is no doubt Folk on the Rocks is a success. The annual, four-day festival has become one of the premier entertainment and cultural events in the NWT. However, it had become apparent that the organization had outgrown its current operational model. "The festival grew incredibly within a short period of time and the organization needed a plan to move forward. In addition to providing a strategic direction for the future of the festival itself, we wanted to address how to grow into a more year-round organization." explains Lynn Feasey, Folk on the Rocks' Executive and Artistic Director.

Folk on the Rocks received funding from the Government of Canada's Strategic Investments in Northern Economic Development (SINED) program for the creation of a strategic business and capital plan, with contributions from the City of Yellowknife and the Government of the Northwest Territories' Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment two years ago. In 2009, $125,000 in SINED funds were being invested to put the plan into action.

Digawolf performing on Main Stage. (Photo by: Pat Kane Photo and Artless Media)

Last year's SINED dollars funded infrastructure improvements and repairs to the festival site in order to continue delivering high calibre programming and host a wider audience while ensuring safety. The funds will also be used to build portable structures that will reduce annual rental costs, helping the festival to become more self-sustaining. Part of the funds were used to develop a fundraising and membership strategy, which will allow Folk on the Rocks to go into fundraising in a stronger position. "We will be able to attract other partners with this AANDC funding standing behind us," says Feasey. "The strategic plan [also] shows we're a serious business, looking to become more sustainable and less reliant on government funding."

Buffy Sainte-Marie joined on stage by Lucie Idlout, Leela Gilday, Celina Kalluk, and Tanya Tagaq
Buffy Sainte-Marie joined on stage by Lucie Idlout, Leela Gilday, Celina Kalluk, and Tanya Tagaq. (Photo by: Pat Kane Photo and Artless Media) 

The Board of Directors hopes the new direction will help other communities and organizations feel welcome to partner with the festival to promote their culture in innovative ways, even as Folk on the Rocks continues to build on the wealth of culture in Yellowknife. "Yellowknife owns this festival," says Feasey, quick to credit the city with its success to date. "From volunteers to sponsors, to various staff throughout the years — that's something everyone can be proud of."


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