The Bank Street Business Improvement Area has had a pretty big secret up its sleeve.
On May 7, it was announced that a brand new festival is coming to town, and the BIA, along with event-planning company House of Sas, is behind it. The Bank Street Glow Fair will bring DJs, performers and light installations to Bank Street, home of the Village, for a free two-day fair.
The move answers calls from the community for an event to energize the street and make the Bank Street business district more vibrant. “With Glow Fair, we want to be set apart from everything else going on in the city,” BIA head Christine Leadman says. “We want to make it uniquely Bank Street and touch on music, art and light. It’s an intersection of what Bank Street is all about.”
Running from Friday, June 20 to Saturday, June 21, Glow Fair will close down Bank Street for nine blocks from Laurier to Gilmour. The event will feature three stages, including a main stage at Bank and Slater, a DJ and house music stage, and the League of Rock stage, featuring local garage acts.
Headlining Glow Fair is R&B singer Judith Hill, who rose to fame as a contestant on The Voice and had been slated to perform as Michael Jackson’s duet partner for his ill-fated This Is It tour. Hill also appeared in the Oscar-winning documentary 20 Feet from Stardom, about the backup vocalists behind some of the world’s biggest stars. Her Glow Fair appearance will be her first-ever live solo show and accompanies the release of her debut album.
Glow Fair will also bring Australian DJ and drag queen Kitty Glitter to Ottawa and will feature Montreal DJ and soul singer Sandy Duperval, Grammy Award–winning DJ Hex Hector, Spanish DJ duo Chus & Ceballos, LA singer Jenn Em and Ottawa’s own Souljazz Orchestra, which was nominated for a Juno in 2013.
In addition to musical performances, Glow Fair will also feature neon street displays, building projections and visual art. Bank Street businesses are getting involved with window displays, promotions and pop-up events, and there will be extended licensed patios set up along the street.
The event follows on the heels of the Bank Street BIA’s rebranding project, which has seen it take a much more active and visible role. “We’re not in it to make money,” Leadman says. “It’s about creating an experience and giving something amazing back to the community and shining a spotlight on the great businesses that form Bank Street. It’s also really important for Ottawa’s development plan for 2017 to have 150 new events. It’s our responsibility to offer programming that is diverse.”
To make Glow Fair a reality, the BIA formed a partnership with House of Sas — the event-planning company headed by former Capital Pride chair Sebastien Provost. “When I was approached by Bank Street, it was the first time a client of mine told me that they didn’t want anything safe or they didn’t want anything boring,” he said at the event launch on May 7.
Provost stepped down from the Pride committee in January 2013 when it became clear there was a conflict of interest between his involvement with Pride and his position with the company. For the past five months, he has been planning and conceptualizing Glow Fair.
“It was just really important to create momentum and to get people excited and really come out at the right time,” he says. Provost planned Glow Fair to capitalize on the Village but to be a fully integrated event for both gay and straight audiences. “For me, the most amazing thing about this project is that it’s free.”
Funding for Glow Fair will come from the Bank Street BIA, with additional sponsorship from Kronenbourg Brewery, which will fund the main stage. “What a difference it makes when you’re trying to be creative, because I no longer have to worry about revenue,” Provost says. The BIA provided a significant amount of funding through its marketing budget, and Kronenbourg also provided cash sponsorship to the event.
Capital Pride hosted a street party in 2004 that left the organization in significant debt; organizers are looking to keep Glow Fair’s costs covered, particularly given that it’s a free event. “I know how to increase those revenue streams,” Provost says, pointing to things like alcohol sales and strong partnerships with sponsors. The event could be eligible for funding once it reaches its second year, and organizers hope that the performance lineup will be a significant draw for tourists.
“What’s so exciting is that these are really emerging stars,” Leadman says. “We’re here to support all our diversity and all our elements in our community, and I think this is a festival that does that.”