Arts & Entertainment
1 min

Eastern Ontario gets women’s fest

Kingston, Cornwall plan music weekends

BACK IN TOWN. Jenica Rayne will appear at the Red Roof Women's Music Festival near Kingston Jul 18-20. Credit: Jenica Rayne

A group of friends near Kingston are organizing the first women’s music festival that Eastern Ontarians have seen since 2005, proving there’s still a demand for women-only events in this province.

The Red Roof Women’s Music Festival, a weekend celebrating ladies and the tunes they love, is the brainchild of musician Robin Collins, member of the all-girl rock band Girlz Like That.

The idea for the festival, which will run July 18 to 20, came to Collins after Kingston launched an initiative to attract gay and lesbian tourism to the city.

“We didn’t even have a gay bar,” she says, laughing. “I thought, why not a festival? It’s been too long since women have had an event like this.”

Collins, a former board member of the Women’s Voices Festival, put the idea to friends and it took off in “a whirlwind,” quickly gaining sponsors, a lakeside venue and artists like the Picton, Ontario-born Jenica Rayne.

“So far we’ve had a great response, getting lots of hits on the website and even interest from women in the States,” says Collins. “This isn’t just a community festival. We’re open to everyone 19 and up, wherever you’re coming from.”

That openness extends to the festival’s program too, which will feature two days of performances — with one devoted to emerging artists.

“One thing about festivals that drives me nuts is the line-up. Singer-songwriter after singer-songwriter gets monotonous,” says Collins. “Our goal is variety in the schedule and inclusion of all tastes. If women are doing it, we want it.”

The Women’s Voices Festival ran from 1997 to 2005. Facing a $12,000 debt, the organization shut down in 2006. But the idea of a women’s only music event in Eastern Ontario never really died and Red Roof appears to be gaining steam.

Red Roof sponsor Dorothy Brown feels confident that history won’t repeat itself.

As other women’s music festivals are already in the works elsewhere in the province — like Cornwall’s Lavender Moon Festival, scheduled to launch next year — she believes that there’s an inescapable demand for these events.

“Women-only events weren’t happening in Ontario, except in churches,” Brown says. “All women need that space and these festivals open it up.”

Red Roof’s organizers are only selling 250 tickets this year but if all goes well they’re looking to expand in the future.