By now, people wandering through Westboro Village the weekend of June 11 to 13 will be familiar with the makeover of a residential neighbourhood into an urban circus — pavements will be turned into art platforms and parking lots will become stages as the Westfest festival of music, art and life takes to the streets.
But that doesn’t mean the weekend will be without surprises.
In a city that celebrates summer through a feast of festivals, Westfest is unique — it is free and promotes only local and Canadian artists.
Terri Sanderson, communications and artist relations manager, is part of Westfest’s coordinating team.
“In addition to being free, we have a really strong social mandate of being 100 percent Canadian,” says Sanderson. “We are 100 percent accessible to all communities and we definitely strive to give a safe space to anyone who wants to come down. That’s our mandate.”
In the evening a makeshift stage on Richmond Rd will feature evening concerts that begin on Friday with tunes from female musicians — the Rootsy Women. It echoes Martin’s earlier work with the Rock City Women’s Music Festival.
Peggy White, a musician who hails from a small town in the Ottawa Valley, is one of the musicians performing on stage on Friday June 11. White, a singer and songwriter, describes herself as an alternative country artist.
“I don’t know if it’s from turning 50,” says White, “but all of a sudden I have this newfound confidence, which is really interesting, and now that I have got that on stage, I have more confidence and I just want to do it more.”
White will be performing a set list that highlights her music from the last decade.
“I don’t talk a lot between songs. I don’t like to explain what the song is about unless it’s really, really personal for me and I want that message to get across,” says White.
This is White’s second time performing at Westfest — making her a bit of an oddity — and she is excited and energized by the prospect.
“I am really excited to be going back. I love playing the Ottawa crowd. I haven’t actually done an Ottawa show for a few years,” says White. “The energy is great, and the lineup that night, I am just so excited to be part of it.”
While Rootsy Women take over the stage on Friday, the rest of the weekend will be taken over by artists from multi-disciplines that cover the entire range of artistic expression — from Tam-Tam drumming to spoken word performances.
In addition, Westfest bills itself as the largest outdoor literary festival. On Saturday spoken word artists and writers— including Bill Brown and Daniel Allen Cox who are both familiar to Xtra readers — will dominate the Domicile stage.
Along the rest of Richmond Rd performance artists will be roaming the streets to entertain passersby with unpredictable theatrics that will stop people in their tracks.
Westfest is a community-supported festival with local businesses playing an important part and volunteers running the festival.
“We work with a lot of businesses in the village and we get a lot of sponsorship through them, and that’s how we are able to make it free,” says Sanderson. “We also apply for a lot of grants through the city and through the province — so that’s how we get a lot of funding, but mostly we work with community partners and they help us run the festival.”
There are 40 to 60 volunteers who help during the summer — most of them will be at Westfest for the whole weekend, as well as 20 to 30 onsite managers.
“We have been getting bigger and bigger, certainly our attendance has increased and our main stage has increased,” says Sanderson. “It’s a good partnership for arts and business.”
Westfest runs from June 11 to 13 along Richmond Rd in Westboro Village. For more information go to westfest.ca.