The Westfest crew’s 2012 programming, announced April 13, will feature local and national artists with a distinctly queer edge.
This year’s event will include the Hidden Cameras, an ever-changing, high-energy band led by Southern Ontario native Joel Gibb, who has been living and working in Berlin for the last four years. The group will headline the Friday-night show.
“I’m super-excited about this year,” says artistic director Elaina Martin, who is known for keeping queer artists front and centre in the festival’s lineup. “I’m looking forward to a really awesome queer dance party on the Friday night.”
Hidden Cameras’ June 8 Westfest show marks the band’s first Canadian appearance since 2009. The show will kick off a series of Canadian dates.
Throughout the tour, Gibb and his ensemble band will be performing material from their newest recording, Origin:Orphan.
With a desire to give youth a voice and a more prominent place in the artistic community in the face of youth suicides and bullying, Martin and spoken-word artist FC Estrella (aka Festrell) have worked together to create a Youth of Spoken Word event at Westfest this year. It will feature a roster of up-and-coming poets from the Ottawa Youth Poetry Slam community.
“Festrell and I decided that this would be the best year ever to speak to these issues,” Martin says. “By empowering the youth onstage, we can be purveyors of that kind of support. We want to show others how to do it, as well.”
Also new to Westfest is a collaborative new-media project by artists Andrew Gayed and Cara Tierney.
“The project is titled There’s Room for Everyone, and it’s an aggressive poster campaign that’s basically going to be plastering the street from one end of the festival to the other,” Tierney says. “We’re using new media, like QR bar codes and Twitter hashtags, and hope people will activate these posters with their smartphones, BlackBerries and tablets.
“The vision is dialogue and understanding. It’s something that we all have to imagine together. It’s a way of storytelling, but it’s also a way of role modelling.”
The artists hope Westfest is just the beginning for this project. With 100,000 attendees at Westfest in 2011, it promises great visibility for the launch, which will examine issues of gender identity, sexuality, accessibility and power relations — amongst other things.
Westfest takes place June 8 to 10 on the Domicile Main Stage at the corner of Richmond and McRae Ave in Westboro. The festival, which will cost upward of $600,000 to put on this year, is still completely free to attend.
For more information, visit westfest.ca.