Arts & Entertainment
2 min

Women’s Voices Festival hits high note

Gains official charity status; receives $20,000 Trillium grant

After a year-long hiatus, the Women’s Voices Festival (WVF) is back on track.

Forced to cancel last year’s festival due to financial difficulties, board members have spent the past several months reorganizing its administrative structure and slashing its debt nearly in half. And fundraising efforts are continuing for this summer’s festival.

“While we didn’t have a festival last year, we did have several successful fundraisers, as well as a lot of fun,” says Bonnie Schroeder, former WVF board president and current member. “We are on our way.”

In addition, late last year the group received a $20,000 grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation, as well as official charitable status.

“And that’s the beauty now, besides all of the recognition [people] get for donating, they also get something else back,” says treasurer Johanna Coppens, referring to the tax deductions for those who donate to registered charities.

Late last month, the festival held its annual general meeting. Elected to its board of directors were Maggie Ashton, Brenna Rivier, Christine McAllister and Chloe Contant. While Rivier and Ashton both served on the board last year, this is the first time Contant and McAllister have served on the festival’s executive committee.

“I am very passionate about music and women’s issues – and so I am ready to roll up my sleeves and get involved,” says Contant.

WVF was established in 1997 as a not-for-profit outdoor festival “to celebrate the creative accomplishments of women” at all levels of success in music, comedy and art.

The festival, which annually draws several hundred women from throughout Eastern Canada and the US, found its permanent home in 1998 at the Bean Town Ranch, located some 40 minutes east of Ottawa, in Plantagenet, Ontario.

This year’s festival is slated for the weekend of Jul 22-24. Organizers say they hope to draw between 600 and 800 attendees.

A large part of the board’s fundraising for this summer’s festival will be done next month, during International Women’s Week, which runs from Mar 6-12.

WVF kicks off the week with Ferron In Concert at the Bronson Centre on Sat, Mar 5, and ends it with a women-only dance at the Churchill Seniors Centre on Sat, Mar 12.

In addition to fundraising, board members say they plan to focus on raising its profile within the Ottawa area. This includes a new website the group is set to launch sometime in early March.

Members hope this will not only lead to an increase in turnout for the festival itself, but also to a significant jump in the numbers of women who step forward and volunteer to help organize the festival.

“We need to build a local volunteer base, whether it is as simple as putting up posters or volunteering for a couple of hours at an event,” says Rivier, who adds the group is always looking for new sponsorship. “The bottom line is that this is a one-of-a-kind festival in Canada, and one of the ways that we are going to keep it going is we need women to step forward and volunteer.”