2 min

Women’s Voices turns seven

Festival bigger and better than ever

Credit: Capital Xtra files

Saddle up, sisters. Plantaganet’s Bean Town Ranch is about to undergo its annual transformation into the home of the region’s most chick-oriented event of the year, the Women’s Voices Festival. And the seventh festival promises to be as full of surprises as ever.

“We’ve got a little bit more international flare this year,” says the festival’s music director, Brenna Rivier. “Emma Wall is from Australia. We have Paula Obé from Trinidad again.”

She’s quick to list off a host of exciting all-female acts scheduled to succeed each other on stage. From Connecticut to Kingston, Rivier says the show has got it covered, but hasn’t neglected Ottawa’s home-grown talent.

“The other thing we’ve tried to do is have a French performer each day,” says Rivier, adding that the festival includes a French/African percussion act, Yayé, and Andreanne Warren of Montreal.

Also new is Saturday afternoon’s “Ode to Ottawa” segment of the schedule.

“One of the things I heard last year was that people missed the local fare,” Rivier explains. “I think it’s going to be quite special.”

The afternoon includes the sounds of Ottawa’s Peggy White, Lori Jean and Lee Hayes, topped off with the always-popular Herb Girls.

One of the weekend’s highlights, says Rivier, is a cameo appearance by Ellen MacIlwaine, who will join Margaret Stowe and S’Women in Blues on stage Friday night. The women will perform with a full band, giving the audience a musical tour of genres.

“It’s not going to be the same thing for two hours,” assures Rivier. “It’s sort of a musical revue.”

Saturday night headliners the Wyrd Sisters also have a surprise for festival-goers this year. They’ve had what Rivier calls a “change in personnel” and the new girl is reported to be well worth watching.

“Apparently she’s just phenomenal, that’s what the band is telling me.”

In the past, Sundays have been low-key, says Rivier, who promises a wilder finale for the festival’s seventh anniversary.

“We’ve tried not to make it quite so mellow,” she says, and rattles off Lucie Blue Tremblay and Vinnick, Sheppard and Harte as only part of the afternoon’s lineup. “I think it’s going to be an exciting day.”

While music is the obvious draw to the camping weekend at Plantaganet, the festival also peppers the event with sports, shopping and workshops for women with a yen for learning something new.

One of this year’s more unusual workshops and performers is the Wind Walkers Stilt and Fire Troupe. This group promises to thrill and entertain, and will also hold a Saturday workshop on “poi,” an upper body dance using weighted ropes and chains.

Unlike most years, where car maintenance and financial advice lead the way in workshops, this year’s theme is very body and energy-oriented. And, of course, the perennial favourite, “Sex Toys 101,” will be back. This class follows two others on finding a mate and building a relationship.

“It’s like the evolution of a relationship,” laughs Rivier. “But we can’t have a weekend without Sex Toys 101.”

Originally, the musical episodes of popular television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Xena, Warrior Princess, were slated for twilight showings, for those who prefer to avoid the club-like scene at nights. But after some consideration, the schedule has been changed to less musical, if not less cult-like showings, including the movie Forbidden Love.

“It’s just an alternative for those who don’t want to do the get down and dirty dancing,” offers Rivier.

* For more information on tickets, camping and the festival schedule check out


Fri, Jul 18 to Sun, Jul 20.

Camping is on a first come, first served basis.

Festival passes run from $30 to $75, depending on which package you choose.