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NNSL Photo/Graphic

Becky Davis of The Dawgwoods, centre, plays with Marisol Valerio on fiddle and Chris Pike, also of the Dawgwoods, on guitar. Valerio was planning on flying to the South Slave Friendship Festival to play with two bands this weekend. - Laura Power/NNSL photo

Festival can't afford Yellowknife bands

Laura Power
Northern News Services
Published Friday, August 17, 2007

YELLOWKNIFE - The South Slave Friendship Festival is down by two Yellowknife bands this year due to some last-minute changes.

According to festival organizer Jessica Hval, the Northwest Territories Power Corporation pulled its funding just days before the festival was set to begin. The pledge was for $5,000, which was about a quarter of the festival's entire budget.

The NWT Arts Council pledged $9,000, and Hval said the festival had only received half of that amount on Tuesday.

"We just didn't receive the funding... so we had to cut some things out of the festival this year," she said.

Several workshops will be dropped from the festival, including those based on guitar, songwriting and vocal warm-ups. Also being cut out of the budget for this weekend's festival is certain travel costs, which is where the Yellowknife bands come in.

"Yellowknife artists, usually they're complaining that they got to take one day off from work," Hval said, adding that people travelling from Edmonton often take up to three days off work.

She said flying the musicians in question to the festival would cost about $3,000, and that they're not actually cutting the bands out of the lineup.

"They're cutting themselves out... we just simply can't afford their request, simple as that."

The Yellowknife musicians found out on Tuesday there would be no flights available.

"A lot of us are in management positions and we can't just leave work at the drop of a hat," said Greg Nutt, bassist for both Momentary Evolution and The Big River Ramblers. "The festival starts Friday night of course and three of our band members are committed to work until 5 o'clock."

Nutt was planning on driving as it was, saying he can't take his upright bass on a plane.

"Quite a few of us were very willing to drive down," said Sean Best, drummer for Momentary Evolution and fill-in drummer for The Dawgwoods.

The other members of the Dawgwoods, including Becky Davis, nearly dropped their plans to attend the festival but have since decided to drive to Fort Smith on Thursday night.

"We're going anyway. I just wanted the opportunity to play at a festival so we're going to go down," said Davis. "They're accommodating anyway which is great - they're putting us up when we get down there."

Other musicians from the city, including Mary Cox, will be attending the festival. Marisol Valerio and James Boraski, who each play in two bands, however, will be unable to attend due to scheduling issues.

After having to make such last minute changes, Hval said the festival will likely stop providing airfare for future festivals as well.

"We operate on minimal money here," said Hval. "The greatest amounts (of territorial funding) go to Yellowknife and Inuvik for their arts festivals, so we don't see a lot of funding down here."

Nutt said he hopes that such problems can be avoided in the future.

"I just really hope they get their stuff together for next year, because it's a great festival," he said.

A spokesperson for the Northwest Territories Power Corporation was not available for comment at time of going to press.