Buskers invade Victoria

Weather won’t dampen spirits at talent festival

B.C.-based juggler and comedian Alex Elixir is performing at the Victoria International Buskers Festival

Sharon Mahoney admits that convincing some of the world’s top buskers to hit Victoria last year was a big risk, professionally and personally.

Victoria, a known tourist town, wasn’t a significant draw for the international street performer circuit. But local artist John Vickers was aiming to re-energize the downtown with a high-calibre busker festival, and Mahoney was key.

The Victoria-based performer has toured the world in her quirky red tracksuit as the passive-aggressive “Sharon from Canada” and her alter ego, the outright aggressive Miss Tallulah. Mahoney had the connections, but convincing performers to attend an untested festival required a leap of faith.

“Some top street performers really took a risk; I begged friends of mine to take a risk,” said Mahoney, the artistic director for the Victoria International Buskers Festival, now approaching its second year. “The pressure was there. You don’t want it to be a catastrophe, and summer is such a big time (for performers).”

Even with days of lousy weather – “July-uary,” Vickers quipped – the festival drew tens of thousands of people to outdoor downtown venues, and was considered wildly successful, especially for a first run. The festival estimates some 75,000 people crowded the venues over 10 days.

“Everyone was so impressed, it was so successful. The weather wasn’t perfect but we still had a great crowd,” Mahoney said. “So many performers commented on the cool vibe of the event.”

This year Vickers, executive director of Busker Fest, hopes to double the crowds. Tourism Victoria is marketing the festival beyond the Island and in Washington State – the event even had airtime on King 5 TV. Victoria hotels have stepped up and have donated 240 hotel room nights for performers.

“Ten days of shows is a long footprint. Noon to 10 (p.m.) everyday, 600-plus shows every hour on the hour with new performers,” Vickers said. “It will be non-stop.”

Three street acts are back by popular demand – Guinness World Record juggler Victor Rubilar from Argentina, U.K. clown Fraser Hooper, and Mahoney, a.k.a Sharon the Canadian. More than a dozen other stage acts were culled from 600 submissions, selected for their humour, creativity and family-friendliness.

“The first thing I look for is family – from three years old to 93, this should be for everybody,” Vickers said. “We want those who bring an edge, a touch of excitement to wow the crowd.”

Marking the Victoria francophone community’s 150th anniversary, two Quebec groups will perform – acrobat comics Les Vitamines and a three-woman fire act, Les Walkyries. Both groups are veterans of Cirque du Soleil. Added this year is an adults-only evening comedy cabaret, and music acts in Bastion Square during the day.

Mahoney calls street theatre a tough but exciting job where you are your own boss, and a perfectly egalitarian way to spread live performance art.

“With street theatre, you can be performing in front of a homeless guy and a millionaire. They both experience the same thing and pay what they think is appropriate,” she said.

“A family that is low income can come down, give what they can afford and have an awesome day of theatre. The idea is to have theatre for all walks of life.”

Main busker venues are in front of the Fairmont Empress Hotel, on the Inner Harbour causeway, and right in the middle of Government Street between Yates and View streets.

Vickers said he hopes shutting down Government Street in the evening will demonstrate to residents and merchants its popularity as a pedestrian area.

“After nine nights we’ll get the sense of a pedestrian mentality,” Vickers said “I hope to concentrate 30,000 or 40,000 people in that block of Government (Street).”

The Victoria International Buskers Festival runs July 20 to 29 in eight downtown venues. See victoriabuskers.com for performance locations and times.

Just Posted

HarbourCats van ticketed at Braefoot Park

Braefoot association dinged $50 for parking baseball team’s van

Metchosin Mayor John Rann welcomes new council members

Half of Metchosin council are incumbents

What to pack in an emergency-preparedness kit for earthquakes

Several earthquakes of Vancouver Island’s West Coast have people wondering how to be ready

Rotating Canada Post strikes begin in Victoria

Monday’s mail will be delayed one day due to strike

West Shore RCMP seizes Camp Namegans’ U-Haul truck

Lock and gate damaged at Thetis Lake Campground in View Royal

B.C. sailor surprised by humpback whale playing under her boat

Jodi Klahm-Kozicki said the experience was ‘magical’ near Denman Island

Ovechkin has 4 points as Caps rough up Canucks 5-2

WATCH: Defending champs pick up impressive win in Vancouver

B.C. government moves to tighten resource industry regulations

New superintendent will oversee engineers, biologists, foresters

Election watchdog seeks digitally savvy specialists to zero in on threats

Move follows troublesome evidence of online Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election

More court before Dutch man charged in Amanda Todd case is extradited here

Appeals must be dealt with in Europe, before charges faced in B.C.

Crown says man guilty of B.C. girl’s 1978 murder based on alleged confession

Jury hears details of girl’s 1978 murder while Crown says man should be convicted of girl’s murder based on alleged confession.

BCHL alumni has NHL jersey retired by Anaheim Ducks

Paul Kariya played with the Penticton Vees from 1990-1992

Most Read