Victoria’s folk festival adds international flavour

FolkWest gives second year a go

The Milk Carton Kids

The gates closed on Saturday during last year’s first annual FolkWest Festival, capping off a successful day in Royal Athletic Park for organizers – but they couldn’t have predicted just how electric the night show that followed would be.

FolkWest artistic director Oliver Swain found himself swept up into the moment when Irish band Martin Nolan, Pierre Schryer and Adam Dobres packed Logan’s Pub and brought the house down with a dance set.

“That dance floor was just pumping so hard and that was as thrilling to me as anything that happened on the main stage,” said Swain, who will take his banjo, bass and vocal stylings to Logan’s with Emily Braden during the first night of the festival, Aug. 10. “Those little moments just came out of nowhere.”

Swain will continue his long history of performance with Braden the following day when he joins the powerhouse vocalist on the main stage.

FolkWest forges ahead into its second year with 23 performance troupes and almost 40 hours of programming – including a mix of international and local performers at Royal Athletic Park and three bands nightly at Logan’s once RAP’s gates close. Emily Braden and the Deepdowns, the Breakmen and Caravan headline the pub Friday through Sunday.

“There’s a lot of great local talent and many of them are in demand all over the world,” Swain said. “The concept of the festival is that we have all this great local talent that we want to mix in and celebrate.”

In an effort to bring a platform for traditional and contemporary folk music back to Victoria following the loss of Rootsfest and FolkFest events in 2002 and 2006, respectively, Swain, along with friends Bryan Skinner, Joelle May, Kelly Sherwin and Adam Bailey, began fundraising in 2009. The Lower Island FolkFest Society gained official status in May, 2010.

Last August’s event had a stronger focus on local musicians – a decision based partially on a desire to promote local performers and somewhat on the budgetary confines of launching a festival.

FolkWest 2012 builds on last year’s success – the event drew 4,500 visitors over the weekend, supported by a crew of 300 volunteers – and includes more international headliners alongside Victoria acts, such as The Archers and West My Friend.

L.A.’s The Milk Carton Kids and Joy Kills Sorrow of Boston are on the lineup, along with the gypsy jazz of Caravan (Marc Atkinson, Chris Frye, Joey Smith and Daniel Lapp), the West African amasumbou music of Aboubacar Camara and Doundounba and Adonis Puentes Band.

“What we really try to do is get together, celebrate and enjoy great, great music in this beautiful city and everything that we have to offer. Bring your family, bring your friends and come celebrate.”

The celebration includes local artisans, food vendors curated by the Island Chef Collaborative and plenty to keep the kids entertained with Merlin’s Sun Puppetry, Swan Lake Christmas Hill Nature Sanctuary, Sunshine Clowns and the award-winning children’s artists The Kerplunks on the bill.

“We’ve figured out just about every way to have fun on a field, all the different ways you can have fun with grass between your toes.”

More information can be found on the FolkWest website at

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