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Organizers of Sled Island officially confirmed the cancellation of the June 24 to 28 festival on Monday, saying that a postponement of the multi-venue festival was impossible and they are now working towards 2021.
Executive director Maud Salvi said organizers are determined to bring the 14-year-old event back next year, but admitted there were plenty of unknowns that could impact the scope of the festival in the future, including a significant loss of revenue from this year. Last Friday, the City of Calgary announced that all festivals and events in Calgary with an audience of 50 people or more must be cancelled or postponed until at least June 30 .
“I think it’s fair to assume that next year is going to be challenging for all artists and arts organizations,” Salvi said. “We know that a lot of funding is going to go towards relief for arts organizations this year, which is great. But that funding has to come from somewhere. For instance, where we were hoping to maybe see increases in funding next year, we now know that won’t be happening because very likely all the resources would have been spent on relief for this year.”
There are other factors. Sponsorship is a concern given the state of the post-pandemic economy, she said. Also, the festival takes place in multiple live-music venues in Calgary, most of which are also being hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Are they going to be able to stay open and, if so, in what capacity?” Salvi questioned.
The festival had announced its first wave of artists in February, which was to include Russia’s activist punk band Pussy Riot, psych-rockers The Black Angels and free-jazz icons the Sun Ra Arkestra among dozens of others. American violinist Sudan Archives had been announced as the guest curator.
Salvi said fundraising concerts for Sled Island are a possibility later in the year depending on when restrictions on public events are lifted. Refunds will be issued to all pass and ticket holders who request them. Patrons are being asked to consider transferring passes to the 2021 festival or donating the cost of pass or individual tickets back to Sled Island.
This is the second time that Sled Island has had to cancel. In 2013, most of the festival was cancelled due to catastrophic flooding in Alberta.
“The amount of community support we received last time around makes me really hopeful for the future,” Salvi said. “But it’s a different situation in the way that this really affects everybody in so many aspects of society.”
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