BC Liberals Clarify Propaganda Festival Plan


July 29, 2010

Earlier this month I passed on a story by Janet Smith (The Georgia Straight) outlining how the BC Liberals, having slashed arts funding to an unprecedented degree, are now planning to produce a series of new festivals across the province in the three years preceding the next provincial election. Dubbed "B.C. Spirit Festivals" these new events will take place in February 2011, ostensibly as a way to "commemorate the Olympic spirit". It will also be an attempt by the government to repair the appalling optics that have resulted from the Liberals' horrific treatment of the arts and culture sector over the past two years.

Independent arts organizations and professional festivals will not be eligible to apply to this program, (which is funded by $3 million of the paltry $10 million set aside for arts festivals funding in the last budget) and awards will only go to community arts councils and aboriginal cultural organizations. So while this is good news for local Arts Councils, Band Councils and Friendship Centres, established festivals and professional arts organizations that have been impacted by funding cuts in the past two years are once again left out of the running. One can only hope that the organizations that are successful in obtaining funding through this program will produce festivals that are inclusive of other organizations and are not shy of political content. My hope is that the resultant festival events frankly discuss the current situation in the arts instead of pandering to the funding bodies.... Here's an update from the Georgia Straight, and links to the original story.



Liberals clarify B.C. Spirit Festivals plan to arts groups

By Janet Smith

The province has confirmed details about the controversial new B.C. Spirit Festivals it is funding out of the $10 million arts Legacy money in its last budget.

In an announcement released today, the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and the Arts said $3 million will be directed toward the February festivals.

The events are meant to "renew the pride and excitement British Columbians experienced during the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games," arts and tourism minister Kevin Krueger stated in the release.

The program will be administered by the Assembly of BC Arts Councils, with support from the BC Arts Council. Grants will be handed out based on population, providing up to $50,000 to produce festivals in communities. Applications will be chosen through a "peer-review process", according to the release.

Those applications will be accepted from August 1 to October 6, 2010. There is also a hint in the release that any leftover money may flow to festivals already in place: "after this initial intake, support may be available for festivals that embody the vision of BC Spirit, and take place throughout 2011."

Word of the festivals has raised the ire of the arts community, which is facing drastic funding cuts.

Aside from seeing the loss of almost all funding from gaming, local arts groups are also seeing major cuts to core funding. In the provincial budget at the beginning of March, it was announced that there would be $10 million given to arts as part of an Olympics legacy. But because the announcement came at the same time as cuts to core funding and gaming grants, arts groups have called for the $10 million to be given to the arm’s length B.C. Arts Council to hand out to groups.

When he got wind of the Spirit festivals, NDP culture critic Spencer Herbert Chandra noted the irony of funding such new events when so many festivals are suffering from funding cuts. “They’ve eviscerated the B.C. Arts Council by cutting them by 50 percent, they’ve decimated gaming funding. People just want stable funding for the arts, distributed by a jury process,” he told the Straight. “I hope these are not going to be government propaganda festivals." (See story at http://www.straight.com/article-333125/vancouver/bulk-10million-arts-leg....)

Full details on the program are at http://www.bcartscouncil.ca/legacy/index.html.