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The day the music died for a year

Cancellation of 2017 Rock the Shores fest leaves a void in West Shore cultural scene

Times Colonist, March 31, 2017

The cancellation of this year's Rock the Shores music festival has left a void in the West Shore, arts advocates say.

The July rock festival has drawn up to 12,500 at a time in past years and has played host to acts such as the Tragically Hip and Jane's Addiction.

Organizers cited limited availability of headliners, market saturation and increased competition, but said the event would return in 2018.

Laura Davis, chairwoman of the West Shore Arts Council board, said the festival is significant for the community. “The community is quite used to having that festival occur and we don't really have anything else of that size in the West Shore,” she said. “We have the Lantern Festival in September, but of course it's not really featuring music as a highlight, so we'll be missing some of the top bands coming to our neighbourhood."

Ed Watson, chairman of the West Shore Parks and Recreation Society's board, said he was surprised to hear the festival was cancelled.
The society was counting on $30,000 to $35,000 in revenue from Rock the Shores in this year's budget. “It's not insignificant, but it can be made up,” Watson said. Some extra revenue this year has come from the Victoria Grizzlies hockey team making the playoffs and Telus renting part of the parking lot for $5,000. It's possible the Mann Cup lacrosse championship could come to the West Shore this year again. More than the finances, Watson said the bigger loss is cultural.

While the West Shore is home to many smaller arts events and venues, from the Coast Collective Art Centre to the Stinking Fish studio tour, few large concerts find a home there.

As a festival organizer, Atomique Productions co-producer Nick Blasko said he found the West Shore to be a positive community to work in. Costs such as policing and security, insurance and infrastructure were factors in the decision to cancel the event, but weren't the tipping point, he said. “There's not one single thing or entity we could point toward,” Blasko said.

Davis said one challenge is the lack of a dedicated performance centre. The Q Centre hosted Alice Cooper in October, but she said the seating arrangement isn't appropriate for all types of performances. The Juan de Fuca Performing Arts Society is getting charitable status and putting together business proposals for a dedicated performing arts facility, she said.

Langford Coun. Lillian Szpak said it makes sense that sports have outpaced arts development in the region. “[That happens] not just on the West Shore but for all communities with young families,” she said.
“That's usually the place you want to put your money, because it's about supporting young families and activities. But a wholesome community requires a strong arts-culture piece, too.” Szpak said Rock the Shores has been an important piece in the West Shore's arts development, joining a history of other events like Arts in the Park. “We're so keen on growing our arts and culture and this was a cornerstone of that,” she said. “It's an industry like any other, so they have to respond to the market stresses. I would safely bet the fans will be there for them, so I sure hope they come back.”


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