By Mike Nason @ahemnason
A few weeks ago, I was part of a smallish group of local musicians/artists/swell folks/interested parties/shit disturbers who met at the Shifty Bits Cult Headquarters to talk about our little local scene and how we could work together to make Fredericton a better place to make Art. People talked about what we had to share and what things we want. People talked about how they felt they could help. It was a pretty heartwarming little event.
A few weeks later, I found out that Fredericton’s Jane Blanchard – a member of the music scene for more years than you’d guess based on her age – was up to something. She put her money (ie: time) where our mouths were just a few weeks prior. FLOURISH is a small, mostly-local, mostly-all-ages event happening in Fredericton that celebrates some smaller unknown venues and artists, while seeking to encourage artistic collaboration. I caught up with Jane during a whirlwind of email communication late last week to get a better sense of what’s up.
I’d heard a few rumblings about how Jane Blanchard was “up to something” and within a day or two, an invitation for FLOURISH shows up in a Facebook notification. Can you tell us a little more about the event and what it’s all about?
Jane Blanchard: FLOURISH is a weekend event that will showcase the talents of artists and musicians. These are primarily from the Fredericton area, however we are also opening our arms to a few touring acts. The idea is to combine musicians who wouldn’t normally play together, or put artists in venues they haven’t previously played in order to create a greater appreciation for these many resources and talents. It will also be great for those people who may not usually go to shows due to restrictions such as age or late set times, as they will have the opportunity to enjoy a majority the shows.
All in all, the objective with FLOURISH is to further collaborate efforts within the local arts scene and showcase these talents to the community.
The poster and Facebook page describe FLOURISH as “a musical experience” and, also, as a showcase. What is a defining characteristic that sets FLOURISH apart from other music festivals? Were you particularly influenced by any other festivals?
As opposed to being solely a music festival, FLOURISH will combine a variety of art forms. We are looking to have visual art on display, pop up shops, spoken word, a print sale, poetry, cinematography and more to be integrated into the music showcases.
Penelope and The Shifty Bits Cult have been very supportive and I have been influenced by their creativity and drive for the Shifty Bits Circus. Other festivals like Shivering Songs and Follyfest also do a great job of supporting local talent.
I think festivals in general are going for a more mixed approach to integrating different artistic elements to lineups – it’s a great way to be exposed to something new and create excitement.
What has your experience and history with the local music scene been like? Are there any road signs in particular that led you to creating a festival?
I started playing music and shows with Margo Margo in early 2010. I was lucky enough to have had the opportunity to play at and experience festivals and various venues around the East Coast during that time. Through that I became interested in the festival scene as a whole and started doing volunteer work. I’m currently playing with the band David in the Dark and getting more involved in other aspects of the Fredericton arts scene. The Shifty Bits Cult had a great community meeting a few weeks ago and that really got me thinking that I should do more to be an active member in making Fredericton the best it can be – so I guess that would have been my road sign.
There seems to be a strong emphasis on smaller, all-ages venues and a broad variety of artists in the lineup. It looks like there’s a little something for almost everyone. Who is FLOURISH aimed at?
Every show is a little different in terms of target audience, but in general I’m hoping FLOURISH will attract people of all ages, be they younger or older. By having some events in smaller venues at earlier times, younger ages can also attend, so those shows become accessible to a larger audience. On the other hand, for those who prefer to be stay out late there are also shows at The Capital. I’m scheduling as many all-ages shows as possible, and trying to fit those with bands who don’t normally play these types of events, because it’s a good opportunity to expose them to new listeners, as well as let those listeners see new bands and hear new music.
I imagine organizing a festival for the first time is a huge amount of work. What’s been your biggest challenge so far with FLOURISH?
Everyone has been so kind and accommodating – I’ve had a lot less trouble than I thought I would. Scheduling people has been the biggest challenge, but I think I’m over that roadblock. Fredericton has an amazing atmosphere and is full of inspired people who are willing to help out no questions asked. Getting comfortable with asking others to help and admitting that it’s not possible to do everything on your own is a challenge, but once that’s overcome, the process is much easier. Sophia & Tate at Connexion ARC, Shiftwork, Heather at ReNeu and Feels Good have all been very accommodating – and of course all of the artists and musicians involved as well.
It’s probably a little premature, but do you see FLOURISH as something that will come back next year? How might you grow the event over time?
Let’s see how this first event goes, but I would love for FLOURISH to ‘flourish’. New art is always being produced and new bands are always forming. I think it’s great to launch into spring and start off the festival season with a reminder of just how much our little city has to offer. Also, there has been interest from a number of Saint John acts as well – it would be nice to collaborate further with that scene as time goes on.
But for right now, FLOURISH in Fredericton is the focus, and everything is looking very, very good.
Listen to a playlist featuring many of this year’s performers:
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