Steve Lambke talks about his new role as Creative Director for Sappyfest 12.
Sappyfest is close to Steve Lambke’s heart. For several years now, the Ontario-born musician has made an annual pilgrimage to the marshlands of New Brunswick to participate in Sackville’s yearly summer festival – a unique gathering of music lovers, poets, writers, photographers and artists of all disciplines. He’s been a performer, a tourist, a volunteer and has served on the Board of Directors. As a member of Constantines, he’s been front and centre on the festival’s main stage performing to the sweaty, the frenzied and the fanatical. And as Baby Eagle, he’s serenaded the dark, quiet confines of The Vogue Theatre on hot summer afternoons. In short, he has experienced the festival from just about every angle imaginable.
In March, Lambke accepted the position of Creative Director and is now working alongside the Sappyfest’s dedicated Board and other volunteers to shape the festival’s 12th edition.
With just a few weeks to go before this year’s initial Sappyfest lineup is announced, we reached out to Lambke to learn a bit more about his connection to the festival and his new role as Creative Director.
What has it been like making the transition from a fan/performer at Sappyfest to the festival’s Creative Director?
The transition into the role of Creative Director for Sappyfest 12 has been exciting, challenging, fun, and nerve-wracking – but overall I’d say it’s been fairly smooth so far! There is a great team in place, an engaged and enthusiastic Board of Directors, and a lot of good-will towards the festival. I’m lucky to step into such a positive situation. I’m also arriving with a certain amount of experience, having served on the Board between 2010-2012, and having been an active volunteer for many years.
Everyone I know who attends Sappyfest or talks about it to others, does so with an enormous amount of pride. It’s almost like, if you attend Sappy, you become part of the coolest secret society around. In your opinion, what is it that makes Sappyfest such a unique event among the hundreds of music festivals that take place across Canada each year?
I’m happy to hear you say that as an attendee you feel a certain amount of pride in the Festival. This brings up an essential point: what’s important about Sappyfest after so many years is that we have all chosen to do this together every summer, the audience and the organizers and the performers, we have all chosen to come here to Sackville and be together and make art and engage with each other creatively and openly. We have come and listened to amazing music, we have heard wonderful poetry, and have seen exciting art. We have been kind and fallen in love and talked to each other and made zines and laughed and danced and crowd-surfed.
It’s my job as Creative Director to schedule the events and the performers for Sappyfest 12. This is a great thrill and a great opportunity to provide a focus, to offer a stage to the musician and artists and performers that I think are exciting and important and making something rare and worthy. But it’s a bit of a mistake to say that the programming is the festival. The festival is all of us coming here together. So, my only argument about what you’ve said is that this is a secret society. We are trying to keep the doors wide open for everyone! For anyone to come here and to be cool and kind and openhearted and to participate.
Change is good for any organization and with new direction comes new ideas. But change can also be a bit of a balancing act, especially when faced with such a well-established vibe and aesthetic as Sappy’s. How do you see the festival evolving and growing over the next few years?
I’ve come to this role with a great respect and admiration for what has been built over the last 12 years. Times change and the challenges and opportunities also change. The dialogues around inclusiveness and representation are different than they were some years ago. The economy is different and the politics are different. I don’t say this to describe a burden, but rather an attitude. We have a responsibility to live in our times. And that is thrilling and life-affirming and beautiful. I don’t think this contradicts in any way with the idea of a festival where we come to be merry and joyful together.
Sappyfest 12 takes place August 4-6, 2017 in Sackville, New Brunswick.