In a city known for its cultural events, Montreal’s festivals are launching a call for help after the restrictions
Ahead of Quebec’s budget on March 21, 16 Montreal festivals say their futures are in jeopardy if they lose all funding.
The festival’s founders published an open letter in Le Devoir newspaper this week, saying their costs have skyrocketed while government investment dwindles.
The letter said festivals in the city are being adapted to health restrictions to provide people with arts and culture programs despite the isolation imposed.
“But the fallout from this crisis has been abrupt, revealing the fragility of our structures and the fatigue of our teams,” wrote authors Alain Mongeau, Audrey Genois and David Lavoie.
They say they are grappling with costs that have risen about 40 percent since 2019, on top of a worsening labor shortage.
Mongeau, the founder and general manager of the Mutek techno music festival, told CBC News in an interview on Wednesday that he and his colleagues wanted to send out a “cry for help.”
“Montreal really likes its festivals. It’s a festival city, but right now festivals fear for their future,” said Mongeau. “We have to talk about it and find solutions and be creative about it.”
Fabienne Colas, the founder of Festival Haïti en Folie and the Montreal Black Film Festival, says her team has always struggled to find adequate funding.
“We in particular, for example at the Montreal Black Film Festival and the Haiti en Folie Festival, are racialized, marginalized groups on top of that. So we always have to struggle with less funding.”
Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante has announced that she will champion the festivals at higher levels of government. Culture funding was frozen in the Montreal budget.
Cultural activities important for the city
Suzanne Rousseau, a founder of the Nuits D’Afrique festival that takes place downtown every summer, says she’s concerned Quebec is considering cutting funding for arts and culture because of inflation.
“We are discovering the effects [of the pandemic] in the different areas of our lives and culture, it’s exponential,” Rousseau said.
The festival has slowly grown in size over the years, but she says if the government cuts funding, she and her colleagues will have to reevaluate.
“This festival is important for many people, many workers and the tourists who come to Montreal,” Rousseau said.
“It’s the cultural activities that make people want to get out there, spend money and be happy.”
Quebec Culture Minister Mathieu Lacombe said in a statement that the government will continue to support festivals financially, but that “we also need to ask ourselves how we can better prepare them for the future. That is the challenge we face. We are currently working on solutions with them.”
Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez said in a statement emailed by spokeswoman Laura Scaffidi that the federal government will continue to support festivals.
“Canada’s vibrant festivals and events have been among those that have suffered the most during the COVID-19 pandemic due to the resulting public health measures,” said Scaffidi.
“We know they remain under financial pressure and labor shortages that are undermining their efforts to get back on track. We’ve been there from the start to support our festivals. Canadians across the country are counting on these local events and we will continue to be there for them.”