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After 24 years, Burnaby Blues and Roots comes to an end

A different music festival will take place instead to “attract a younger, more diverse” audience

At the first meeting of the Parks, Recreation, and Culture Committee on Feb. 13, the city’s culture director, Emmaline Hill, presented a recommendation that the Burnaby Blues and Roots Festival (BBRF) be retired to be replaced by a new event at Deer Lake Park. 

The stage at Burnaby Blues and Roots festival, August 2023. Photo: Rebecca Bolwitt via Flickr

BBRF will be retired subject to council approval, and the city will announce the new event in May 2024. The recommendation to replace the BBRF with a different event came about after Hill’s team reviewed the city’s existing programming. Hill said there were several key drivers for the recommendation, the first being removing the BBRF admission charge. 

“When you have a paid event at that level, there’s a need to attract headliners that are going to drive those ticket sales. So it creates a focus and a limit potentially on the kinds of artists that we’re booking,” she said, adding that this results in an emphasis on internationally recognized artists and creates “less room for more emerging artists, for more diverse artists who would maybe love to play at that venue but maybe are not able to sell tickets at the same level.”

Hill said during her team’s review of the city’s current programming; they found a gap in attendance among youth in their late and early twenties. 

“We hear from young people through surveys and so on that they don’t see themselves in a lot of these events and would welcome the opportunity to participate,” Hill said.  

Music duo Tegan and Sara at Burnaby Blues and Roots, August 2023. Photo: Rebecca Bolwitt via Flickr

The new festival that is yet to be announced will take place on Aug. 10, 2024, the original date set for the BBRF, and aims to increase audience and performer diversity. 

“We’re hearing consistent feedback that Burnaby residents want a broad range of genres and want to see more diverse performers, in particular at our music events,” Hill said. 

The city will continue to organize and produce the new event and work with its contracted partner, Live Nation, to bring in most artists. 

“I actually really like this idea because in Burnaby, which is a really diverse community, if we can create a platform where we invite all the diverse communities to show their talent, their music, their culture, using the same platform, I think that’s a very good idea,” said Coun. James Wang. 

Resident representative Marie Bassey asked about the timing of the event and exploring possibilities for other events that celebrate diverse cultures in Burnaby. 

“This is February and Black History Month, and as a resident of Burnaby, I don’t see much happening. So this can be one way that Black history can be celebrated, for example, with a Caribbean event,” she said. “Just thinking about that opportunity and if it’s something that can be explored.” 

Hill replied that she had received similar feedback from other residents and would explore the possibility.

This piece was made possible by the Local Journalism Initiative.

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