Every large or mid-size community in Newfoundland
has a festival of some sort over the summer, and many small
towns do as well. The tourist board puts out a list which
you probably could get from O'Brien's or directly from the
Newfoundland tourism department (1-800-563-NFLD) when it
becomes available. Most are
very inexpensive. I will update this list with remaining 2002 dates
when I get the information, or will provide a link to it. Some
of the more than 100 music festivals are:
Sound Symposium is a
major festival celebrating sound and held every
even-numbered year, and in
1998 it is from July 10 to July 18. There is some networking/conference
component I think, including some workshops. One major feature is
the Harbour Symphony where ships in the harbour play their horns
and other stuff and musicians play along as well. Connoisseurs
of sound from around the world have raved about it.
Festival 500 is a choral
festival held every odd-numbered year.
Wreckhouse Jazz and Blues
Festival is held every year.
Comedy Festival is held every year.
Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Festival
(always held in St. John's
and hence sometimes incorrectly referred to as The St. John's Folk Festival)
is held the Friday+weekend after the first Wednesday in
August and is one of probably more than 100 folk festivals held
annually in Newfoundland and Labrador. It is the largest of those many
festivals and is a world class celtic folk festival, as are some of the
The main venue is in Bannerman Park, but in the event of bad
weather, perhaps one day every three or four years during festival
season on average, there are some tents to stand under (the beer
tents, available just to those over 18, and the merchandising tent).
They used to have an alternate indoor venue at Brother O'Hehir
arena but I don't think they are doing that any more.
The ticket cost is still
reasonable given the number of world class celtic
acts: $50 Canadian for a weekend pass, or $12 per session,
with two afternoon sessions (Saturday
and Sunday) and three evening sessions (Friday, Saturday, Sunday).
Tickets are free for young children and half price for teens 12--18
There are some food concessions including fish and chips, also a beer
area, restricted to those 19 or older, off to the side but with reasonable
sightlines and sound, and
it is in the heart of the old city and five minutes walk from
For camping facilities perhaps try Pippy Park, or the
Butterpot Provincial Park 15 miles outside town.
There are small intimate workshop stages and also
the Neil Murray stage mostly but not entirely for
children as audience plus most of the
performers are children, with set times scheduled so that the Neil Murray stage
set is going on during (but not just during) the short transition time between acts on
the main stage. During the
evening session there is only the main stage, and the 1998
Sunday night drew probably 9000 people for that session alone. The
Neil Murray stage area
also has face painting,
a storytelling tent, and some other stuff for kids, but most
of the music is adult calibre and some, including celtic music
performed by rising stars, is not particularly "kid's music".
So it is an overlap of the "kid's stage" of many major festivals
and an opportunity for the young whiz kids to strut their stuff,
though some of them get on main stage too. Also ace accordion,
whiztle and bodhran player Graham Wells sometimes accompanies the young
dance groups so it is chance to hear him solo and intimate which might
not come on main stage where he would more likely play in a group.
Of course, also see my section on
sessions, particularly if you play an instrument or sing,
and the section on pub venues. During
this festival the O'Reilly's session may be less well attended
than usual but there would probably be after-festival impromptu
sessions in someone's kitchen or elsewhere. Oh, and performers
from away are not the main focus, the plethora of local talent
is, but there are generally some performers from away. Such however
can expect little more than an airplane ticket subsidy but could
make more in side gigs in pubs and perhaps other festivals (but
actually I'm not sure what the current Folk Arts Council policy
is on performers from away, I am quoting the one I know from a
few years ago, and it helps if the band has an expatriate
Newfoundland&Labradorer in it or another Newfoundland and
Labrador connection). Also the program of 2001 said it was
the 25th annual festival but it was actually the 25th anniversary
festival or 26th annual (the first annual one was in 1976).
In 2008 the festival will happen on the second weekend in August
rather than the first. I guess this is to avoid conflict with the
George Street Festival and/or The Buskers Festival.
A free buskers festival is held in downtown St. John's the
first weekend in August, often the same weekend as the folk
Feile Seamus Creagh,
the Seamus Creagh Festival of Traditional Irish and Newfoundland Music
was held in late July, 2010 and is being held again in
2011 (watch the website). This combines sets by visiting
Irish musicians with sets by some of the best local performers,
and is held indoors. It is dedicated to the late Seamus Creagh
and is hosted by Graham Wells. In 2014 it will move to October.
There is a Mount Pearl Bluegrass and Old-time Country Festival
held late in the summer at The Glacier stadium in Mount Pearl
(a suburb of St. John's). I'll add in a web page link for
The Peace-A-Chord (with some topnotch alternative rock and more,
including occasional touring performers such as Spirit of the West
and Billy Bragg who support the cause) is a festival late in the summer,
I think Labour Day weekend,
in Bannerman Park but with the main stage set on a different grassy
area than the Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Festival,
to minimize damage to the park over the summer. For
the Peace-A-Chord there is more chance of cooler weather than for
the Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Festival, so energetic dancing is
prescribed, including in the rare event of sprinkles.
2008: recently the city has failed to grant permission to
use the park, so in 2006 shows were held at The LSPU Hall
and booths were at The Masonic Temple, and in 2007 the festival
may not have happened at all. But I hope it returns in 2008.
There are always some musical activities in St. John's for
St. John's Day (June 24) and the rest of the province for
June 24 (Discovery Day) though the focus was on Bonavista for
1997. Probably even in 1998 and beyond there will be some
sort of musical concert in Bonavista on that day as well.
On Canada Day (July 1) there are often mini-festivals, including one
outdoors on the waterfront and/or George Street and/or
The Confederation Building area in St. John's.
During 1999 this will
probably be enlarged to celebrate the 50th anniversary of
Newfoundland's Confederation with Canada, though that would
also be celebrated the night of March 31, 1999, ending at
dawn, preferably with no 4-01 hangover. On Canada Day there
is also a Labrador West Folk Festival.
The George Street festival, with some touring rock acts and local
rock and folk rock acts, takes place in 1998 from July 27 to Aug. 2,
I think (I'll check). Some years there has been a conflict with
the Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Festival (sometimes called
The St. John's folk festival), one of the over 60 (I think
probably over 100) folk festivals
held annually in Newfoundland and Labrador. The George Street
festival is restricted to those 19 and over. Ideally this would be
held annually on either
the weekend (and weekdays leading up to it) before that folk festival
or the one after that folk festival such that the two sandwich the
Regatta. That folk festival is the first
full Friday+weekend in August and the Regatta is the first Wednesday
in August, unless delayed by bad weather, hence sometimes the Regatta
falls before that folk
festival and sometimes after. Hence if the first day of August
is a Thursday or Friday then the George Street Festival weekend
component would best be the second weekend in August (and weekdays
leading up to it). If
the first day of August is a Saturday or Sunday then the George
Street Festival weekend component would ideally be that weekend.
If the first day of August is a Monday, Tuesday or
Wednesday, it would ideally be the last weekend in July.
Carbonear (Conception Bay festival, second longest running
festival in the province), held the last full weekend of
July, so if the George Street festival is held then and
loud rock music and hordes of boisterous partially drunken
late teen and early twenty sorts and rock fans are not your
cup of tea, or just to catch some celtic and other folk
music in a semi-rural environment, check it out. On the
other hand if you like both rock and folk music and are
staying in town you could try one night of the George
Street Festival and a day trip around the bay for another
day and evening of the Conception Bay Folk Festival. This
festival almost always features Tickle Harbour since band
cofounder Gerry Strong lives in Carbonear, and several other
world class acts usually attend.
Une Longue Veillee, Cape St. George, Port au Port Peninsula
is a french Newfoundland folk festival
Fogo (and you?) has a highly regarded festival, The Brimstone Head
Folk Festival, with local performers and special guests. Jim Fidler
recommended this one to me.
Corner Brook: Hangashore Festival. Traditional song,
dance, music and crafts.
Great Big Picnic --- a multi-act concert featuring Great Big Sea
and generally held outdoors at various sites around the province
and country. In 1998 St. John's city council would not give their
promoter a good outdoor site so the only Newfoundland and Labrador
Great Big Picnic is in the Grand Falls/Windsor area (in 1998).
Southern Shore Folk Festival (Ferryland) celebrates Irish and
Newfoundland culture with a host of local entertainers, some
of whom now have major recording contracts.
Outer Cove Folk Festival is held in Outer Cove near St. John's
and features local performers including some with CDs out.
Stephenville: there is some music associated with the theatre festival
which is a professional theatre festival held during the
month of July. (709) 643-4982.
La Grande Terre, Mainland, Port au Port Peninsula. This is a
french folklore festival showing past lifestyles of the people
and with some traditional music and dance.
Labrador also has some festivals, including a Labrador West
Folk Festival on Canada Day, a Wabush one, a North West River
one and one in the Point Amour area.
Conception Harbour folk festival --- small festival,
one of your best chances to hear Wilf Doyle.
Holyrood (Squid-jigging festival), small festival, one stage,
mostly local acts (Wilf Doyle now lives in Holyrood so he
might perform here)
Brigus (Blueberry festival), music, dances, pie-eating contests,
games, historic walks and more.
The Conne River Pow-Wow is held
every year and there are attendees from native peoples across
North America as well as locally and as well as native-friendly
visitors. Info Tammy Drew (709) 882-2470, fax (709) 882-2458.
During the summer weekends, CBC Radio Two has been putting on
a series of lunchtime concerts at The Murray Premises in
St. John's and featuring world class local performers.
There might also be some free summer concerts held at
The Harbourside Park near The War Memorial.
As I said, there are probably over a 100 festivals (mostly
folk festivals) held annually in Newfoundland and Labrador and
I will try to add details of more of them here soon. The
guide available from 1-800-563-NFLD has details on some of them.