By Cindy Savard, Éliane Laberge and Éric Barrette
Two weeks ago, Ottawa Bluesfest organizers announced the lineup of artists and bands that will play this year’s festival, which is set to take place on LeBreton Flats from July 5-15. Active since 1994, this non-profit, charitable organization overseen by a board of volunteers has managed to become one of the most important outdoor music festivals in Canada, and it ranks as one of the most well-attended musical events in North America. While we appreciate the success it has and the exposure it gives to the City of Ottawa, we have noticed over the years that the festival provides very little space to French as a whole. With this in mind, we want to offer a number of good reasons why the inclusion of French should be considered with respect to the organization itself, the choice of artists and the festival’s mandate.
Offer greater showcase opportunities to French-speaking artists
There are thousands of French-speaking artists at the local, national and international level. Our suggestions? Here are just a few. On the local scene: Le R, Yao, Maggie’s March, Mehdi Cayenne, Céleste Lévis, La Bronze, Eliesapie, D-Track & Sam Faye, and Moonfruits. On the national scene: Klô Pelgag, Ariane Moffatt, LOUD, KNLO, Safia Nolin, Lisa Leblanc, Koriass, Samian, Les Hay Babies, les Soeurs Boulay, and Radio Radio. On the international scene: Maître Gims, Mathieu Chedid, Grand Corps Malade, Tiken Jah Fakoly, Petit Biscuit, Julien Doré, Indochine, Brigitte, and MC Solaar.
Increase website traffic
It is currently impossible to have access to information in French on the festival’s website. While we realize that there are translation costs associated to providing information in both official languages, funding opportunities for non-profit, artistic organizations do exist to help alleviate these costs. For a festival held in the national capital of an officially bilingual country, wouldn’t it be normal to offer services in both languages?
Receive increased support from French media to promote the festival
Major local and national media outlets that operate in French are currently unable to obtain interviews in French from the festival. In today’s information age, wouldn’t it be great to make the most of such an opportunity to represent and reach new audiences while expanding the scope of the message?
Attract more festival-goers
On top of the 7 million Quebeckers who could be interested in the event, it is important to note that nearly 200,000 francophones (who primarily speak French at home) live in the Ottawa area. Did you know that French-speaking artists have the potential to attract a significant number of people? For example, videos released by hip hop artist LOUD currently have more than 2 million YouTube views and his tracks on Spotify have garnered over 100,000 plays a month. As for Gatineau-based group Uni-T, a glance at their YouTube channel shows that some of their videos have over 150,000 views. There are definitely new, untapped audiences who would be interested in the event if they had the opportunity to see artists they enjoy.
In addition to increasing revenues through sales, the festival could double its financial capacity with the addition of sponsors from both sides of the Ottawa River. And as festival organizers know, when it comes to booking artists, local and emerging talent are always less expensive.
Boost the local French community’s sense of belonging
French-speaking artists based in the region often tend to feel left out since there is a lack of opportunities to expose them to new audiences. By giving them the same opportunities as local, English-speaking artists, they could also benefit from the festival’s showcase.
Boost ties between our two shores
The event could be a great opportunity for our French and English-speaking communities to connect and discover a greater diversity of artistic talent together.
Strengthen French culture in Canada
For many years now, Canada’s francophonie has experienced a demographic rejuvenation thanks to the massive arrival of French-speaking newcomers that aspire to see themselves reflected in Canada’s artistic and cultural landscape.
Diversify the management team by integrating French-speaking members
Diversifying the board by including members that possess different abilities, worldviews and networks should ensure a decision-making process that takes into consideration the interests and values of all members of the population.
Enhance the festival’s reputation within Canada’s artistic community
The City of Ottawa is working on a strategy to promote the music industry and one of its objectives is to make the national capital a music city. Since the festival is held on the same territory where federal political activities occur, there is an opportunity to officially position the festival as one that has Canadian bilingualism at heart.
Considering the aforementioned benefits, the festival’s positive impact would improve not only at the financial level, but also by attracting artists and festival-goers coming from French-speaking communities. As a large-scale event run by a non-profit organization with a social mission, we strongly believe that Ottawa Bluesfest should work to respect and foster the linguistic and ethnocultural diversity of our country.