A strong and multifarious music and arts community resides in Edmonton’s core, and the vibrant neighbourhood gets its turn in the spotlight each summer during the Heart of the City Festival.
For two days, Giovanni Caboto Park comes alive with a packed lineup of emerging and established talent from the downtown community, not limited to any one genre or style to give as many people as possible the opportunity to perform—there’ll be a new artist on stage every 15 minutes to half an hour.
“We don’t go through and choose specific types of musicians to play or types of artists to come out because this area is so diverse and multicultural you end up with so many different types of artists,” says Mike Siek, a local musician who plays as part the Skips, and is acting as the festival’s vice president and multimedia facilitator this year. (Full disclosure: he was formerly Vue‘s production manager.) “You’ve got native drummers and singers and dancers; you’ve got people doing African dance, and then of course the main part of it is going to be folk singer-songwriters—that’s always a pretty standard festival thing.”
Artists include new talent such as Jennifer Lane, Erin Kay, CordaLain, the Wayne MacLellan Band alongside more established acts like Kimberley MacGregor, Billie Zizi, Cam Neufeld, Thompson Highway, Rellik, and Rebecca Lappa.
“If you look at the history of this festival, it was giving people that don’t have a stage … a place to play with a real sound system, a real audience,” adds Siek, who has been living in the McCauley community for the past five years and credits the festival as one of the first stages the Skips had the opportunity to play on. “There are a whole bunch of musicians that have come up through the years that sort of stepped off from this, as well as other things, and moved on.”
Aside from a host of new artists on this year’s stage, the festival’s organizing board is full of new faces as well, with festival chair David Prodan being the only returning member. Siek says there has been no shortage of enthusiasm from the new group, which has led to exploring possibilities to expand beyond the festival by building a membership base and creating a calendar of year-round events.
“Having such fresh faces means that the sky feels like it’s the limit, you know? They/we don’t know our limitations yet,” Siek says. “I think you see that in a lot of young organizations where youthful exuberance is involved. You end up planning for the future in a way that is exciting and scary. We have ideas to open a café, or have it be year-long events that happen all the time and have a little record label. There’s so many ideas that it’s going to be fun to see what happens with it all.”
Sat, Jun 7 (11 am – 10:30 pm); Sun, Jun 8 (11 am – 6:30 pm)
Giovanni Caboto Park, free