Last year, Edmonton’s inaugural Not Enough Fest showcased a huge slate of brand-new bands, all featuring women, queer, genderfluid, trans and other non-binary people who aren’t always well-represented across the city’s venues and stages.
With the festival’s second iteration just under a month away—on May 21 and 22 at the Ritchie Community League, to be precise—two members of its organizing team, Kendra Cowley and Clare Grehan, collectively answered a couple of questions about the festival’s second run.
VUE WEEKLY: Not Enough Fest is happening in May this year, so we’re just about a month away. What part of the festival prep are you working on right now? How’s it going?
NOT ENOUGH FEST: We still have a couple of events happening before the fest in May, so we’re busy pulling those together as well as making sure bands have everything they need before and during the fest such as gear, instruments, jam space and actual band members.
VW: This is the second Not Enough Fest to happen here in Edmonton. What were some of the things you learned last time? Any major changes going into the second go-around?
NEF: Last year there was a huge turn out, and we ended up reaching capacity during most of the day. This year we’re going with a bigger venue and holding a weekend-long festival to accommodate the 20 bands who have registered so far and all the volunteers and participants we’re expecting.
VW: On a similar line of thinking: what sort of conversations happened after the first Not Enough Fest? Did any of the feedback surprise you?
NEF: There were a lot of conversations that we anticipated continuing after NEF, like the use of Safe/r Spaces policies, inclusive booking practices, resource allocation etc. We are so glad people are talking about what it looks like to centre the art and experiences of folks who are often silenced or dismissed. But there were also some really legitimate, critical conversations that came up after NEF ’15 regarding who is represented in the organizing committee, how we interact with our supporters and whether or not our role is to work within an established community, to try to create our own, or to find the best way to navigate both. These conversations really challenged us to consider how we engage with the larger music community and the role and the responsibility we have to honour connections and pre-existing relationships that continue to be valuable to our participants and supporters. This year facilitated a lot of reflection, conversations we know will be essential to any continuation of NEF.
VW: Do you have any particular stand-out memories from last year? What are you most excited about this time around?
NEF: Last year was so special. So many people showed up, were responsible for their actions and to each other, were enthusiastic and encouraging and honoured the vulnerability of our participants. It was a space so warm, welcoming and accepting that we could feel it profoundly in our bodies. One stand-out moment was watching a band of 14-year-olds play in front of their first crowd—the White Stripes have never sounded so good. The support for all these new artists was so tangible, nerves muddled with excitement, admiration and appreciation and allowed artists to share of themselves in such vulnerable and creative ways.
This year, we are excited about all the projects that were inspired by last year’s fest. We keep hearing about bands we didn’t know existed who are gearing up for NEF independently of our supports. There are people coming from Vancouver and Winnipeg to share their first show with us, and we have had artists of all different mediums reach out to discuss collaboration. Also, last year was fairly indie-rock heavy; this year there seems to be a broader spectrum of genres and multi-media performers. We are so excited to see how weird NEFers can get.
VW: Anything you want to add?
NEF: We would love to acknowledge all the incredible support and inspiration we have gotten from other folks doing vital work in the city. Brown, Black and Fierce continue to challenge us to think about the ways we can act in solidarity with IBPOC [Indigenous, Black and People of Colour] initiatives essential to the scene we want to see. Venues like the Nina Haggerty Centre and Harcourt House have demonstrated how sharing resources across communities and mediums is essential to supporting a more inclusive arts community. iHuman, Cypher Wild and other youth art-based initiatives in the city remind us of all the people and places that have been doing this long before us and who continue to create spaces for healing, expression and collaboration. Promoters, bands and allies have demonstrated how to show up and provide support in tangible and meaningful ways. Volunteers have shown us how invested they are in seeing NEF continue, in standing by us as we learn, grow and challenge ourselves to do better. We are regularly awed, inspired and moved to action by all those invested in an Edmonton arts community that celebrates the vibrancy of complex identities and experiences, that opens up space for expression and collaboration for all and that continues to engage in transformative conversations in the face of overwhelming obstacles.