For a few years now, the Regina Folk Festival and the Edmonton Folk Festival have shared some artists, especially headlining acts. Right now, for example, if you look at the artists Edmonton has announced so far, you’ll notice they also have Neko Case.
This is no coincidence, of course. When it came to be that the EFF and the RFF would be on the same weekend, it opened up opportunities for our festival.
“The size of our city and our budget would not allow us to get the people we’re sharing with Edmonton,” says Sandra Butel, RFF artistic director. “For more of the artists that are really well known, and sometimes internationally too when we bring in a big group from overseas, it’s more convenient to share the costs between two festivals.
“Especially when the other one has a bigger budget and sells a lot more tickets than we do. They’re a really big festival. It really helps us out a lot.
“There’s still a lot of artists at our festival who aren’t there. We don’t start to look the same. We’re selling tickets to the same people.”
This means to some degree, Butel winds up working with Edmonton on bringing in artists. There’s no one way it works; Butel describes it as an “organic process” that could involve direct consultation between the two festivals or Butel hearing from agents who’s been booked for Edmonton that they might be able to get a deal on.
Her Edmonton counterpart, Terry Wickham, a “a good Irish dude”, Butel tells me.
“He’s pretty old school. He writes things on foolscap. He doesn’t have a spreadsheet of artists or anything he’s working from. For years, we’ll be trying to work on an artist with him and then it’ll finally happen. Neko’s been a long time coming.”
For all the benefits of being able to work with Edmonton on bringing in artists, it also means that there has to be some give as to when she puts them in her schedule.
“I have to be more flexible in the way we present. We have to do a weekend of music instead evenings of music. That’s hard for me.
“The one year, we had John Prine and he was only available for Friday night. And, well, that’s the kids night! But that’s the only time he could do it. So what do I do? Do I pass up the chance for John Prine because it’s not the right night in my head?”
The answer: go with John Prine, even on a Friday night.