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Old 01-18-01, 03:26 PM   #1
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Exclamation OTTAWA Buskers Fest- A Message from Jason Billows

[Note: This was sent to me by Jason in an email... He has asked me to post it for him.

Dear performers,

As you may or may not know, I have worked with the Ottawa International Busker Festival for nine years. The organization which hosts the festival (The Sparks Street Mall Management Board) has asked me to return as Festival Producer and Artistic Director this summer. After much consideration, I have decided to decline their offer . Dale Chimiri, the General Manager of the festival (another nine year veteran), has also decided not to return for similar reasons.

I am writing this letter to provide some insight as to what can be expected at this summer's festival. My parting of ways with the Sparks Street Mall has been amicable, and this letter is not intended to be judgmental. I wish the festival luck and hope it will continue to be a successful event for everyone involved - performers, audiences and organizers.

However, I have always valued my working and personal relationship with all performers. Therefore, I feel it is my responsibility, as both a friend and fellow performer, to bring some issues to your attention.

Since the Sparks Street Management took ownership of the festival a few years ago, I have noticed a distinct change in their attitude towards performers. Many of the board members see the festival as a way to make money, not as a community event. The value of the performers and their contributions are not being recognized by the board. Some have even referred to performers as 'pan handlers.' Combating that type of attitude was one of the reasons the Ottawa International Busker Festival was founded. I am quite disheartened that those attitudes are held by some of the people who are now responsible for the event. I fear this will lead to performers having an 'employee' status in which their needs are not taken into consideration, but rather they are simply used to attract crowds to an oversized sidewalk sale.

There are also a number of merchants and board members who don't want the festival at all. This has always created tensions during the planning and execution of the festival and I believe it affects the performers and their hats, if not directly, then via the performance sites, advertising, logistics, etc. Because of these tensions, the Sparks Street Mall has not been able to commit to the festival in a way which I feel is necessary. Budgets, sponsorship, resources and staff are far too limited to sustain the festival as the quality event it has become recognized as.

This year will mark the 10th anniversary of the Ottawa International Busker Festival, but for those performers who plan to attend this summer, I would suggest that you consider it as a first year event. As myself and Dale will not be returning, the Sparks Street Mall Management Office will be taking over the organization. Although they have worked on many areas of the festival in past, their main focus has been on the administration. They are not familiar with the artistic direction and logistics of this unique festival. Therefore, I feel many important areas will be affected such as: performer line-up, site locations, performance schedules, accommodations, etc. I sincerely hope that the office staff will be able to pull off a great event, but due to their lack of experience with performers and organization, I feel the festival will experience many of the same challenges a first year festival does.

Should you have any questions, please don't hesitate to contact me directly:</A> , tel: 613-248-8901).

For anyone wishing to apply for the Ottawa International Busker Festival, please contact the Sparks Street Management at the location listed below.

I'll miss working on the festival, but hopefully I'll get to see everyone on the road. Have great shows, great hats and great times.


Jason Billows

Sparks Street Mall Info:

Sparks Street Mall
c/o Busker Festival
2-151 Sparks Street
Ottawa, ON K1P 5E3
tel: 613-230-0984
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