Montreal Music and Arts Festivals Prepare for “Unprecedented” Summer


With Osheaga canceled for 2021 and the Jazz Festival postponed to September, Montrealers might feel like this summer will only prolong the drought of live cultural events in the city.

However, despite the uncertainty of future pandemic restrictions, several festivals are planning to move forward, adopting hybrid models and downscaling their events to comply with guidelines.

One such event is the Montreal Fringe Festival, which runs June 1-20, kicking off the festival season with a mix of online and in-person performances.

Amy Blackmore, executive and artistic director of the MainLine Theater and the St-Ambroise Montreal Fringe Festival, said CBC’s Daybreak the Fringe typically has between 100 and 115 shows in 20 venues.

This year, it will downsize, with 30 to 35 shows in four or five venues.

“We’re going to be very transparent with all of our artists and all of our audience about what the experience will be like,” Blackmore said.

“For example, there will be reduced capacity at our sites, tons of COVID-19 safety precautions, and people on site to help everyone have a good experience, stay safe and enjoy the art. . “

Amy Blackmore is the general and artistic director of the St-Ambroise Montreal Fringe Festival. This year’s edition will be quite different from previous years, but the team is dedicated to putting on a show despite the pandemic restrictions. (Cindy Lopez / Montreal Fringe Festival)

As Montreal is designated a red zone, cinemas and auditoriums cannot accommodate more than 250 people, depending on capacity, and the sale of food and drink is not permitted. Whether these rules become looser or stricter by the summer is up to everyone.

Blackmore said that with the ever-changing situation, his team are “ready to change in no time.”

“We have an A to Z plan.”

Having had to move last year’s event online, Blackmore is keen to celebrate the festival’s 30th anniversary and has launched a fundraising campaign to keep the event alive.

“I feel a very big responsibility with 30 years,” she said. “I want the bangs to exist for years to come. It’s an integral part of Montreal’s independent arts community and that’s really how Montreal starts the summer.

Fantasia also hopes to host screenings in person.

Another festival that aims to welcome an audience in person is the Fantasia Film Festival.


Departure scheduled for August 5 to 25, founder and CEO Pierre Corbeil told Daybreak he also plans to follow a hybrid model, offering films that can be shown at home and in theaters.

“We are known around the world for having the craziest screenings with a very enthusiastic, excited and responsive audience,” Corbeil said. “[At home] it’s not the same, but it’s still a lot better than doing nothing and canceling. “

Also celebrating an anniversary, the 20th of the festival, Corbeil said the event will open with the world premiere of Quebec film Brain Freeze, which he describes as a zombie comedy.

He said that with the festival in a few months, there is still time to adjust the plan according to the rules.

“We hope that the possibilities will be much greater than what we can currently envisage,” he said.

The Just for Laughs Festival is set to return for its 2021 edition July 15-31, although organizers have yet to announce how the festival will operate and whether it will include in-person events.

Mutek back in August

For its part, the Mutek music and electronic arts festival is scheduled to take place at the end of August.

Artistic director Alain Mongeau told Daybreak that “it has been so difficult to predict exactly what will be possible” but his team is ready to throw an event anyway.

Last year, Mutek prepared to host the whole festival online and even created a custom virtual platform. Ultimately, they were able to host events in person with social distancing.

Mutek, pictured here in 2019, is another festival eager to welcome a live audience again. (Mutek press photo / Bruno Destombes)

Mongeau said that unlike other festivals facing challenges, he is fortunate that his event does not rely heavily on international artists.

“We rely a lot on local talent, so we are able to restructure a festival,” he said. “We can reshape the festival and that still makes sense.”

Above all, Mongeau is eager to welcome people back. He thinks the feeling is mutual for the audience.

“We believe that after a year and a half now, everyone will be eager to step away from their screen and be exposed to the culture live.”

Expect a busy September

Dan Seligman, Creative Director of POP Montreal, echoed this sentiment, saying that while September will be an exceptionally busy month with events like Jazz Fest and Francos Montreal, the fan appetite will be there.

“I think there is such a desire for the public to attend cultural events and support artists, I think there should be enough space for everyone,” he said. told Daybreak.

The 2020 edition of the POP Montreal festival included outdoor performances from a distance. (POP Montreal press photo / Coralie Daigneault)

Seligman called the period “unprecedented time” for event planners, adding that “the festival ecosystem has been in crisis mode since last year.”

He said that for “events like Jazz or Osheaga which are such massive undertakings, it’s really hard to pivot on short notice.”

With POP Montreal for several months, Seligman said his team are waiting to see how things turn out, while hoping for the best – a return to normalcy.

“We will be ready to welcome an audience,” he said.

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