Harrison Festival of the Arts kicks off next week

Mokoomba. - Submitted
— image credit: Submitted

If you’re ready to dive into a cornucopia of local and international art this summer, the Harrison Festival of the Arts is the place to be. Stretching from July 12 to July 20, the Harrison village will be home to everything from bagpipers to Bhangra and hitting all the stops in between.

Executive and artistic director Andy Hillhouse says audiences will recognize local acts as well as some old festival favourites

“That’s kind of a tradition in the festival—bringing back some acts from the past that might have been here in earlier stages in their career,” Hillhouse explains. “We’ll continue to do that, to give an opportunity for local talent to be nurtured here.”

Friday night of the first festival weekend is dedicated to local music, including the Langley Ukulele Ensemble and the Sabir Sisters.

But some of the acts Hillhouse is most excited for hail from a little further afield.

“Right off the top of my head, one act I’m most excited for is a Scottish and Irish performer—Ross Aisnslie and Jarlath Henderson. They’re pipers, and they also sing and play whistle,” he says. “I saw them recently in Scotland and they blew everybody away.

He’s quick to add it’s impossible to choose a favourite act, listing off half-a-dozen others: David Francey, Quique Escamilla, Banditaliana, Mokoomba, the Langley Ukulele Ensemble.

“Everything that’s coming, I’m excited about,” he finishes with a laugh.

There will be a healthy dose of Canadian tunes between the two festival stages, but also an ample sampling of world music. For eight days, the Harrison beachfront will be a place where world art meets small town roots to form a single community.

“As a curator, I like the idea of that kind of community-level connection in music and art, and I’m offering that idea of community,” Hillhouse says. “In many respects, it fits in with what the festival will always be about—a high regard placed on community.”

And as always, the Festival is about so much more than music—an art market meanders along the lakefront both weekends of the festival, and other events include a night of poetry reading, an offering of one-act plays held over from UFV’s Directors’ Festival in the spring, and a crafts and activities day for children.

This is Hillhouse’s first year at the helm of the festival, and over the next few years he expects festival-goers will start to notice a little bit of his personal touch on the festival. For the most part, however, he plans to stick to what he sees as common sense: if it’s not broken, don’t fix it.

“I think we’re lucky that the transition was from a healthy place—that’s not always the case with arts organizations,” Hillhouse says. “It’s key to make it clear to the audience that there’s some continuity with the director before and their program—there’s a festival tradition here.”

And as the Festival draws closer, Hillhouse emphasizes the most important tradition of the Festival Society: the feeling of community.

“When I talk about community, I’m talking as much about the local as I am about the national and international community,” he says. “Bringing people together may not always be within the realm of the mainstream music industry or the mainstream arts, but [it is at] a more grassroots kind of level.”

• The Harrison Festival of the Arts begins on July 12 and runs until July 20. More information, and full program guide is available online at harrisonfestival.com, or you can reach the Harrison Festival Society at their office at 604-796-3664. Tickets range from $2 for beach performances to $25 for hall stage shows, with early bird and seniors pricing available.

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