The Kerplunks – Jojo Hallett, Phil Wipper, Dinah D and Aaron Cadwaladr (from left) – are among the groups performing at Gabriola’s Couch Fest, happening online from May 22 to 24. Dinah D is also hosting the festival. (Photo courtesy Lance Sullivan/Concept Photography)

‘Couch Fest’ organized to support performing artists on Gabriola Island

Gabriola Island Chamber of Commerce plans three-day festival as an online fundraiser

The Gabriola Island Chamber of Commerce has organized a three-day live-streamed performing arts festival to help support island artists financially impacted by COVID-19.

Couch Fest will take will place on the Zoom teleconference platform from May 22 to 24. The festival, hosted by Dinah D of the Kerplunks, will include 11 music and dance acts of multiple genres performing from remote locations.

“We’ve never taken the lead on something like this before,” said Julie Sperber, new executive director of the Gabriola chamber.

The festival is one of the actions the chamber has taken to support businesses and entrepreneurs on Gabriola affected by the pandemic. Sperber said a lump sum of the chamber’s budget has been redirected to COVID-19 response and recovery, but noted that it can be difficult to support performers because “they don’t really have a product to sell.”

“It’s much easier to support artists that have tactile products with gift certificates and buying options online and things like that, which we’ve also done,” she said. “But we have quite a large group of performance artists on the island that were falling through the cracks in terms of being able to access more conventional supports.”

That’s when the idea for a festival was hatched. The chamber put out a call for submissions from Gabriola artists who have lost needed revenue due to shows being cancelled and Sperber said the chamber received twice as many applications as expected.

“We ended up with a fairly good variety,” Sperber said. “We have everything from electronic to folky to singer-songwriter to even borderline pop in terms of entertainment that is going to be happening. We have kids’ music as well.”

Sperber said she envisions Couch Fest as a “big night in” and is encouraging viewers to dress up and order take-out. She added that the festival takes place during Phase 2 of the B.C. government’s COVID-19 restart plan and said “you may even be able to have a friend or two over.”

“We’ve all really looked towards the arts in this coronavirus pandemic for joy and lightness and some escapism from our mundane world of being on lockdown all around the world,” Sperber said. “And so [Couch Fest] was a way of giving something to the viewer but also having them be able to have the opportunity to support the performers in our community as well.”

WHAT’S ON … Couch Fest takes place over Zoom from May 22 to 24. For the full lineup and more information, visit the Couch Fest Facebook page. Festival passes are $40, available online.

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