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Gabriola Arts Council presents COVID-conscious Cultivate Festival

Theatre, music and art festival returns to Gabriola Island after 2020 hiatus
Gabriola singer-songwriter Sarah Osborne, Cowichan Valley duo Heartwood, Vancouver singer Kelly Haigh and Nanaimo bluesman David Gogo (clockwise from top-left) are among the performers in this year’s Cultivate Festival. (Photos submitted)

Artists, musicians and actors are gathering on Gabriola Island for the third edition of the Gabriola Arts Council’s Cultivate Festival.

Tickets are going quickly for this year’s event, happening at the Gabriola Commons from July 1 to 4. Already many performances are sold out and GAC executive director Carol Fergusson said she’s “absolutely over-the-moon thrilled” by the response.

Cultivate artistic director Bobbie Blue said she’s excited because she wants to take in some live performance herself.

“People are enthusiastic about this and they believe that the arts council will be careful,” she said. “So I think that’s the biggest thing is the faith in the arts council that yes, we are doing this, but we are being very careful.”

This is the first edition of the festival since 2019. Following that year’s event, and before the pandemic, previous GAC executive director Michelle Benjamin announced that the 2020 festival would be suspended to allow the GAC to ensure that the resources were in place to keep the festival sustainable going forward.

Fergusson said planning for Cultivate 2021 started last year and that Blue has gone through about a dozen different iterations of the festival as the pandemic situation changed during the year.

“When I agreed to do this I didn’t know we were going to have COVID,” Blue said. “And so then we got COVID and life became more complicated.”

Rather than one big festival, this year’s Cultivate will be more like a series of events, she said. The GAC is only offering tickets for individual shows rather than a festival pass.

There will also be no food vendors or beer garden, with Fergusson instead encouraging attendees to bring a picnic lunch.

“It’s not set up so people are milling around and spending time on the festival grounds,” Fergusson said. “They’re going to watch their show, check out some art vendors and then they’re going home or coming back for another show.”

Even if B.C. enters Step 3 of its reopening plan on July 1, Blue said there are no plans to lift attendance limits.

“The community really wants a gathering, they want to see live music and live theatre but because we’re a small island we’ve been very fortunate and everybody here is really careful and so we’re going continue being careful,” she said.

WHAT’S ON … Cultivate takes place at the Gabriola Commons, 675 North Rd., From July 1 to 4. For more details, tickets and to view the schedule, visit

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