There's a party and then there's a P-A-R-T-Y.
If you don't know the difference you've never been to a hedonistic multi-day festival that pays homage to your deeply buried pagan roots by celebrating the raw nature of art, music and physical movement. I use the word pagan loosely, mostly because it represents non-conformity to the status quo while honouring the supposition that pleasure shouldn't pair with shame.
At the Bass Coast Project in Squamish formal handshakes are traded for high fives and hugs, and it doesn't matter who you're hugging. That's the point - to let go a little, to make new friends, celebrate the B.C. wilds and get your bare feet fucking dirty on the dance floor.
"We were inspired by Burning Man, it was quite simple really," event co-founder, Liz Thomson, who along with Andrea Graham and Andrea Oakden, started the event in 2009. "We love camping, we love music, and we love our friends... At Burning Man the best vibes I found were in the Whistler camp so it inspired us to think of the possibilities of things we could create here, and make an event unique to our coast and culture, and bring that freedom back into our community."
Organize they did, these mistresses of mirth. The party doubled in size after the first year, and now heading into their third season the project is expected to draw around 1,500 people. To pull off such a large undertaking each manages a different component of the festival (as well as kids, husbands, freelance careers and other parties in Squamish and Whistler throughout the year). Thomson is in charge of stage design and art installation. Graham takes care of music and programming. Oakden oversees web design and marketing. Everything else they share among themselves and it's getting easier - now that the event has been fully established in the community, artists are approaching them with stage, music, signage and installation ideas.
"That's been a big re-learning curve, meeting all these people and incorporating their ideas into the festival so now it's not just the three of our ideas, it really is a festival for everyone," says Graham (AKA The Librarian, a well-known DJ).
Calling Bass Coast a labour of love is an understatement - without any kind of sponsorship to help weather the storm the project has at times been financially stressful for those involved. But a love for, and understanding of, the artistic world has helped them persevere - even when getting a "normal" job would have been a more economical solution.
"It seems easier to make money doing passive jobs that you're uninterested in, where you can just do a set of tasks and get paid accordingly," says Thomson, an artist, filmmaker and boundary-pushing digital designer originally from Victoria. "Well, not in the arts and especially not festivals. It is a passion-driven venture. We all have two or three other jobs, and when the pizza joint has 1$ pizza slices we all buy three to stock up."
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