WOMAD world music festival in the works for Whistler 

Arrangements shaping up for festival in 2015

click to enlarge PHOTO SUBMITTED - Whistler Womad? The British-based world music festival may come to Whistler in 2015.
  • Photo submitted
  • Whistler Womad? The British-based world music festival may come to Whistler in 2015.

The wheels are fully in motion for the World of Music, Arts and Dance (WOMAD) to roll into Whistler in a little over a year.

Organizers of the proposed festival — that would see 200 to 250 international performers from approximately 30 countries arrive for the three-day event — are currently in detailed talks with area stakeholders, corridor corporate sponsors and potential partners, according to Tom Corbeth, head of WOMAD Canada.

Corbeth said he is 95 per cent certain the event will be a go for Whistler and the parties are working on a three-year deal.

"We have chosen where we want to go, we have sorted out what the funding implications are and put projections together for the next three years, we have put together a fairly solid business case and we have identified potential partners and we have identified the time," he said.

As it stands, Corbeth said the festival would take place mid-September 2015, which would meet Whistler's goals of filling that fall time slot with a major event.

The main site would be located just outside of Whistler Village with several non-ticketed activities occurring within the village, "ensuring both WOMAD event exclusivity and Whistler visitor inclusivity."

The festival site would be made up of several music stages and activity stations including workshops, cooking demonstrations, global product markets and events for children.

Corbeth said accommodating event restrictions and regulations within Whistler has led to very complicated meetings over the location of the festival.

During the 2010 Winter Olympic Games there were ticketed events within the village (such as closing ceremonies at Whistler Olympic Plaza), the municipality has made clear that such arrangements proved challenging and they wouldn't welcome fully-ticketed events again at locations such as the plaza, said Corbeth.

Therefore, WOMAD organizers are in conversation with Whistler Blackcomb.

"Those meetings have been very, very detailed — looking at how that works as far as a partnership and alliance is concerned because that relationship would be very complex. It deals not just with space and finances, it also deals with corporate associations from our side and their side," he said.

According to Corbeth, partnerships and funding will involve a combination of different sources, including corporate sponsors and local organizations. As talks are still ongoing, Corbeth said he couldn't elaborate further.

He said a board is being set up which will run the organization and there will be a task force committee, which will work out the final details of the event.

Corbeth stressed WOMAD's festivals always focus on including local merchants.

"The one thing WOMAD must not do, and which any festival shouldn't do, is cannibalize any sort of business that exists already," he said, recognizing concerns around how local businesses fared during the recent music festivals in Pemberton and Squamish.

Whistler was chosen as the first location in Canada for WOMAD because of its unique location and experience hosting large-scale international events, such as the Olympic Games, Corbeth said.

The plan is that the festival will ink a three-year deal in Whistler, but Corbeth said the ultimate goal is for it to become a long term, annual event, as it is in other countries such as the U.K., where it is in its 30th year.

Corbeth said he hopes to be making an announcement with more details about the festival in early September.

In response to a Pique request for comment from the Resort Municipality of Whistler, a spokeperson said by email WOMAD had not been confirmed.

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