Funding for humor in Montreal, a joke in bad taste for Quebec’s 111 independent festivals

Last week, ComediHa! announced the creation of a festival to be held in Montreal in July to fill the void left by the cancellation of the Just for Laughs festival. The various levels of government quickly provided public financial support worth several millions, fearing that a summer without a comedy festival in downtown Montreal would be wasted. The day after this announcement, many festivals struggling to survive woke up with a bitter taste in their mouths.

Not only was the Montreal cultural ecosystem going to offer organic programming aligned with public expectations, but many funders had even initially assured the representatives of the Regroupement des festivals régional nationaux nationaux (REFRAIN) that they would take the time to evaluate the situation before financing a new comedy festival in Montreal.

The situation is critical for the 111 independent artistic festivals which animate all regions of Quebec. To date, more than half of REFRAIN members report reductions totaling more than $2 million in federal, provincial, regional and municipal aid. More than 25 festivals have never managed to obtain their share of provincial cultural funding, despite convincing evidence of their positive impact on the vitality of neighborhoods and municipalities.

Montreal is a cultural hub thanks to its major festivals, but also thanks to all its independent festivals rich in artistic diversity. Why fund a single organization when multiple festivals already established in the metropolis, which bring the city to life throughout the year, could be involved? The latter are at their wits’ end and this spontaneous helping hand would certainly have been a great opportunity to help them survive in this precarious reality.

We could think of events such as the FAR (Festival des arts de ruelle en ani

street mation), MAPP Montreal in projection mapping of the facades of public space, the AfroMonde Festival with colorful shows, in the spirit of a real carnival, or even an unprecedented collaboration with MUTEK, the BD Festival de Montréal, FIKA(S), Francouvertes, and many others.

Culture is today a crucial vector of economic development in all regions of Quebec (important note: when we name the regions, Montreal is considered a region as well). Presenting a sustained artistic offering throughout the year for Quebecers and tourists, while showcasing communities across Quebec, is just as important as guaranteeing summer activities in Montreal.

What would happen to Quebec if independent artistic festivals disappeared one after the other? What would become of our regions, their cultural vitality, their social fabric, their economic and territorial development? What about our young people looking to discover artistic events to which they do not otherwise have access?

For decades, Quebec has been recognized around the world for its cultural creativity. This event uniqueness is its trademark. The bankruptcy of the Just for Laughs Group is terrible for the events sector, both for the artists and for the professionals who work there. However, it also represents a unique opportunity to do what we do best: reinvent ourselves, question ourselves and find new ways of doing things.

Despite the decisions made by public decision-makers, we have an opportunity to seize to unite and collaborate to offer the best to Montrealers, Quebec festival-goers and tourists from around the world who come to Quebec to discover what makes us so unique : our creativity.

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