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This article was published 14/1/2019 (500 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
There is a lot of fun to be had in West Broadway this month during the eighth annual Big Fun Festival.
The music festival has been happening in the dead of winter at venues across Winnipeg’s core since 2011 with the goal of giving locals something to do during the coldest time of the year.
"We just saw a bit of a gap in programming in the winter and also in the city proper," Big Fun executive director and founding member Lauren Swan said.
The bulk of the province’s indie music festivals happen outside city limits during the summer and fall, which makes them inaccessible for some and packs a large number of events into one short season.
Swan said the first Big Fun Festival was intended as a one-off event, but because it was received "shockingly well" the organizers have carried on.
"People really look forward to it and tell us that every year because it’s something to do in that last week of January when things are pretty bleak," she said. "It’s just gotten busier and busier, people will stand in line in like -30C to get into shows and there’s been a really great community that’s built up around it."
The festival runs Jan. 23 to 27 with events happening at The Good Will Social Club, The Handsome Daughter, Westminster United Church and The Tallest Poppy in West Broadway; as well as venues in Osborne Village, Downtown and the Exchange District.
Having venues clustered together in walkable neighbourhoods adds to the culture of the festival, according to Swan.
"One of the really great things we’ve noticed over the years is that people band together to walk the three blocks from one venue to the other," she said. "Running into people in the streets isn’t really a common thing in the winter here, so it’s really fun."
Westminster United Church is a new venue this year and it’s playing host to a special show by festival veterans Yes We Mystic.
"They approached us with this project and we really wanted to do something special because they’re one of several bands that, I like to say, have grown up within the festival," Swan said.
The local band — made up of Adam Fuhr, Keegan Steele, Jordon Ottenson, Jodi Plenert and Jensen Fridfinnson — is hitting the stage on Jan. 26 with a yet-to-be announced nine-piece group out of Montreal.
"We’re putting on one of the biggest shows of our lives… there’s going to be 14 musicians on stage playing all sorts of music," Fuhr said. "We’re just happy that this show has found a home at this festival that we love so much."
Fuhr attended the first Big Fun in 2011 and knew immediately that he wanted to perform at the festival one day.
"We didn’t have to wait very long because we played the very next year," he said. "We worked our way up until a couple of years ago we headlined for the very first time and… this year is kind of our triumphant return after taking a couple years off."
While the majority of this year’s lineup is local acts, Swan is also looking forward to performances by Montreal musician NOVEMBER and Vancouver two-piece the Snotty Nose Rez Kids — the latter will feature an opening act created by youth from Winnipeg’s Studio 393.
Big Fun is also hosting two free panel discussions during the festival. The first tackles representation and intersectionality in music at The Tallest Poppy on Jan. 24 and the second is the festival’s first foray into visual arts with Synonym Art Consultation on Jan. 26 at Grey Owl Coffee.
Visit bigfunfestival.com for tickets and details.
Eva Wasney reports on arts, culture and life for the Winnipeg Free Press.
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