The City of North Vancouver is set to host the possibly first major music festival in the post-COVID restrictions era.
Council voted unanimously Monday night to contribute $20,000 for Lower Lonsdale BIA to put on the return of the Shipyards Festival on Sept. 25. For 10 straight hours, bands will alternate on two stages set up in Shipbuilders Square and Shipyards Commons with the entire event included in a site-wide liquor licence. It will also feature artisan vendors and activities for young’uns.
“It’s fantastic,” said Greg Holmes, BIA director. “We’re going to give [the community] the opportunity to see something special that’s been missing for far too long.”
The plan is subject to B.C. progressing to the final phase of its reopening, which is scheduled for Sept. 7.
The last time the city hosted the Shipyards Festival, in 2019, more than 15,000 people attended.
Holmes could not say what acts have been booked but said there has been something of an arms race among promoters to lock down sponsors and book the best available musicians, which his group has a big head start on.
“Everybody’s waiting for Sept. 7 and we’ve had the planning going on for several months now, anticipating better times, so I think we’re in a good place,” he said.
And he added, bands are every bit as eager to get back to performing as the rest of us are to be blown away by some live music.
“They’re just chomping at the bit to get in front of a live audience. No performer likes virtual and lot of them have just gone silent,” he said.
The event will be geared to children and families in the morning, with acts that appeal more to teens and adults coming on later in the day.
Council had no qualms about putting up the cash, with most members highly enthused to see the public space being put to the use that it was intended for.
“We all want to live in a really dynamic community that’s got great public spaces, and the Shipyards was built with that vision in mind,” said Mayor Linda Buchanan, who added that many big plans and events had to be shelved thanks to the pandemic. “I have to say that for 18 months, I think we’ve all really missed our larger events and the ways in which we used to come together and gather and celebrate. And so I’m very excited to see this. … I think this is exactly what people in the community are wanting. And of course, it will have to adhere to whatever guidelines we have in place in the fall.”
Beyond the festival, Holmes said a number of other exciting initiatives are popping up in the district. On Canada Day, the BIA brought back the Garden Beer Market to Cates Deck, which allows visitors to sit and order food from local restaurants and beer from local breweries to be delivered to their table with live music between 7 and 9 p.m. It runs four nights a week until the end of September. Starting on July 14, the BIA is sponsoring a 10-day engagement with Uninterrupted – a virtual reality experience about spawning salmon. Tickets for the 30-minute show are free but must be booked in advance at uninterrupted.ca.
Holmes said he’s seeing a big turnaround for the district as people from around the Lower Mainland are venturing outside their own neighbourhoods again and seeking out destinations they haven’t been to before.
“There’s more smiles I’ve seen in the last two weeks than I’ve seen in the previous 18 months,” he said. “That is translated into increased revenue for other businesses.”
The recent relocation of the Inuit Gallery of Vancouver from Gastown, where it had been for 30 years, to the Shipyards District is another positive sign, Holmes noted.
“That sends a message. This place is recovering. It’s going to recover quickly and the future is bright,” he said.