Establishments, events, Music

The 12th Annual Winterfolk Music Fest looks back and moves forward

Winterfolk Music Fest









The 12th Annual Winterfolk Music Festival is happening soon- does any of you even know that it’s been around for 12 years?

With the JUNO nominees announced, Winterfolk festival also announced a few notables as part of their festival line up:

Ron Hynes

Jazz FM host Laura Fernandez

Jason Fowler

That’s to name a few……

I caught up with Festival Director Brian Gladstone after he’d had a good night’s rest so he had plenty to say…..he presented some very valuable information! Through our interview I found he is truly dedicated to keeping the spirit of blues, roots and folk music alive!

The day we spoke was the day after the passing of legendary social activist musician (Pete Seeger). I brought this up during our interview. Moments like these make the festival an even more important way to celebrate the roots and foundations of this musical genre. After reading various tributes to Pete Seeger, I began to think about the significance of festivals like Winterfolk in Toronto. Its location couldn’t have been better chosen: The Danforth. It’s rich history and melting pot of ethnicities and styles makes for an incredible generational and cultural exchange.  Winterfolk festival changed locales for two years and noticed a slight decline in interest and attendance….so Winterfolk was  brought home! All 5 venues selected- create a special ambience with vibrant room for growth this year and beyond!!

To show you the amount of preparation that goes into a festival like this; Gladstone outlined the audition process for me and noted that Winterfolk received 1200 submissions,the Winterfolk team auditioned almost 200 acts and he continues ‘we are open and accessible to all breakthrough and tenured artists. Out of the 200 acts auditioned, 80 were hired for the festival, 70% are known to the festival and 30% of acts are new and unknown….thanks to our sponsors (The Toronto Arts Council, The Ontario Trillium Foundation, FACTOR,SOCAN & The Department of Canadian Heritage)…. we have a large music budget to support Roots music in Toronto’. WOW!

The one thing I loved about our discussion is the social activism in music. No matter the genre. We talked about Pete Seeger being a poet and activist and he mentioned his children and the type of music that was as powerful to them as the music was in the 60s for him. I paralleled his generation’s folk musicians to modern poets like Tupac. And with honesty and openness he mentioned that at one point his son (he has two) introduced him to rap and sat him down to show him how controversial ideas and messages are put forth through rap. Gladstone remarks ‘I’m not so familiar with this (Rap) music but I can say the only difference between Blues, Folk & Roots is that it’s more raw….like someone who’s in contact with concrete’ I was very impressed by his willingness to see other musical genres as vessels for change.

What does Gladstone expect for Winterfolk moving forward?  This year is a transition year. He expects this year to reach many who’ve missed Winterfolk when they left The Danforth. He would like to maintain the same level of artists and re-establish The Danforth as the original home of Winterfolk…..all VERY attainable goals!

There is so much to see and experience at this year’s Winterfolk Blues & Roots festival! The festival runs from Feb 14th-16th.

Don’t be a musical snob! See you there!For the details on workshops, free and stage performance please visit:


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