Why frosty late-January should soon equate to Big Fun

A new Winnipeg music festival to combat the winter blues

Eryn Maloney, David Schellenberg, Lauren Swan and Stefan Braun are four of the organizers of the upcoming Big Fun Festival. SILAS CHIPELSKI/STYLUS MAGAZINE

Winnipeggers are experts at cramming many festivals into a relatively short summer. From Jazz Fest and the Fringe Festival to Folklorama and the Winnipeg Folk Fest, there is no shortage of multi-artist entertainment between May and September.

This year a group of five friends wants to bring that festival feeling to the Winnipeg winter as well.

“In comparison to other places, (Winnipeg is) one of the few Canadian cities where we have three months of hibernation in which to fill up time,” says Lauren Swan, one of the organizers of Big Fun Festival, which takes place in and around the Exchange District from Jan. 26 to Jan. 29.

Along with Stefan Braun, Aaron Johnston, Eryn Maloney and David Schellenberg, Swan has a vision to tap into a previously dormant artistic resource.

“(The winter) provides a great environment for artistic expression and growth. A lot of bands take the winter to record and write,” Swan says. “Many artists don’t throw shows in the winter because they’re so subject to climate. We wanted to change this, and celebrate this artistic growth.”

Braun was initially inspired by his time volunteering at Pop Montreal and by the new and local Rainbow Trout Festival. He realized that a new Winnipeg winter festival was not only an exciting prospect, but also quite doable.

“After talking to David and me about logistics, (Braun) realized that the group of us had the assets that made it even more possible,” says Swan.

Even though the inaugural festival has yet to occur, the goal has never been simply a one-off event, but something indispensable to the festival circuit.

“(We want) to make an annual festival that is a staple of Winnipeg winter,” says Swan.

Swan says that the main idea is to promote Winnipeg talent, especially talent that otherwise does not receive very much exposure, as well as showing the strong artistic presence within the Exchange District.

“With the recent closure of many Exchange venues (such as the Albert, the Death Trap and Ragpickers) we wanted to show that the exchange is still a vibrant staple of the Winnipeg music scene,” Swan says. “We wanted to show some newer venues to people that may not have been before.”

Venues such as the newly refurbished Atomic Centre on Logan Avenue as well as the Exchange Community Church at the corner of Albert and McDermott will host a festival lineup that features a good mix of many well-known local bands, such as This Hisses and The Lytics, as well as up-and-comers the Girth, Spirit Children and Vela.

Festival passes are available at Into the Music, The Lo Pub and Bistro, Music Trader and Black Sheep Diner for $30, which gets you into all the shows throughout the weekend (with the exception of the Lytics and Rebel Yell show on Jan. 28 at the Atomic Centre).

Individual tickets are also available at each venue and range in price from $5-$15.

For more information, including venues, times and ticket prices, visit http://bigfunfestival.blogspot.com

Published in Volume 66, Number 15 of The Uniter (January 11, 2012)

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