Winnipeg needs a Winterruption

Multi-venue music fest set to shake you out of hibernation

Greg MacPherson is one of many local artists taking the stage for Winterruption.

Supplied photo

Despite being an accredited “winter city” in the World Winter Cities Association for Mayors roster, Winnipeg has taken its time getting cold this year. However, with the recent arrival of the familiar bitter chill and thick blankets of snow, cabin fever will inevitably follow suit.

What better time for a Winterruption?

Winterruption, an annual multi-city concert series, harnesses the power of great music and inviting venues to break winter doldrums and get locals to groove out of their homes.

“We want audiences to look forward to this week,” Jorge Requena Ramos, programmer of Winterruption and creative director of the West End Cultural Centre (WECC), says. He wants to draw crowds that are “eager and excited to put their boots and jackets on and come to shows.”

Every year, the festival populates venues in Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Calgary and Edmonton. In Winnipeg, more than 30 artists and acts are programmed, composing a showcase of performers from diverse backgrounds. There’s even wrestling.

“Our goal is to reflect what makes us who we are as a city,” Requena Ramos says, “especially in the core of our city, where so many languages are spoken, so many flavours are offered, and cultural exchange is an everyday fact.”

Winterruption was founded in Saskatchewan in 2016 and expanded to include Calgary and Edmonton then finally reached Winnipeg in 2020 through a partnership with the WECC and Real Love Winnipeg.

“Real Love was brought on (by the WECC) to book and produce the indie shows in Winnipeg,” Gil Carroll, co-artistic director of Real Love, says in an email. “There used to be another great local indie festival that happened in January called Big Fun. Winterruption is aiming to fill that void.”

Since its Winnipeg launch four years ago, Requena Ramos says the organization has learned a lot about resilience.

“I think most of us are still dealing with the effects of the pandemic,” he says. “We are slowly climbing out of a long hangover.”

Winterruption partner Regina Folk Fest, for example, has participated in past years but is “on life support” this year, he says.

With venues like the WECC still averaging 25 per cent under their pre-pandemic show sale numbers, Requena Ramos hopes Winterruption will help music venues weather through the storm of slow winter months.

“Every ticket you buy is also an assurance there will be more future shows,” he says, acknowledging the “huge loss” of the Good Will Social Club in Winnipeg’s downtown scene.

“The local music community is amazing,” Carroll says. “We feel so supported by all the people who come out to our shows!”

This year’s lineup has expanded to include more shows than previous years, and 50 per cent of the program features local bands.

“There is lots to choose from,” Requena Ramos says, listing folk, punk, new wave, dub, hip hop and Indigenous traditional singing as some of the sounds audiences can expect to hear.

For tickets, schedules and show information, visit

Published in Volume 78, Number 14 of The Uniter (January 18, 2024)

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