One of the reasons why I now live in Haida Gwaii is because I happened to attend the Edge of the World music festival on my first visit to the islands. I was here for a two-week outdoor education course by SFU, which I mostly attended to learn first hand if Haida Gwaii should be shortlisted on our where-to-move-when-I-graduate list. The course was offered in early August 2014, so I attended the festival as well. And here I am!
I liked the music, but that’s not why the festival helped draw me to the islands. What stood out was the community so evident in every detail of the event. Above all else, I wanted to move to a place where people regularly come together to create and celebrate cultures as community. The festival certainly stood out in this regard — including the homemade food, children’s workshops, range of bands and performers (from both on and off-island), and the Haida and other First Nations music and ceremony.
Community is at the heart of Haida Gwaii.
Community is also at the heart of everything that draws me to Haida Gwaii. It is what I love most about our schools – how the students, families and staff come together to do our best for our young people. Community is in our basketball, at the potlatches and pole raising ceremonies, community festivals and parades, softball games, art shows, craft fairs, coffee shops, handmade soap, bed and breakfasts, farmers’ markets and the countless clubs, circles, forums and gatherings between friends. And it is also is in our disputes and the inevitable disagreements between us, and how we work together for reconciliation and harmonious relationships based on mutual respect for all.
In a healthy community there is always diversity and difference. At this year’s music festival we see how our differences combine to make us whole. For me this meant volunteering at the “family campground” — which was organized for the first time at this year’s festival by the soccer families to support children’s and youth soccer. The campground was hosted on the Tlell soccer fields, which happen to be located just across the highway from where a popular late night beach party is also located. Seeing how these two spaces mixed (more accurately, how they did not mix) shows how good neighbours who respect each others’ differences can help make a community stronger for everyone.
What? No camping in 2016? Whew…not so!
In June I heard a rumour that the festival might not have camping this year, which I hoped wouldn’t be the case because camping widens the circle for who can and will attend the festival. Having camping accessible to off (and on)-island festival goers is important to draw people here. And it is an important part of the festival experience for many festival goers. So I was excited to hear that camping would be moved to the Tlell Soccer Fields, away from the festival parking lot but still easily accessible with a festival-provided shuttle. Even better was how the new camping setup promised to provide a quieter and family-focused space for festival participants who want to sleep at night.
Most festival music is certainly not meant to be quiet. Loud is part of the draw for many, if not most, music festival goers. And, for some, so too are the parties that inevitably will crop up whenever there is music to dance to. But not everyone wants to party and not everyone wants to make noise all night long. That’s why it’s important to provide different kinds of spaces for everyone’s interests – such as, in this instance, for both the quiet and the loud. (Keeping in mind, though, that regardless of noisy or not, every space we create must be safe for everyone. That’s paramount.) That’s what the soccer field provided in its inaugural year – a safe and quiet alternative for campers who wanted to sleep at night and then enjoy next day’s music.
An alternative: Quiet place to sleep between acts, safety for everyone.
I volunteered with the camp because I wanted to help ensure that the new camping plan would work for everyone. Skipping toilet duties, I volunteered to provide nighttime security. This meant I would wear a reflective vest and spend most of the night redirecting traffic away from the campground parking lot on Saturday night. With the night’s unofficial oceanside afterparty just across the highway from the soccer fields, keeping a constant flow of traffic in and out of the camping field took most of our effort. I think it was worth it, especially since the fields were quiet all night and nobody bothered the “quiet zone” of the family camp ground.
The quiet and safety of the fields was respected by campers and partiers alike. This is the definition of good neighbours. The campground was quiet and safe, undistributed by the nearby festivities. Families with young children turned the lights out at sundown and their space was respected by nearby partiers. And for the night owls amongst us, there was even a safe place to walk to after partying – if you had set up camp the day before. Volunteers stayed up late into the night to check camp-passes as people returned for a good night’s rest. Everyone respected the quiet of the field.
The music festival brings people of all ages and diverse interests together. For some, the festival is a family outing with children’s workshops and places to play. For others, the festival is a night of dancing and great music. Teens roam the festival grounds to connect with friends, hold hands on a starry night and have fun. Families play in the river, eat ice cream and dance to the music during the day. For me it was a chance to connect with new friends, to volunteer and help raise money for children’s and youth soccer and to listen to music over countless conversations taking place throughout the festival grounds.
We all benefit when our community is strong.
We all benefit when our community is strong. That’s why it’s so important that we build on our diversity and differences. I want to live in a place that continues to organize the kinds of community events that bring people of all ages and interests together for a weekend of good fun. I also want a quiet place to sleep at night. Others want to dance all night long and to sleep it off in time for another late night. Good neighbours create and respect spaces where we can do different things in our one shared place together. And most of all, I want safety for all to be our first priority. It’s thanks to the festival organizers, volunteers and performers that the Edge of the World festival helps make all of this possible for the people of, and visitors to, Haida Gwaii. Thank you!