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Sold out shows and packed jams make Alianait's 2019 festival a success

The 2019 Alianait Arts Festival, held June 28 to July 1 in Iqaluit, is a wrap, and staff, tired but very happy, say it was a success.

"Sold-out shows. Full houses. The jams were packed, 400 people at a time, sometimes," said Alianait's executive director Victoria Perron.

A key event at each Alianait Arts Festival, held annually in Iqaluit since 2005, is the collaboration among the many artists who attend. In 2019, these were the featured artists: Leanna Wilson, left, Tiffany Ayalik, Tooma Laisa, Natashia Allakariallak, Terrie Kusugak, Sylvia Cloutier, Mary Poisey, Jesse Tuluraqjuk, Charlie Tarkirk, Vivi Sørensen, Colleen Nakashuk, Daniel Kolola (not visible) and Greyson Gritt (missing from the photo).
photo courtesy Vincent Desrosiers

In fact, volunteer coordinator Rachel Michael notes shows, once filled to seating capacity, still had line-ups of people wanting to get in.

"Realizing that, whoa, everyone wants to be here. That's so incredible," she said.

But Perron says success can also be measured by the smiles of the crowd.

"And standing ovations," adds Michael.

"From what I've heard, people were very pleased with it. And they were excited in the weeks leading up to the festival. We had very positive feedback from the community over the selection committee's choice of musicians," said Perron.

The line-up for the festival this year saw 21 performers gather in Iqaluit.

"Of the 21 performers that were scheduled, 20 of them were either from the North or were Indigenous," said Perron.

Artcirq's Charlie Gordon, left, and Levy Tapatsiak enchant the Alianait audience.
photo courtesy Vincent Desrosiers

Perron is Alianait's second executive director since the organization launched in 2005. Last year saw the reigns passed on from long-time executive director Heather Daley to Perron, with the two working side by side.

"Her hard work and dedication to the festival set it up for success. She was also available for us as an encyclopedia, if you will. We called on her a couple of times (this year)," said Perron.

Michael notes the importance of the volunteer presence – roughly 80 signed up, and 50-plus were able to make it.

"We're forever grateful for everyone's long hours and hard work," she said.

While the festival is a jam-packed several days every summer, with myriad activities for younger and older folks alike, Alianait is a year-long creative project. Its roughly $1 million annual budget allows the organization to host a concert series in the capital, a mental health tour to communities, and a variety of song-writing and technical workshops through-out the year.

Perron says Alianait is entering its third year of a core funding arrangement with the GN's Department of Economic Development and Transportation, which offers the organization stability.

Two year-long staff positions are funded, Perron's and festival coordinator Alannah Johnston's.

(At the time of this interview, Johnston was away at Norway's Riddu Riddu Festival, where Nunavut artists were being featured this year. International connections are something Alianait is increasingly cultivating.)

Michael's position is funded for a short time before, during and after the festival.

Perron says a third funded year-long position would definitely help Alianait grow, especially in terms of community engagement, with other communities aside from Iqaluit.  That's why she was so excited by the live-streaming this year.

"We had two volunteers actually come in donate their equipment and their time –Travis Burke and Mac Pavia – to do some live feeds to live streaming to Facebook, through YouTube," said Perron.

"I think it's really important because Alianait is a community organization, above everything else. It's nice to be able to let other communities watch what's going on and listen, especially if you are, for example, from Pang and Joey (Nowyuk) is performing, and you can't come into Iqaluit for the day. But now you didn't have to. The only thing is, of course, the internet speeds. But they're always improving."

Corporate sponsors, such as Canadian North and the Frobisher Inn, as well as smaller community sponsors, are also indispensable to the success of Alianait's projects.