RBC Bluesfest broadens performance opportunities for local acts from all communities

The Ottawa band The Peptides perform at festival last summer. Photo courtesy RBC Ottawa Bluesfest.

Many people may know the headliners at the annual RBC Ottawa Bluesfest. But, in truth, the festival makes a strong commitment to the local music scene each year.

About 50 local acts perform on the various stages every July. It’s a big job deciding, among the hundreds of applications the festival receives each year, who gets a spot in the lights.

A lot of local bands have stepped forward with these appearances from Amos the Transparent, celebrating 10 years this year to The PepTides. Some such as the blues trio MonkeyJunk have won JUNO Awards.

The festival is now expanding the scope of this local commitment to better reflect the growing regional music community and starting the call for applications earlier.

“It’s an important part of our mandate to help these acts get a leg up in the music industry,” says the festival’s Executive and Artistic Director Mark Monahan in a media release. “It’s a source of pride for us to be able to showcase the great talent the region has to offer, so we want to get the call out earlier since we’re seeing seeing more and more regional talent applying every year.”  

So for those interested in performing at Bluesfest the following changes are bing announced.

• There is a new deadline for applications: Dec. 31 at 11:59 p.m.

• The festival is encouraging applications from artists without major agency representation

• The festival is also encouraging applications from all communities, including female artists, Indigenous artists, artists who identify with the LGBTQ+ community, artists of various ethnicity, artists with disabilities and artists from all socioeconomic backgrounds. 

Monahan made a commitment this past July to be proactive about gender equality in terms of programming.

He told the Ottawa Citizen on July 18 that the festival is considering joining Keychange, a global movement that calls on conferences, festivals and other music-related events to achieve gender-balanced programs by 2022.

“I think it is important, and the (festival’s) board (of directors) is committed to being proactive in terms of gender equality,” Monahan told the Citizen’s Lynn Saxberg. “It’s definitely a top priority to figure out what we can commit to and when we can get there.”

The Festival will open up to local submissions on their website on Nov. 1. 

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Peter Robb began his connection with the arts community in Ottawa in the mid-1980s when he was the administrator and public relations director of the Great Canadian Theatre Company. After a long career in journalism with the Ottawa Citizen where he served in a number of different posts he returned to the arts when he became the Citizen's arts editor.