Our summer festival will not take place in 2020. As you know, there’s a vital reason for this. We have to keep practising mitigation strategies involving isolation and distancing, and since we are a large, public gathering, we cannot risk having so many people in one place doing the things we all love to do: getting oh-so-joyously close. Never in our lives have we understood that gathering could have such dire consequences for our loved ones, our community, for all of humanity. The highlights of any Hillside—live bands, the press of happy bodies, dancing, singing, jamming in a drum circle, hugging, holding hands, rolling in the grass with friends—these could be the very things that may undo us right now. But what will keep us together and keep us strong is the bond of love and faith in humanity that festivals inspire. We can lean on each other in our minds’ eye, touch each other with our words and our art, hug each other with our memories and our hope.
To say we are crushed by this news is an understatement, but we are emboldened by our resolve to help reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19. For almost two months now, we have watched a cluster of closures and restrictions form, which together spelled out our fate. Currently, large public gatherings have been restricted in Ontario since March 29th–only groups of five people may gather, and each person must be separated by at least two metres. Travel restrictions from our own federal government and that of several other countries from where some artists originate make it impossible to program the festival the way we had planned. And the site of our summer festival, Guelph Lake Conservation Area, has been closed indefinitely since March 23rd.
At the same time as we have been watching our own possibilities narrow, we have been watching with awe and admiration as the role of leaders and caretakers expands in this time of crisis. Public Health advisors, government officials, healthcare teams, and frontline workers have worked at a dizzying pace under unusual duress. Their leadership and sacrifice have inspired manufacturers to step up, volunteers to come forward, and each and every one of us to realize that we have a central role to play now. We are grateful for all of the plans being put in place to ensure everyone is safe, healthy, protected, and fed. This includes the province’s framework for reopening, which notes that even in stage 3 of a gradual re-opening, “[l]arge public gatherings such as concerts and sporting events will continue to be restricted for the foreseeable future.” And it includes the work of Public Health, our municipal Mayors, and the Grand River Conservation Authority to find clear direction in an urgent situation whose dynamism is unprecedented. Currently, the provincial orders under the authority of the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act (EMCPA) direct that all public gatherings such as the Hillside Festival are to be cancelled until further notice.
We have not been alone in this reckoning. Together with festival friends and colleagues across the country, we have been deliberating the options for all of our events since early March. The spirit of collaboration, information sharing, and moral support that has infused these meetings has made our dawning realizations more bearable. We are especially grateful to Canadian Live Music Association, Folk Music Ontario, CAPACOA, RTO4, and the Ministry of Heritage, Sport, Tourism, and Culture. We would also be nowhere without the guidance and compassion of our grant officers at Canadian Heritage, Ontario Arts Council, Ontario Creates, Celebrate Ontario, and the City of Guelph. Though we have moved from disbelief to acceptance, we are still grieving the thought of a landscape bereft of creative people: artists, volunteers, technical crews, sponsors, and live music devotees. And we offer our condolences to the many arts organizations that have seen their activities and celebrations, for which they have worked for months and years in advance, come to a screeching halt. We will face unimaginable challenges as a festival, but with the support of you, our community, and our government, we will work hard to rise up and blaze anew in 2021, helping to make our beloved community stronger.
Your support in the last month has meant the world to us—such an outpouring of appreciation and understanding. It has buoyed us up immeasurably. We look forward to being in your exuberant company again.
In the meantime,
- Your tickets are still valid—but just for next year. There’s no action required if you want to keep your ticket for next year.
- You can also make a donation in the amount of your ticket—or any amount at all—to help keep us afloat.
- You can get a full refund. Please see FAQs .
The Board and Staff of Hillside