Venus Fest, Toronto’s premiere feminist music and arts festival, is back for the 3rd year in a row. From September 20-22 Venus Fest will take over The Opera House in Toronto’s East End, to bring together music performances, art installations and free workshops meant to inspire, entertain and educate.
This year, Venus Fest will feature performances by minimalist jazz-pop Montreal based artist Charlotte Cardin, Canadian indie-folk mainstays The Weather Station, 1980s Scottish alternative rock band The Vaselines, synth electronic pop singer Tei Shi, Simone Schmidt’s psych-alt country solo project Fiver and more. Venus Fest will kick off the festivities on Saturday, September 14th in partnership with Intersessions and Grape Witches (Location TBD). For full programming head to the Venus Fest website. And while we’re thrilled to see artists of such caliber and creativity on the lineup, it’s the philosophy and positivity behind Venus Fest that draws us to this beautiful event.
Numerous studies have shown that businesses thrive in unprecedented ways when women hold leadership positions. However, in the arts sector, particularly in music, women have yet to attain those key roles at the helms of the organizations that shape the industry. Change has started to appear on stages, with many festivals and promoters actively committing to booking more women and non-binary artists, and initiatives like PRS Foundation’s KeyChange holding the industry accountable for action towards equality. However, the work is far from over; further transformation is necessary in music, so that representation is built into the fabric of the entire industry. And that’s where events like Venus Fest are doing their part to help usher in this long-awaited age of equality.
Founded with the intent to foster community, inclusivity, and unification, based on feminist values, Venus Fest works to foster a welcoming and safe environment for all attendees and performers. The festival was created in response to a well-expressed need in the music industry to create a new kind of space for artists to thrive in and for community members to attend with a sense of safety. The average, non-racialized, cisgender, able-bodied person doesn’t have to wonder if a venue has stairs, ramps, or what the bathroom situation is like, or if they’ll have to contend with discrimination or worse, animosity or abuse, simply for existing as they are and trying to enjoy a music festival. With compassion for these concerns and more in mind, Venus Fest prioritizes factors like venue accessibility and safe space training, holding themselves and their partners to the highest standards to ensure the safety and comfort of all involved. With these highly vocalized and visible priorities written directly into their mandate and mission statement, Venus Fest helps to mitigate some of the stress and anxiety that artists and festival goers may experience when considering partaking in this festival experience, no matter what side of the stage these individuals may be.
From their land acknowledgment to their accessibility and safe space policies, Venus Fest is leading the charge on collaborative, supportive and conscientious live music and arts experiences here in Toronto. Venus Fest takes place on the traditional Indigenous territory of the Huron-Wendat, Haudenosaunee, and most recently, the territory of the Mississaugas of the New Credit. The Opera House was selected as this year’s venue because there are no steps at the entrance and throughout the main level of the space. While there are 2 other levels that do require use of 2 stairs each to access, there is a ramp available for those that need to move between the second and third levels. As well, bathrooms at the venue will be gender neutral for this event There is a single accessible bathroom stall with transfer bars on the main floor, with remaining bathrooms in the basement. And directly from their safe space policy:
“Venus Fest does not tolerate any form of homophobia, racism, sexism, transphobia, ableism, ageism, sexual harassment, assault, discrimination, or violence. Any audience members suspected of the above will have the opportunity of one conversation on how their behavior is harmful. Should they continue, audience members will be removed. Instigators of sexual assault or violence will be removed without warning. Venus Fest staff and volunteers have received safer space training with the Dandelion Initiative to better support our community. At any Venus Fest event, please seek them out if you need support or someone to talk to.
Venus Fest goes on to specify that for this particular event, there will be a group of safer space volunteers with training in the space wearing Venus Fest t-shirts who are available to provide support to anyone in need at the Festival. All they need to do is ask.
Says founder Aerin Fogel, “Venus Fest is held by a team that understands the need for this festival, from a personal standpoint. We are making decisions that account for, and correct, our history and experience. Our industry will remain fractured until every music organization is working with underrepresented people who have the wisdom that comes from that deeply personal place. When we started Venus Fest we weren’t sure if it was going to work -starting a festival on nothing out of nowhere. Now that we’re in our third year, we can push the boundaries a little more in terms of what we’re doing. This is the most far-reaching lineup we’ve ever had, and the first time we’re hosting a conference. So we are constantly looking for new territory.”
We love what Venus Fest has done so far, and can’t wait for September to see their hard work unfold. Join us there, won’t you?
For ticket and contact info for Venus Fest, please see below.
Single nights $25 +HST and service fees
Wristbands $55 +
Early bird single nights $19 +
Early bird wristbands $45 +
Kick-off party $10 + or free with wristband
Workshops – free- subject to capacity