Hamilton's Supercrawl hopeful as province promises $800K for festivals

The provincial government has changed its mind about much funding it will provide for festivals and Hamilton's Supercrawl is hoping they'll see some of the $800,000 to be distributed across the province.

The announcement comes after the government cut festival funding

Supercrawl Director Tim Potocic says that the province should take notice that free festivals provide opportunity for everyone to experience arts and music. (Adam Carter/CBC)

The Ontario government has changed its mind about much funding it will provide for festivals, and Hamilton event organizers are wondering whether they'll see some of the money.

The Celebrate Ontario grant program cut funding to festivals in June. So while Hamilton's arts and music festival Supercrawl would normally receive around $275,000, they were now slotted to receive nothing.

But on Thursday, Tourism, Culture and Sport Minister Lisa McLeod told CBC News that $800,000 would be doled out across the province after all. Ottawa festivals found out they would be receiving a separate $792,000; Toronto will also receive an undisclosed amount. 

Supercrawl director Tim Potocic hasn't heard anything yet. For now, he's being cautiously optimistic.      

"We're very hopeful that something is going to come down the pipe," he said. "But until it does, I don't know. We're doing everything we can."  

Potocic said that aside from losing funding, the short notice of the announcement in the first place has caused problems. He said it's meant a lot of re-jigging for organizers to keep delivering the content promised. They've managed to keep all the programming that was booked up until the cuts were announced. But no new programming has been added since. 

"The funding cut is definitely affecting us," he said. "The festival will struggle to pay its bills for sure. But we'll get there. We've always been very resilient that way." 

McLeod told CBC News that the funding for festivals was reviewed because the government hadn't spent the full amount allocated. She also said other events didn't spend what they received.

Andrea Horwath, leader of the official opposition and MPP for Hamilton Centre is calling on the government to follow through. 

"Hopefully it will mean that some of the festivals that were cut off at knee are going to get some support," she said. "Many organizations are waiting with baiting breath to see what the government's going to do."

Potocic says Supercrawl has managed to retain the programming planned up until they heard about the cuts. But the late notice put a lot of stress of organizers. (Kevin Grou/CBC)

Potocic says the effects of this year's funding cuts will bleed into the planning for next year. He points to the Ontario Creates program, whose budget has also been slashed.  Supercrawl normally receives around $150,000 of funding through this program. Potocic expects this amount to be chopped at least in half next year. 

McLeod said the province is reviewing how they allocate money and whether the events are worth their amounts. 

"I don't want to have an entitlement-based process where just because a festival received a significant amount of funding one year, that it would [continue]," she said. 

Potocic stressed that the province should think about the opportunities and benefits the arts bring to a community, especially when a festival is free. 

"I think it's important that there's the ability for people who can't afford to buy a $200 ticket to go see [a band] to come and see high-calibre performance," he said. "Especially in Hamilton. I feel like it's desperately needed and always will be."

With Files from Ryan Tumilty


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