Growing popularity leads Nuit Blanche to beef up security

Cultural festival Nuit Blanche has hired more security this year as part of an effort to ensure the focus is on public art, not public alcohol consumption.

Overnight festival strives to place focus on public art, not public consumption of alcohol

Cloud, by Caitlind R.C. Brown and Wayne Garrett, appeared at The Forks during Nuit Blanche last year. Organizers are trying to keep the festival's focus on the art. (CBC)

Cultural festival Nuit Blanche has hired more security this year as part of an effort to ensure the focus is on public art, not the public consumption of alcohol.

A large and well-lubricated crowd during the wee hours of the overnight festival in 2016 required the Winnipeg Police Service to direct traffic and monitor crowds along McDermot Avenue in the Exchange District, near Deer + Almond restaurant, where a band was playing on the roof.

"During Nuit Blanche 2016, there was a need for several police units to be dispatched to the area and remain on site for approximately three hours," Winnipeg police Const. Jay Murray said in a statement. 

"The organizers committed to reviewing their safety and security plan to try to mitigate this from occurring this year."

That plan involves more security in the Exchange District, more volunteers and requiring all 110 Nuit Blanche venues to sign a code of conduct for the duration of the event, which runs from 6 p.m. Saturday, September 30 until Sunday at 4 a.m.

"We want to make sure that it's a fun, safe environment, that we're not ruining anyone's fun, but that everybody respects the art, first and foremost, and the people participating," said Monica Derksen, Nuit Blanche's project coordinator.

"We have been in touch in close contact with the cops, the City of Winnipeg and all relevant parties to sort of figure out what the best strategies are."

Nuit Blanche project coordinator Monica Derksen says the festival has hired more security this year. (John Einarson/CBC)
The Exchange District Business Improvement Zone is also deploying foot patrols throughout the night, executive director David Pensato said. His organization is also responsible for ensuring any garbage from the festival is cleaned up by 10 a.m. on Sunday.

Pending city approval of a special-events permit, the Manitoba Liquor and Gaming Authority is prepared to allow some Nuit Blanche venues to serve alcohol until 3 a.m. on Sunday morning, spokesperson Lisa Hansen said.

But there won't be a party outside Deer + Almond this year. The city declined to issue a noise permit to the restaurant, said Thom Sparling of Creative Manitoba, an umbrella organization for the arts-and-cultural industry which helps organize Nuit Blanche.

The festival is expecting more than 10,000 people to visit venues in the Exchange, at The Forks, around the Winnipeg Art Gallery and elsewhere.
For Winnipeg's arts and culture sector, it's one of the most exciting nights of the year. Nuit Blanche is happening this weekend with more venues than ever, as well as some growing pains. Organizers are trying ensure Nuit Blanche maintains its focus on the arts, not alcohol. 1:26

About the Author

Bartley Kives

Reporter, CBC Manitoba

Reporter Bartley Kives joined CBC Manitoba in 2016. Prior to that, he spent three years at the Winnipeg Sun and 18 at the Winnipeg Free Press, writing about politics, music, food and outdoor recreation. He's the author of the Canadian bestseller A Daytripper's Guide to Manitoba: Exploring Canada's Undiscovered Province and co-author of both Stuck in the Middle: Dissenting Views of Winnipeg and Stuck In The Middle 2: Defining Views of Manitoba. His work has also appeared in publications such as the Guardian and Explore magazine.