Montreal's newest music festival caves to pressure to include 'Saint-Jean' in its name

A festival planned for the Fête nationale weekend in Montreal's Sud-Ouest borough has changed its name from the Festival du Solstice d'été, after criticism that its original name did not promote Quebec's national holiday.

Mayor Valérie Plante among those who criticized Sud-Ouest borough for calling it Festival du Solstice d'été

This is the first edition of the festival in the Sud-Ouest borough, which is now being renamed to reflect pressure from some prominent Quebecers to include a reference to Quebec's national holiday. (Valeria Cori-Manocchio/CBC)

A festival planned for the Fête nationale weekend in Montreal's Sud-Ouest borough hasn't even happened yet, and it's already had to change its name.

Organizers were bombarded with criticism online for calling the event the Festival du Solstice d'été — with no mention of Quebec's national holiday.

The new event was to replace the borough's yearly long-weekend party, called Saint Jean dans le Sud-Ouest. 

Now the borough will adopt that name for this festival, in response to criticism from Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante and some CAQ ministers, among others.

"I demand that the organizers of the Festival du Solstice d'été redo their posters and showcase the Fête nationale. If there's a time to display, affirm, and not erase, it's this," Plante tweeted Thursday. 

Solstice reflects origins of Saint-Jean

Festival organizers have already changed the website to the new, old name, and they're in the process of taking down the Festival du Solstice d'été posters.

In an interview with CBC News, Julie Bourbonnière, a spokesperson for the festival, said the organizers had chosen the solstice name as a tribute to the origins of Quebec's Fête nationale.

Quebec's national holidays has been celebrated since 1834 as a patriotic day for French Canadians on the feast day of the patron saint of French Canadians, Saint-Jean Baptiste.

That feast day was born out of the pagan tradition of celebrating the summer solstice with the lighting of fires to mark the longest day of the year.

Julie Bourbonnière says the original name of the festival was actually meant to reflect the origins of Quebec's national holiday, St-Jean Baptiste Day, which has its roots in the pagan celebrations surrounding the summer solstice.

"Everybody agreed that this would be a great idea, since the theme of this year's celebrations for the national celebration was Quebec's origins and traditions," Bourbonnière said. 

The organizers also felt the name would be more fitting, since the festival runs three days, and they hope to expand it into an even longer festival in the future.

'We don't want to do politics' 

Bourbonnière was shocked by the backlash, especially given that all the festival's musical acts will be performing in French.

"We don't want to do politics," she said. "We want to do celebrations for everybody that do include the national day."

The festival will be headlined by Acadian hip-hop artists Radio Radio and Quebec's Loco Locass.

Biz, one of the members of Loco Locass, tweeted Wednesday he found out about the festival's branding at the same time as everyone else. Regardless of the festival's name, Biz said they take all their shows as an opportunity to celebrate Quebec. 

"As far as I'm concerned, it's clear that we will celebrate Saint Jean, the national holiday of all Quebecers," he wrote.

In a statement Monday, before the name change, the borough said Fête nationale is "at the heart of the celebrations." It said the festival highlights activities and acts representing the history and culture of Quebec.

"The Fête nationale du Quebec is already very popular in our borough," said Benoit Dorais, the mayor of the borough.

"We are now thinking even bigger with this festival that highlights the richness of our roots in an inclusive and united space."

The festival will run from June 22 to 24 on Notre-Dame Street.


Franca G. Mignacca is a journalist at CBC Quebec.

With files from CBC's Valeria Cori-Manocchio


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