Nunavut's Alianait founder leaving festival, territory after about 16 years

Heather Daley is saying goodbye to Alianait, and Nunavut, after about 16 years of living in the territory.

'It's a bittersweet feeling,' says Heather Daley, who founded Alianait in 2005

Heather Daley, centre, is the producer of Alianait Arts Festival. She founded it back in 2005, and now she's leaving the territory, and her job, after more than 15 years. (David Gunn/CBC)

The founder of a long-standing Nunavut arts festival is saying goodbye to the territory, and her job, after about 16 years.

Heather Daley, currently the producer of Alianait Arts Festival, moved to the territory in 2002. Alianait was born in 2005.

It started off as a small grassroots festival with no money, and grew into a platform where hundreds of artists from around the circumpolar world showcase their talent, said Daley. Every year Iqaluit hosts musicians, visual artists and even circus acrobats, among others, for days at a time in late June. The non-profit organization has also branched out to run youth outreach programs, Inuit apprenticeship programs and concerts in other communities in the territory.

"It's a bittersweet feeling. This place means so much to me," said Daley, who is moving to Ottawa at the end of the year.

'It's been an amazing, amazing journey,' says Daley, of her time in Nunavut. (Alianait)

Daley said she moved to the North expecting to stay for a couple of years, but never thought her "adventure" would extend to well over a decade.

"It's been an amazing, amazing journey," said Daley, who was always interested in the arts. She recalled how she first got involved with the Iqaluit music society when she moved up. 

It's been an amazing, amazing journey.- Heather Daley, Founder of Alianait

Alianait was born under the umbrella of the society, said Daley, and it soon became a much bigger entity — forcing the separation of the two.

Daley said the music scene has transformed since the early days of Alianait — and she sees the effects of the arts flourishing in Iqaluit daycares and schools.

Alianait founder Daley, centre, says it's 'bittersweet' leaving Iqaluit and Alianait. She'll be moving to Ottawa by the end of this year. (Alianait)

"The kids are learning songs in Inuktitut, and they're throat singing, drum dancing, and they're proud of their culture," she said. 

"It's been really wonderful to see that transformation, and I love being able to present that on our stages."

'An absolute thrill'

Daley said over the years the festival brought in artists from Greenland, Mongolia, Alaska and even from among the Sami people — which was important to Nunavummiut.

Alianait started off as a small grassroots festival with no money, and grew into a platform where hundreds of artists from around the circumpolar world showcase their talent, said Daley. (Ed Maruyama)

But as she prepares to leave, Daley said she's most proud of Nunavut's emerging artists.

"It's just a beautiful thing to see."

She said "it's been an absolute thrill" to watch the Nunavut musicians grow and even get international spotlight — like the Jerry Cans' nomination at the 2018 Juno Awards

Daley, centre, will produce her last show this Saturday at 7:30 p.m., at the Inuksuk High School in Iqaluit. (Alianait)

The organization is now "in good hands" with Victoria Perron and Alannah Johnston, said Daley, who will likely come the next festival scheduled from June 28 to July 1, 2019.

Daley is producing her last concert Saturday at Inuksuk High School at 7:30 p.m. Tickets can be purchased online or at the door.