Social media outrage may save Afrofest from being shortened to one day

Fans of Afrofest, who expressed outrage on social media after hearing the hugely popular music festival had been shortened because of noise violations, can cool their heels. A meeting is scheduled for next week between organizers and city staff to sort out each side's concerns.

Local councillor, city staff to meet with festival organizers about its future

Coun. Mary-Margaret McMahon found herself in the middle of a firestorm of protest after she said Afrofest, which is held in Woodbine Park, violated noise bylaws and would be shortened from two days to one.

Fans of Afrofest, who expressed outrage on social media after hearing the hugely popular music festival had been shortened because of noise violations, can cool their heels. A meeting is scheduled for next week between organizers and city staff to sort out each side's concerns.

On Tuesday night, Music Africa, organizers of the 27-year-old festival, issued a statement calling the city's decision to pare down the event from two days to one "completely unfair and discriminatory."

Twitter erupted, with fans accusing the city of a double standard, and even racism. 

But on Wednesday, Coun. Mary-Margaret McMahon, whose ward includes Woodbine Park, told CBC News she has organized a meeting next Wednesday with city staff, the mayor's office and members of the Toronto Music Advisory Council "to have a conversation about the future of the festival and how we can support them and get them to comply with city regulations."

Afrofest's first year at Woodbine Park "ran smoothly, but the next few years we had excessive noise problems and problems with adhering to the closing time on Sundays," McMahon said. She added that the violations also included erecting a second stage that was not permitted.

In 2011, the city refused to grant Afrofest a permit to use Queen's Park — where it had been staged for the previous 23 years — saying it was too big and had violated the terms of its permits in the past.

Peter Toh, the president of Music Africa, called McMahon's allegations "inaccurate."

"The sound company we employ works with most of the events at Woodbine Park, including Canada Day and Beaches Jazz festival concerts, and uses the same sound equipment, crew and sound levels," Toh said. "The volume at Afrofest is no different than at those events, but in our case they are being called violations."

Fans of the festival, which draws crowds of 120,000 over its two-day run, said the city was applying a different set of principles for Afrofest.

"As someone who's been to Afrofest at Woodbine Park many times, I can attest that the noise is no different than any other festival," said Vivian Barclay, the general manager of Warner Chapell Music Canada Publishing.

"I'm not sure how the city can justify telling a festival it needs to be cut for a noise violation but at the same time give Bestival, a festival that's rock and EDM-based, a two-day licence for the same venue," she said.

Area residents sided with the festival's organizers.

"Once in a while, living it up and enjoying the festivities and the culture is great!  And I think we need to be a little more flexible," one woman told CBC.

She said she hates "when the discrimination card is pulled out and I would think that one wouldn't say that. Discrimination shouldn't be brought up in this case."

Paul Follett, who lives near the park, said: "I didn't notice that it was any noisier and even if it was, who cares? I mean, it's always noisy down here."


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