Grickle Grass, London’s finest arts and culture festival, returns this Saturday for its ninth instalment. The event runs across an entire day, with a day portion dedicated to family activities, and a night portion committed to the best of underground, offbeat music and culture.

Ahead of the show, I put a few questions to the festival’s organizer, Savannah Sewell, over email, and found out that there’s a whole lot more to festival than a day out at the Children’s Museum.

AL: Grickle Grass does a great job of feeling accessible and “different” at the same time. What’s your plan for the size and profile of the festival going forward?

SS: It’s fairly unique to the space and city. The London Children’s Museum is a special place and I think the setting is a main difference from other festivals we’ve attended across Canada.

That said, we could say the same thing about festivals and events we like to go to in others cities; everyone’s got their own identity. We’ve certainly grown since year one and logistically Grickle Grass can only be so big due to the general size of the Children’s Museum itself, and we’re ok with that. As far as the future holds, we’re open! But we’re definitely excited about this year and of course, making it to year 10 in 2019!

What’s the process for selecting acts for the nighttime program? Is there specific criteria? Do artists have to be “hot?” How far afield do you usually cast the net when recruiting?

Booking the bands is always a hot topic. Adam [ed- Sturgeon, Artistic Director] takes care of all the bookings (for the most part) and does a phenomenal job of rounding out the line up each year.

He’s constantly touring (with WHOOP – Szo) which means he’s always seeing shows, meeting bands and promoters all over the country. He’s always got his ear to the ground so to speak. For the most part I’d say it really comes down to “are you doing something interesting, cutting edge or different as an artist?”.

How important is the daytime programming to the festival? Some events focus strictly on arts and music for the adults, while others, like yours, are more approachable to families and younger people. What’s your perspective on including opportunities for younger people to experience and contribute to a gathering like this?

Well, kids are the future. As cliche as it sounds, it’s true.

I mean, engaging youth with this kind of programming is important. Maybe they don’t have the chance to interact with mediums like 16mm film or planting a garden or screen printing. So it’s exciting for us to bring these things to their attention.

When kids play this way it can spark creativity or a conversation with their parents that they’ve never had before. That’s a win for us. Plus kids are the best, and it was a no brainer for us to have the daytime programming when we started, considering the venue. Especially now that Adam and I are parents, the kids programming seems more important than ever.

What role does the festival play in the city? What influence do you think it has?

Grickle Grass connects people to their childhood and brings a sense of nostalgia to our community, which London can always use a little more of. It allows attendees to experience music in a fun and interactive way and certainly leaves an impact seeing that obscure band play a set under a whale skeleton or in a miniature town before they got famous.

How important is it to have less mainstream cultural engines like Grickle Grass in smaller cities, particularly in places like London?

Smaller mid-sized cities are where it’s at right now.

We just spent some time on the east coast this spring and I’m totally impressed by what the communities out that way are producing: festivals like Flourish Festival and Quality Block Party; markets; art galleries; and pop up venues. It’s crucial to have these outlets in places outside of the big hubs.

There’s a lot of creativity coming from the underground and it’s important to have the space to find it and explore it. It’s good for London in particular to step away from the mainstream because we see and hear so much of it. It’s good for us to have a balance.

What’s the biggest roadblock you run up against, uptake-wise, for the festival?

There’s certainly been a bit of an education piece for us with the event. In the past it’s felt as though the city doesn’t understand what we’re trying to do – going back to the mainstream thing – and there’s nothing wrong with that path at all. I’ve worked my fair share of shows (and still sing along to some of those songs we all know) but there needs to be space for everyone.

Times are changing, the conversations are different now in arts and entertainment.

Diversity, accessibility, racism, misogyny, all things we SHOULDN’T have to talk about, but we do. You just can’t book shows full of white men anymore. You CAN’T, it’s over. We’ve been standing by these morals for the last nine years and we are dedicated to continue down this path.

It’s a positive upswing though, especially with the granting bodies and we’re thankful to receive some funding now to help facilitate this kind of programming.

Nine years in, which parts of GG do you look forward to most each year?

Is it bad if I say all of it? I love the kids during the day, it melts my heart. And this year our little one will be there to experience it which is so special.

But something I always love is watching folks come who I’ve never seen before and their reaction to the event. There’s a flutter that rushes over me because I know we’re leaving a lasting impression for someone. They don’t know me and I don’t know them and that’s a big part of doing this event. Bringing people together under one roof, for a positive, uplifting and amazing time.

The Grickle Grass Festival happens this Saturday at the London Children’s Museum. Tickets are $25. Make the effort, friends. You will be rewarded.

Feature photo via Facebook/GrickleGrassFest

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