Q&A with Darin Addison, Artistic Director Home County Music & Art Festival

Earlier this year, Darin Addison took over from departing Catherine McInnes as the Artistic Director of Home County Music & Art Festival, London's longest running outdoor music festival.

As the 40th Anniversary edition of Home County fast approaches (July 19-21), The Beat thought it would be a good time to chat with Addison about this year's event and how he is fitting into his new position.

Publisher and managing editor Richard Young conducted the Q&A session.


How do you feel now that you have had a few months to settle in as Home County's new Artistic Director?

The first few months have been an amazing experience. I feel like have learned so much about the festival that I did not know from being a patron for 17 years. The Board and other team members made me feel welcome right from the beginning. With a week to go to the festival, there is still a lot to do. I am excited to start programming Home County 2014, but for now, we need to focus on this year’s festival

Celebrating its 40th Anniversary this year, Home County is London's longest running outdoor music festival despite changing times and tastes and competition from a myriad of other festivals and entertainment choices. How do you account for the festival's longevity?

Booking quality musicians and songwriters is probably the first key to the success of the festival. But there are so many other pieces to the puzzle. There are the sponsors who provide financial support; local media who help to spread the word; the patrons who come to enjoy the festival and contribute to our admission by donation campaign; the food and craft vendors that add to the character and experience of the festival; and of course, the volunteers…without volunteers, there would be no Home County.

Your predecessor Catherine McInnes initiated a re-branding of the festival of sorts, changing its name and taking it in a more diverse, contemporary direction. Are you committed to this direction? 

I have great admiration for Catherine and respect for what she has done with the festival. Home County has definitely grown since she started blending the younger musicians with the veterans of the folk circuit. I am committed to moving the festival forward, while continuing to keep the folk spirit alive. The folk genre is so much broader than it was 40 years ago. There will be no shortage of great talent to choose from.

 

A glance at this year's line-up reveals a very "comfortable" balance of national, regional and local performers. How important do you think this balance is to the festival's sustainability?

Balance is the key. This year’s line-up includes all artists that have performed at the festival in the past such as Valdy, Rick Taylor, David Bradstreet, and The Good Brothers – who were all at the first Home County in 1974. Then there are younger performers like Sarah Harmer, Basia Bulat, and Great Lake Swimmers, who have all become festival favourites. Providing opportunities for local musicians to play in front of new audiences that don’t necessarily go out to the bars is an important aspect of the festival. On a personal level, I am also an advocate for local music.

The Daytime Workshops have always been a very popular component of the festival. What do you think they add to the event's appeal?

The workshops are a great way to see the different musicians perform together on the same stage. Some of the musicians are great storytellers and some like to share how a song relates to the specific theme. I have seen some amazing collaborations on the workshop stages over the years. It is also great to come into Victoria Park and set up a lawn chair or throw a blanket on the ground. The vibe at the workshop stages is usually very laid back.

The Main Stage Schedule reads like a "Who's Who" of Canadian folk/roots music. Must-sees?

They are all must-sees in my opinion. There are a couple artists I am looking forward to seeing for the first time like David Francey, David Essig, and The Good Brothers. I have been following Tom Wilson’s career for years and Lee Harvey Osmond is going to rock the Sunday night stage. The Dala girls are very charming and a treat to see live.

Home County's quality vendors and craftspeople have been an integral component of the festival. What can festival-goers expect this year?

Our craft vendors are juried and the person selling the crafts are the people who made them. This is a very important component to the festival. There will not be fuzzy wolf blankets or Che Guevara banners for sale. Since I will be in the park all weekend, I am looking forward to sampling some great cuisine from many of the food vendors.

This will be the third year where festival goers will be encouraged to make a minimum $5 donation towards the costs of mounting the event. Has this request now become an expectation?

We will continue to ask people to make a donation when they arrive. A day pass at Guelph's Hillside Festival is $45 for the Friday and $75 for Saturday or Sunday. A five-day pass at the Winnipeg Folk Festival is $255. We think Home County patrons get great value for their entertainment dollar. People are not forced to pay and we would not turn someone away because they can’t pay.

Can interested individuals still get involved with Home County 2013?

We are still looking for volunteers. Anyone who is interested can still fill out an application on our website: http://www.homecounty.ca/participate/volunteers/

In addition to your duties as Home County's Artistic Director, you are also the Production and Marketing Coordinator at London's Aeolian Hall. Are the two positions complementary? Can we expect future tie-ins between the festival and Aeolian?

The two positions are definitely complementary. Many of the acts at this year’s festival have performed at Aeolian Hall. I also think my experience at The Aeolian was an important element of my background that helped me land the Home County gig. It would definitely make sense for The Aeolian and Home County to partner on an event or two outside the festival season.

Anything else you think needs to be said about this year's festival?

The Community Open Stage has been relocated to the inner circle of the park in hopes of drawing a larger audience to the stage (I have been pleasantly surprised by some great local talent here over the years). The North Stage along Central Ave is going to feature 45 minute concert sets every hour starting at noon on Saturday and Sunday. And, we are launching a new mobile phone app this year. There are still some final tweaks being made, but it is available for free download now.

[Photos in Order of Appearance: Darin Addison; Valdy; Sarah Harmer; Paul Langille; and Basia Bulat.]

If You Go:

What: 40th Annual Home County Music & Art Festival

When: Friday, July 19 to Sunday, July 21

Where: Victoria Park, Downtown London, ON

Admission: Free, $5 donation is requested.

Contact: For more information, including the full event Schedule, visit http://www.homecounty.ca/

Richard Young is the publisher/managing editor of The Beat Magazine. He has attended every edition of Home County since 1973.