Strummerfest – the story so far and the future, a guest post

A good morning to you and a check of the watch suggests that this is Friday, that can only be a good thing. I regret the lack of an update yesterday, I went to bed with laptop at hand with the best intentions and suddenly the next day has arrived. Not to worry though as I’ve a special guest post that comes to you from Kitchener, Ontario which is just outside Toronto as it happens.

When we think of The Clash cities London, New York, Glasgow, Paris and San Francisco might spring to mind but Toronto would rightly claim her place on that list. The history of the band importance there along with the readership I see from Canada’s largest city is testament to that. What you might not know is that Kitchener has for the last few years also hosted Strummerfest which Michael Clifton is here to tell you much more about in today’s guest post, so over to Michael.

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Who knew it would turn out to be so difficult to write something about Strummerfest for The Clash Blog?  I guess it feels a bit like ‘hitting the big times’ to be invited to explain a bit about the festival, so I have to start out with a sincere “Thanks!” for that.

Strummerfest started in 2012 as a simple idea – a proposed concert of a half-dozen bands to commemorate the 10th year since Joe Strummer’s death.  But to celebrate Joe, that would never have been enough.  Borrowing the energy, input and contacts of a local indie-rock guru, Strummerfest eventually included an art show, a pre-festival screening of The Future is Unwritten and, on December 14, 2012, 22 bands and solo performers  (mostly independent singer-songwriters) from Toronto, Hamilton, Kitchener and elsewhere, performing a wide variety of styles in seven downtown Kitchener, Ontario venues, headlined by old-school punks, SFH (fronted by one of Canada’s original punk rockers, Warren Kinsella).

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It was exciting, DIY, and successful.  We not only had a terrific time and were nominated for a local arts award (we didn’t win, but being nominated was enough), but we also acknowledged Joe’s legacy more significantly by raising money for two suicide-prevention charities (Your Life Counts and Waterloo Region Suicide Prevention Council) and collecting clothes, food and blankets for the homeless.

In fact, I’m most pleased that Strummerfest is recognized for its charitable aims, for its support of suicide-prevention, for its dedication to the principle that every life matters and for seeking to inspire hope and positive self-regard in every person.

Well, the problem with a good start is that everyone then wants follow-up.  You’ve got momentum, we were told; it would be a shame to lose that, they said.  So Strummerfest 2013 was born.  “Year Two” included 8 bands in three pre-festival concerts , and 30 bands and solo performers on the festival night at five venues (none outdoors, thank goodness – it was a very snowy night).  Amongst them were Toronto punkers, Die Mannequin, the Gentlemen Husbands, folk/punk singer-songwriter, Eamon McGrath, as well as returning favourites, SFH, The Wormwood Scrubs, and The Baudelaires.

Another great year, another great event, another influx of blankets gathered and funds raised for our charitable causes.  And there’s no question that there’s still momentum and a desire to do more.   That’s why we’re now seeking more support.

For 2014, our plan is to take this festival to the city where it likely should have been born, (my hometown) Toronto.  Moving from mid-winter in Kitchener, Strummerfest’s “Special Edition” in Toronto is planned for an August date (commemorating Joe’s birthday, of course). Specific dates, places and the line-up are yet to be finalized (announcements to follow soon), but we have serious interest from popular 80’s bands, including The Spoons and Chalk Circle, as well as last year’s performers.

The reality is that doing it, and doing it right, takes money.  So, we’re asking our fans, and all of Joe’s, to get behind this next phase of project.  We aren’t asking for much; we figure even a small percentage of Joe’s fans offering $15 or $20 each will help to get us off to the right start.  So, if you are so inclined, please check out our current grass-roots fundraising effort.  We believe that supporting Strummerfest helps extend Joe’s legacy musically and meaningfully.  We’d be pleased if you’d take part.

Thanks for the time, Tim.

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Thanks for that Michael and if I ever make it back up to Ontario (after you rid yourselves of Rob Ford) I’d love to attend. What I love most about Strummerfest is naturally it being in Joe’s name but also that it aims to raise funds for suicide prevention organizations and helping the homeless, I know Joe himself would endorse that.

Please join me in thanking Michael for helping to make it happen (30 bands in five venues!), writing the guest piece and if any of wherever you are in the world are able to assist with fundraising to any extent I know that would be warmly appreciated. Once again that link to support, learn more about Strummerfest or contact Michael is here. Also, if you live in the Greater Toronto Area, please spread the word to your friends and also via social media, awareness is half the battle and there are thousands of Clash fans in town. You can even help in following their Facebook page and circulating information. Thanks for dropping in, more soon.

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4 Responses to “Strummerfest – the story so far and the future, a guest post”

  1. Aya Sherlocat via Facebook says:

    Hi, The Clash Blog, is it okay if I post this here? :)
    I’m in Toronto, and I am forming an all-female Clash tribute band, to play benefits for social justice issues, such as War Resisters’ International, Maggies TO, and Families of Sisters in Spirit. We can make some pocket money too. Any lefty Clash city rocker chicks in the Toronto area? Prefer women around 25 and over (looking for positive-vibe people who are socially / emotionally mature, reliable and can take direction). I play bass (and some keys), and sing backing vox. Looking for rhythm guitar (who can sing back vox), lead guitar (pref. if you can sing also), we will need a keyboardist and perhaps a sax for some songs, drummer, and a good lead singer. I can’t find any info for the 2014 Strummerfest (which I never knew about before, so thanks for the post, Clash Blog!), but would love to play that. Queer / trans / women of colour very welcome. Must be into gender equality (pro-feminist but also pro-men), sex-positive (esp. sex-worker-positive), gay-friendly, trans-positive, anti-racist, and anti-ableist. Let’s make the world a better place, just like Joe, Mick, Paul, Terry and Topper! ^_^ Message me for details -- cheers.

  2. Hey, Aya. Contact me about Strummerfest at michael@strummerfest.ca. We’ll be promoting the event soon. Listen in to Everything and The Kitchen Sink online radio show on Feb. 7 and 21 for some shows in support of what we’re doing. And we’d love to hear about your band as it gets rocking.

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