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Folktoria: Intergeneration Connections Through Culture and Community

Photo from Folktoria's Facebook page

Victoria’s Centennial Square was filled with the sounds of laughter and music, the scents of fresh B.C. air and tantalizing foods, and the feeling of electric excitement. With escalating tensions around the world, Folktoria, Victoria’s annual folk festival, is a reminder of fulfillment that comes from community, the celebration of diversity and culture, and unification.

Folktoria’s 7th Anniversary was a return to form and a resounding success, and for many who attend each year, it is a nourishing moment for their stomachs, ears, and hearts.

“People felt it was almost like food to come and have this kind of festival. It was nourishing to their person,” says Kerry Patriarche, current president of the Greater Victoria Folk Festival Society (GVFFS). “It made them happy in a way that was almost inexplicable; the level of happiness from it is really high.”

Patriarche attributes much of that to seeing children and youth embracing the festivities. For her and many others, there are times, especially as you get older, when children don’t feel as present in life. She says sometimes it feels like there aren’t as many children as there used to be, and when they are present, it’s a great blessing.

“The truth is it’s lovely to be in the presence of a whole hassle of children.”

“Children bring a very special element to the festival,” adds board member Pam Rudy, “they’re very spontaneous in how they react to what they see and what they hear. They don’t have restraints. The younger the children, the more unrestrained, spontaneous, and natural they are. So it’s always a delight to watch them.”

For the dozens of cultural organizations and dance troupes, youth are the cornerstone to ensuring cultural diversity and heritage continue through the generations. GVFFS board member Sonia Grewal is one such example, someone who, as a young adult, took a chance to get involved, which has become a lifelong engagement. For many of the GVFFS, she is an inspiration to the folk dance community.

“Sonja was maybe twenty when she started her dance school,” notes Patriarche, “She herself was a youth when she started this. Sonja’s story should inspire other young people who have a cultural impulse and believe that you don’t need a perfect universe to make something happen.”

“That’s how you build your legacy,” adds Grewal, “not even legacy but to build a heritage, the stories that carry over from one generation to another. That’s something I’ve been doing for 30 years.”

Grewal believes many cultural groups desire to engage younger generations to carry on that history. However, it’s not simply to preserve but to create and to innovate. That’s the experience of the Hollytree Morris dancers. This traditional English folk dance group has performed at Folktoria for several years and celebrated its 50th Anniversary.

Dr. Trevor Hancock and many, many others have reignited the passion for this artform, which has been around since at least 1448, with a record of a company of goldsmiths in London paying Morris dancers seven shillings to be in their parade. Hancock says much of the dance has disappeared, but it’s through the reinvention of reiterations of what was preserved through dedicated invitations that we see the new variations today. That’s the goal, he adds. When interest and excitement are brought into these folk traditions, a new story is created that celebrates and remembers history but also looks to create something unique and entirely new.

Folktoria unites communities and cultures through music and dance. However, the goal isn’t just to hold a one-and-done cultural event but to inspire and open new opportunities for smaller and more frequent events which engage in cultural unity year-round.

– Ryan Funk, U Multicultural

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