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Igniting Folk in Victoria

Folk is a culture’s stories and traditions, preserving its heritage and history. Folktoria, held in Centennial Square in downtown Victoria brings together the area’s numerous communities to celebrate diversity, culture, and unification.

“For me, it’s the stories and history I grew up with to understand my culture,” says Sonia Grewal, President of the Greater Victoria Cultural Festival Society (GVCFS) and chair of Folktoria, “The stories my mother told me and what my grandmother passed on to her. My mother is very passionate about her Punjabi culture, and she has shared that with me.”

Organized by members of the GVCFS and representatives of cultures and organizations which participate in the festival, are excited to announce after two years, will be featuring an in-person celebration, something dearly missed in the community. Featuring music, dance, and a variety of foods and activities, Folktoria’s 5th Anniversary will honour 30 cultural communities from June 4 to 5.

Several names were up for discussion when the group first formed. Thanks to board member Melvin, the name Folktoria was added to the potential options. Folktoria was chosen because it reflects the folk culture its members represent and the larger community of Victoria. The members believe this name is brilliant, hitting home with many people and is something easy to say.

The return to an in-person event means a lot for the members and the community, bringing everyone together and an exciting attraction for tourists. It also involves numerous private and public sector businesses and financial support from the province of BC, the city of Victoria, BC Lottery Corporation and sponsors from the community. It’s also a perfect opportunity for other elements of Victoria to shine.

For organizations like the Royal BC Museum, it’s an opportunity to showcase upcoming exhibitions, the Greater Victoria Public Library’s Diversity and Inclusion department to show their multicultural selection of books and hear from the public, or for the University of Victoria to engage with the community for its multicultural programs as part of its strategic plan. Volunteerism is another way the festival not only supports the community but receives support. Youth in Highschool can use the hours towards their graduation, or immigrants who wish to connect more with their new home community. There are many volunteer opportunities, but most importantly, a festival can’t occur if people don’t attend, says board member Pam Rudy.

“There wouldn’t be a festival if no one attended it. The simplest way to be involved is to participate by coming. The more people can come to see and hear, the more we can experience more similarities among all our differences.”

In all aspects, everyone is eagerly anticipating what will be available for the 5th Anniversary. Board member Joan Axford says there is a lot to look forward to.

“The highlight of Centennial Square, where we have Folktoria, is a very large fountain. We’re moving the site around to be at that fountain, which will allow for better viewing of the stage and more participation onsite. Our new sponsor this year, the BC Lottery Corporation, is engaged because they want to celebrate diversity in our community. They’re going to have trivia games going.”

It’s a big year for Folktoria with new sponsors, new food vendors and the participation of 30 unique cultural organizations. Although the growth is thrilling, there is nervousness the festival could lose its familiarity and closeness if it grows too quickly.

“Sometimes, I don’t want it to get any bigger than it is,” says Axford, “There’s a closeness. We know the other performers, and it’s small enough to get around the entire site. See all the performances, and eat all the food.”

If growth means including more cultures and groups in the celebration, Grewal is more than excited to add more, but there are still some questions about whether to find a new location or extend the festival to include more days.

“That requires a lot of volunteers and funding. Bigger in the sense of the message across, yeah, it would be wonderful to get the message across nationally that we’ve revived this folk festival in Victoria for over 30 years, and the message of diversity and inclusivity. Everyone is welcome, and all cultures are appreciated. Really honing into the message of Canada, which is home to many cultures.”

If you’re interested in attending, wanting to learn more, or volunteering at Folktoria send an email to

– Ryan Funk, U Multicultural

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of U Multicultural.

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