If you thought Victoria has a lot of buskers — people providing entertainment on Government Street or in the Inner Harbour — then get ready for a busker invasion.
On Friday, and for nine full days, Victoria will be descended upon by more than 75 street performers. Everything from acrobatics and clowning to Guinness world record holding jugglers will be performing on the streets in free-to-attend family-friendly shows.
The only admission to these world-class performances? A tip when the hat is passed around.
Busker acts from as far away as Switzerland, Argentina, Australia and the U.K. will be performing on the five main stages across the downtown area, from the Inner Harbour and the Empress lawn to evening performances on Government and Langley streets, both of which will be closed to traffic in the evenings (Government will be closed from View to Yates after 5:30pm and Langley will be closed, also at Yates, after 4pm.)
“We’re hoping to cultivate a bit of a theatre district,” says festival executive director John Vickers. “I really hope we give it that feel.”
There will also be 20 “Busk Stops” around the downtown core featuring the local buskers we know and love
Between Mon., July 23 and Sat., July 28, the Victoria Event Centre is going to be transformed into a comedy cabaret. “It’s so much more than comedy,” says Vickers. “That’s why we decided to call it a cabaret. You’ll not only see some great stand-up, you may see some acrobatics.”
Hosted by Wes Borg, the comedy cabaret also features Kirsten Van Ritzen, Erica Sigurdon, Sean Proudlove, Carilynn Nicholson, Sharon Mahoney (festival artistic advisor), Julie Kim, Byron Bertram and James Ball (8:30pm, $5 at the door).
The cabaret is the only portion of the festival that is adults only (+19).
Also new this year is a music only stage on the lower steps of Bastion Square. This Victoria 150 music stage features local performers, including Maureen Washington and Daniel Cook, between noon and 7pm daily.
With attendance numbers for the first festival last year up around 75,000 (53 per cent local, 47 per cent visitors), Vickers is hoping to almost double the number of people that take in the second installment.
“I’ve been hearing from a lot of people that they missed out on last year’s festival or they only went down on the last day, so we’re hoping to see a lot more of them come out.”
Vickers says the festival wouldn’t be possible without the more than 240 hotel nights donated by 17 hotels from the Hotel Association of Greater Victoria.
“This festival is a reflection of our community coming together to create a free-to-attend family festival downtown. It’s a model held together by community partners who came together feeling that there needed to be more happening downtown.”
The festival also relies heavily on volunteers to make it run smoothly. If you’d like to volunteer, contact the Buskers Festival at victoriabuskers.com/volunteer.
To vote for the audience favourite award, go to the red Goodlife Fitness tent in the Inner Harbour to cast your vote.
Festival programs are available in The Bay Centre and at most hotels in Greater Victoria. M