Disagreements unravel popular music festival

B.C. Day will no longer feature free performances by local musicians on the grounds of St. Ann’s Academy.

The popular event has been changed to a family picnic, after a dispute between John Selkirk, producer of Capital Festival, and the Provincial Capital Commission, which manages the provincially-owned property.

“This is very damaging,” Selkirk said. “They were taking ownership of my festival.”

Selkirk launched the Capital Festival in 2009 with a $15,000 sponsorship from the PCC. The event attracted 8,000 people.

The vision, he said, was to provide an opportunity for emerging B.C. artists to perform.

In 2010, the PCC sponsored the event a second time. It featured roughly 100 paid performers, and enlisted many other community sponsors.

Disagreements between Selkirk and the PCC, however, flared Feb. 19, 2011.

On that day, Selkirk received a package in the mail from the PCC inviting him to submit a proposal to plan, promote and manage an event on B.C. Day. In the 40-page request for proposals, the PCC claimed to be the producer of the festival at St. Ann’s.

“Why was I blindsided by this?” asked Selkirk. He claims he was given verbal assurances that his festival was an annual event, and that the venue was booked for 2011. Based on this understanding, he had sponsors lined up for an expanded, three-day event, July 30 through Aug. 1.

Selkirk refused to submit a proposal to the PCC.

To do so would be to sign over the intellectual property rights to an event he spent time and money building, he argued.

The RFP closed March 4 and the PCC received no proposals.  Instead, the PCC board agreed to host its own event: a family picnic. An offer to Selkirk to host his event on the Saturday prior to B.C. Day still stands.

Ray Parks of the PCC admits the wording of the RFP document was incorrect.

“It is clearly John’s thing .. and there is no intention to try to scoop that or take it,” he said.

Parks, however, defended the need to open up the opportunity to other bidders.

“I’ve got to be open and fair to everybody,” said Parks, explaining an increased sponsorship offer of $30,000 requires going to public tender.

“Quite frankly I was shocked when (Selkirk) didn’t apply … If he had responded to the RFP I would have been happy to work with him.”

The two sides have not been able to resolve the problem, however, because of a series of miscommunications on both sides, said Parks. “I wasn’t aware that there was this misunderstanding … until John corrected me sometime later.”

The PCC also claims Selkirk did not indicate any interest in producing an event in 2011 prior to the issuance of the RFP.

Selkirk paints a very different series of events.

He claims that several attempts to communicate with the PCC about his plans and concerns went unanswered.

The resulting standoff will be a waste of taxpayer dollars, Selkirk concluded.

Why replace a festival “that has tremendous community giving back and good will and opportunity for young performers (with a) tea party and giving away free food?”

rholmen@vicnews.com

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