FLOURISH is an annual art and music festival in Fredericton, New Brunswick that takes place at the beginning of spring. This year’s iteration will run from April 19 to 22 in different venues around the city.
Jane Blanchard started FLOURISH Festival in 2014 while studying at UNB’s Renaissance College. Although originally for a project management course, she made FLOURISH the subject of an independent study course the following year.
“Initially, I created FLOURISH Festival to fill a market gap in the Fredericton music scene. We did not have a spring music and arts festival—and I thought it would be cool to bring the music and arts communities together to try and make a special weekend,” she said.
That first year, the festival was organized in just a few weeks. Blanchard came up with the idea in February and began organizing it in the last week of March.
“I had never run an event before, let alone a festival—so I was starting from scratch and talking to so many people in the community to point me in the right direction,” she said. It was with the community’s help that they decided she would focus on the music aspect and Stefan Westner, the festival’s co-director, on the visual art side of things.
Blanchard said organizing a festival is incredibly difficult—and it becomes harder every year since they grow in size and incorporate new skills and opportunities, including grants, funding, sponsors and new venues. But it is all worth it when they see how many amazing artists apply to be part of the event each year.
Her favourite part of running FLOURISH each year is to see the returning faces and their smiles.
“FLOURISH Festival has become a hub for connecting artists and musicians, and it is amazing to have so many creative people in one space. We are really lucky to welcome many people back to Fredericton who used to be a huge part of the music and arts scene—who, for some reason or another, have had to leave Fredericton.”
The first FLOURISH Festival took place in two venues and had 20 participating artists; in 2018, however, the festival is presenting over 70 artists across eight different venues. Blanchard said FLOURISH has also grown in terms of partners and connections, since these now include The Capital Complex, Picaroons Traditional Ales, Blackstreet Records, the Government of Canada, the City of Fredericton and the Charlotte Street Arts Centre, among others.
“The main highlights for me every year are the people that I get to know better, hosting artist breakfasts in my dad’s kitchen, and staying up late at the after-parties and chatting to like-minded people. There’s a whole vibe that comes with FLOURISH Festival that just makes you feel so good, and I encourage everyone to join in the experience,” Blanchard said.
This year, Blanchard is organizing the festival from Edinburgh, Scotland. “Working from abroad has been crazy, but a total learning curb. It is becoming a little easier with time, but nothing beats discussing schedules and lineups and installations over beer in [Westner’s] studio.”
Blanchard is looking forward to flying back to Fredericton at the beginning of April, since she’ll be playing sets both as a solo artist and with her band, David in the Dark. Blanchard started playing music at a very young age. By the time she started high school, she was playing original songs in a band called Margo Margo and participating in festivals around the East Coast. And when she started university, singer-songwriter Evan LeBlanc asked if she’d like to be a part of the new band he was putting together. Blanchard agreed, and began playing keys and doing backup vocals for David in the Dark.
“David in the Dark has been playing for about four years now, and it has been a really exciting journey playing music with my best friends,” Blanchard said.
Thanks to David in the Dark, Blanchard became close friends with Westner, who plays the drums. When she came up FLOURISH, she thought he would be the perfect co-director.
In addition to her own performances, Blanchard is excited to really dig into the festival’s organization and make it come to life. The show she’s most excited about is taking place at Shiftwork Studio, featuring bands WHOOP-Szo, The Lonely Parade, Motherhood, The Famines and artist Klarka Weinwurm. According to Blanchard, Shiftwork Studio is the home of everything FLOURISH.
WHOOP-Szo are past FLOURISH Festival residents; Motherhood are the creators of the Shifty Bits Circus, an independent music and arts festival in Fredericton that ended a couple years ago—but it was a huge inspiration for FLOURISH. Klarka Weinwurm has played at every FLOURISH since the festival’s inception; The Famines are both musicians and visual artists, and this will be The Lonely Parade’s first time participating in the event.
Other bands and artists presenting at FLOURISH include Platitudes, The Brood, Alexia Avina, Ada Lea, Innes Wilson, The Hypochondriacs, Yess Woah, Justin Wright, and Best Fern.