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Email Tel: 0542 560 30 18

Venus Festival is Canada’s Attempt To Create An Inclusive Music And Art Event

‘We need space to hear the voices of women and non-binary artists, and we need space to celebrate our work and accomplishments’

When Statement, an upcoming Swedish music festival, was first announced it was blasted for proudly declaring itself a “man-free event.” After the immediate backlash, founder and comedian Emma Knyckare doubled down on her festival’s intention in a press statement, saying all men should be barred from all festivals until they’ve “learned to behave.”


Her perspective and the festival’s ideology are rooted in the effort to prevent a rise in sexual assaults at festivals around the country. But that ethos isn’t new — we first saw it take root with Lilith Fair in the ’90s, which was founded by singer Sarah McLachlan and featured acts like the Dixie Chicks, Lisa Loeb, Tracey Chapman and Sheryl Crow.

Lilith Fair eventually turned into something of a gimmick before it finally petered out. Ever since then, the big three music festivals (Coachella, Lollapalooza and Bonnaroo) have become best known for big-budget branding and chart-topping acts in the blistering summer heat.

While attempting to dial back to the inspiration that spawned Lilith Fair, Statement Festival feels less like counter programming to massive festivals and more like, well, a statement. Perhaps a more effective platform for traditionally marginalized voices will come in the form of Canada’s Venus Festival, a new event taking place on September 30 at the Daniels Spectrum in Toronto.

Labelled “a Toronto music festival and arts celebration in the spirit of feminism,” it is headlined by Madame Gandhi, and includes a variety of diverse all-woman acts like Weaves, Grouper, Witch Prophet, Emel Mathlouthi. The fest will also feature the recently crowned 2017 Polaris Music Prize winner Lido Pimienta, who was both praised and criticized for her speech on feminism and equality at the awards ceremony last week.

Although Statement came under fire for seemingly excluding trans people, Venus has made it clear that it is open to “all identities” in hopes of forming the beginning of an inclusive space to foster creativity.

Festival founder Aerin Fogel said, “Venus Fest is born in response to the growing unrest in Toronto’s music community. We need space to hear the voices of women and non-binary artists, and we need space to celebrate our work and accomplishments.” 

It may be two decades since Lilith Fair, but festivals like Venus still feel revolutionary. And while that may be disappointing in some ways, it also speaks to the growing hunger for more inclusive environments, a sentiment that isn’t likely to ever go away.

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