afrofest 2016

Afrofest 2016 will be two days after all

The City of Toronto has reversed its decision and the festival has been granted the permits to continue as a two-day event.

- Mar 24, 2016

Call it a win for Save Afrofest. After forcing Afrofest to downsize, and issuing a lecture for the festival to "behave" that many took as condescending, the city has reversed its decision and granted festival organizers permits for the two-day festival.

A statement issued Wednesday evening on the website of Councillor Mary-Margaret McMahon (whose ward includes Woodbine Park) said that the city and festival organizers, Music Africa Inc., had reached an agreement and the festival would be granted permits for July 9 and July 10 at Woodbine Park. "All parties are committed to working together to ensure Afrofest is successful this summer and in future years," the statement continues.

A little over a week ago, we'd learned that the city had shrunk the festival to just a single day as punitive action against what it cited as past noise and curfew violations. Afrofest President Peter Toh called the city's actions unfair and discriminatory. In a press statement issued by organizers on March 15, he noted that of all of the festivals that take place in Woodbine Park, which each use the same sound company, Afrofest is the only one to face such punishment.

With this agreement we look forward to a positive future for the festival and are committed to including Afrofest in the cultural and musical landscape of Toronto.

Joint Statement
Support to #saveafrofest was immediate and wide-spread. "A reversal to all city-mandated changes imposed on Afrofest, including its restoration to a 2-day festival," was included in the Black Lives Matter Toronto protestors' list of demands, alongside items like  justice for the police shooting death of Andrew Loku. The protest is in its fourth day outside of Toronto Police HQ at 40 College St.

The latest statement names supposed transgressions by both parties. "Afrofest organizers acknowledge that there were some permit violations related to past years of the festival," it reads, "and, the city admits to unclear communication regarding permit end times. With this agreement we look forward to a positive future for the festival and are committed to including Afrofest in the cultural and musical landscape of Toronto." The statement then pledges the support of the Toronto Music Advisory Council to ensure Afrofest's success into the future.

Because of collective action and some hard negotiation on part of organizers, the two-day Afrofest is back. Of course, as Michael Rancic suggested in this piece, if Toronto really wants to be a Music City, this had to happen (and better yet, this never would have happened). In a recent strategy report, the Toronto Music Advisory Council suggested “noise regulations must balance the interests of residents and other businesses with those of venues and concert promoters, ensuring the well-being of the music industry as well as the wider public interest without unnecessary restrictions and fines.”

If the city is in fact committed to nurturing and promoting its music community, supporting Afrofest, working with its organizers to help it grow — not causing it to shrink as punishment — is a fine place to start.

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