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Festival organizers happy to share experiences

By Chris Connors – Cape Breton Post

ST. ANN’S – It seems there are no secrets in the world of Celtic music festivals.

Tuesday, as the seventh annual Celtic Colours International Festival
strutted out of another successful opening weekend, founding organizers
Joella Foulds and Max MacDonald hosted an informal meeting with their
counterparts from a half-dozen other festivals to share their
experiences on everything from securing funding and booking talent to
setting ticket prices and getting insurance coverage.And while pulling
back the curtain and unveiling the inner workings to rivals may not
seem like sound business practice, Foulds notes the spirit of
co-operation has long since broken the spirit of competition among
festival organizers.

“It’s the dead opposite of competition,” she said. “You want to make
other people’s festivals good because festival-goers move around.]

“The goal in this is to create better festivals everywhere and everyone
benefits when festivals are better because more people are going to go
to them.”

The tradition of idea sharing among festival organizers actually dates
back to when Celtic Colours was still on the drawing board. At the
time, Foulds and MacDonald, co-owners of Sydney-based entertainment
company Rave Entertainment Inc., turned to the Celtic Connections
festival in Glasgow, Scotland and the Tønder Festival in
Denmark for guidance. The organizer of the long-running Tønder Festival
even came to Cape Breton for a week and turned over his festival manual
and outlined the festival’s philosophy and approach.

“This festival would have been a different festival without that kind
of input,” said Foulds. “So, this is one of the very important things
that we do is to share these ideas.”

Lew Taylor, founder of the Cape Cod Celtic Festival and a Celtic music
retailer, said he used Celtic Colours as the template for the year-old
event.

“We’re modeling it after Celtic Colours, where we have many concerts
during the week in smaller venues around Cape Cod,” he said, noting
that Celtic Colours organizers have given him their blessing.

“Max (MacDonald) and Joella (Foulds) actually go out of their way to
help us. You talk about jealousy and guarding secrets, these two people
give away all the company secrets. There are no secrets. They want us
all to be successful like they’ve been successful.”

Terry Talbot, founder and artistic director of the Montreal
International Celtic Festival, likened the world of Celtic music
festivals to a sorority.

“All these festivals, we look at as our sister festivals,” he said. “We
share the same artists, especially the international ones. (Celtic
Colours) was sort of an inspiration to us and we sort of worked in the
same framework as this festival.”

Mary MacInnes, who came with a group of 20 people from Ceolas, a school
for advanced Gaelic music students in the Western Isles of Scotland
that also hosts a festival, said they rely on Cape Breton musicians
like Kinnon and Betty Lou Beaton, Buddy MacMaster, Wendy MacIsaac, Mac
Morin and Tracey Dares to serve as instructors.

“Our festival depends on the Cape Breton link, so we have actually come
over to see the many talented musicians and dancers in their home,” she
said. “I think we all realize we all need each other and that we are
all sort of out there in what is essentially now a world market.”

Celtic Colours continues until Oct. 18.

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