The Frostbite Music Festival won’t be happening this winter because the society that runs the festival is mired in debt and missed the deadlines for two key funding grants.
The decision to postpone the three-day festival was made by a unanimous vote last night at a special board meeting in the Frostbite house at Shipyards Park.
“We have a huge capacity issue. We still have a $24,000 debt. We need more than a five-person board,” said board member Renee-Claude Carrier.
The board is now asking the public to come forward as volunteers to help the society get back on its feet.
“We also need people on the sidelines that help us by taking events on and help us get to a place where we can pay off our debt,” Carrier said.
The problems arose after the society missed the deadline for the territory’s Arts Operating Fund, which usually provides core funding of $32,000. That money pays the salary of a producer to put the festival together.
The deadline is Feb. 15, right in the middle of Frostbite’s annual three-day music festival.
“It’s really challenging for the festival to put on a festival, do the application for the grant and do everything the same weekend. It was decided last year that we would no longer apply because of the timing,” Carrier said.
The society also lost money on last year’s festival, but Carrier couldn’t say how much because the board’s finances for last year aren’t finished yet.
That in turn led the society to also miss a Sept. 15 deadline for a national arts project grant worth $20,000. There is one more chance to apply for that grant, with a deadline of Dec. 15, but that’s so close to the festival that the board can’t risk the uncertainty, so the standard three-day festival is on the rocks.
Instead, the society will try to continue running concerts and other special one-off events through the winter to maintain its community presence and try to raise money to pay down its debt.
The society is also still dealing with the loss of Andrea Burgoyne, who was the festival’s producer until she left to work for the Winnipeg Music Festival last August. She often handled most of the grant writing, said artistic director Eric Epstein, and the society needs to find someone to fill that role.
“I think that in order to move ahead, the society really needs to take the issue of management and professionalism very strongly,” Epstein said.
“It needs to face up to its own management deficits. It’s not just a matter of getting people together to do more stuff. We need to get knowledgeable people together to deal with the real management issues and find a way to move forward in a professional manner,” he said.
Steve Reed, the new executive director of Music Yukon, said he’s worried about the impact that the loss of the festival could have on the local music scene.
“Losing Frostbite would be a massive blow to local artists. This festival gives more stage time to local talent than just about any festival in Canada,” Reed said.
Yukoners love Frostbite, said Reed, and he hopes the public will step forward to help.
So does Carrier.
“We need people to help organize fundraisers and come up with ideas of how to raise some quick money. People who can come volunteer would be huge. We need people to join the board or to join committees who are good at writing grants, who are good doing financial work. Instead of paying a bookkeeper, if someone wanted to donate bookkeeping skills, that would help, or someone who is good at strategic planning,” Carrier said.
Contact Jesse Winter at