Folk music festival focusses on youngsters

Children will take centre stage when the second annual Ottawa Grassroots Festival comes to the Rideau Curling Club and St. Barnabas Church in the heart of Centretown next month.

The volunteer-organized folk music festival runs April 27­-28 and will feature a wide array of activities for kids including a songwriting workshop. There will also be a performance by the homeschooled children’s choir, Sparrows, a group started by parents in the community.

“I want it to be fun for kids. I want them to just enjoy it and maybe spark an interest in music,” says Bob Nesbitt, the festival’s producer.

“This is a community organization and it’s meant to make things better for the community,” he says.

This year’s event has blossomed into a two-day affair after the success of last year’s one-day inaugural festival.

There will be more than 34 hours of free activities and performances over the weekend as part of an effort to make the event more accessible to the entire community.

Some children will even get the chance to perform their own songs live on stage with Ottawa singer-songwriter Missy Burgess, who has toured across North America and released three studio albums since 1996.

Nesbitt says the performers should appeal to the whole family.

The belief that older generations can inspire new ones has long been held within the Ottawa folk-music community.

The Ottawa Grassroots Festival had scheduled folk lover Chopper McKinnon to host a live version of his radio show Canadian Spaces on site before his passing in mid-March.

“It’s hard to really even express how important he’s been to our community,” reflects Chris White, McKinnon’s co-host on the CKCU program and festival organizer/performer.

According to Nesbitt, all those involved with this year’s affair have kept in mind the transformative power community-based events can have on young people.

“When you do focus these creative, imaginative, participatory, expressive arts type activities on children as an investment in the future,” White says.

“It’s such a wonderful thing because then they have that their whole lives.”