Girls’ night out

Festival celebrates women's week at the NAC

This year, Ottawa will be will be missing one of its most valued musical summer traditions.

The Women’s Voices festival will not be taking place for the first time since the popular women-only summer festival began in 1997. The festival will be taking a one-year hiatus to reorganize, refocus and fundraise for its 2005 reappearance.

Marketing coordinator Marika Jemma describes the break as a much-needed “breather” for the entirely volunteer-run organization. She confesses that there is definitely some disappointment among the festival’s fans, but that the community has generally been understanding.

“There’s no sense that the festival is not going to happen,” says Jemma. “So people are quite supportive. They’re asking, ‘What can I do to help?’ or ‘When is your next event,’ that kind of thing.”

There is definitely no break in the festival’s fundraising schedule. The nonprofit organization will celebrate Women’s Week with three days of events at Ottawa’s prestigious National Arts Centre Fourth Stage.

Singers Laura Smith, Susan Crowe and Cindy Church – who performed for a sellout crowd at last year’s fundraiser – will perform two dates at the NAC as Brava. Smith has performed at the actual summer festival in the past while Crowe and Church are looking forward to performing in the future.

Meanwhile, the festival will offer something new in the form of the theatrical performance Clean Irene and Dirty Maxine on Fri, Mar 5.

Jemma describes the play as a “bit of a departure for the festival” since they haven’t presented a theatrical piece in the past, but it is not the only unique element to this year’s fundraiser.

Though not officially part of the festival event, a related documentary called 3 Days at the Women’s Voices Festival will be screened at the Saw Gallery on Thu Mar 4. The 45-minute documentary was shot and directed by Jemma from the perspective of a festival-goer and includes behind-the-scenes footage and cameo interviews.

Jemma is no stranger to documentary making – having made several short films in the past – but this is her first project of this length.

Jemma says she was inspired to make the film about the 2002 festival because the all-woman event is unique in Canada, and she feels it is an important part of our culture that should be brought to a wider audience.

The Women’s Voices Festival has also recently announced the addition of three new “voices” to its chorus. Maggie Ashton of Ashton and Associates; singer-songwriter Peggy White, who performed at a November fundraiser; and Bonnie Schroeder have all recently joined the Women’s Voices Festival Board.


Documentary by Marika Jemma.

Mar 4, 8pm.

Club Saw, Arts Court, 67 Nicholas St. 266-3737.



Mar 5, 8pm.


8pm Mar 6, 2pm Mar 7.

NAC 4th Stage.

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Culture, Arts, Ottawa

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