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Folktoria brings the world to Centennial Square this weekend

Folktoria resembles the early editions of the Inter-Cultural Association’s Folkfest, once Victoria’s longest-running annual event.
Victoria's Wong Sheung Kung Fu Club will stage demonstrations on Saturday and Sunday. Photo: COLIN SMITH


Where: Centennial Square
When: Saturday, June 3 (noon-8 p.m.) and Sunday, June 4 (11 a.m.-7 p.m.)
Admission: Free

Victoria is not lacking in arts and culture offerings, nor does it struggle to attract festivals — especially at this time of year. It’s brimming with both June through September.

When the organizers of Folktoria founded the festival in 2018, it was a means of celebrating that rich history in the area. Produced by the Greater Victoria Folk Festival Society, Folktoria resembles the early editions of the Inter-Cultural Association’s Folkfest, which was founded in 1971 and was once Victoria’s longest-running annual event and largest multi-cultural arts festival.

Folkfest came to an end in 2006, and was never officially replaced. But those who run Folktoria, a free multi-day event aimed at spotlighting myriad cultures in our community, want to mirror its legacy. “We loved the spirit of that festival,” said organizer Sonia Grewal.

“A lot of the groups that have participated in [Folktoria] during the past five years, they all remember or were a part of Folkfest. We miss that unity, and coming together and learning about different cultures. ”

Folktoria incorporates contemporary folk music but is more about the folkloric elements of the communities that participate. Grewal is a director with Shan-e-Punjab Dance School, which will be celebrating 30 years of bhangra dance on Sunday. Her school will be joined on the program by dozens of unique organizations from Greater Victoria, including Polish, Ukrainian, Korean, Scottish, Brazilian, Filipino, Chinese, Portuguese, and Latin folk groups, choirs, dance troupes, and food providers.

After two years on online programming, due to the pandemic, the festival returned to in-person performances last year. Grewal is pleased to report that the groups participating this weekend represent a record intake. Upwards of 40 are taking part this year, and will be showcased over two days of programming in Centennial Square.

“A lot of the cultural organizations, you’ll often see them as part of a festival. But all these groups are so integral, why not give them their own festival, so that they are highlighted? When new groups come on board, we get to learn a little bit about a culture we didn’t know about. When you see the dancers in dresses, they are not costumes — that is their heritage on display.”

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