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Sidney's Folk'nFiddle Fest balances experience, exuberance

Sidney’s Folk’nFiddle Festival, which attracted more than 1,000 people in 2022, gets underway Friday with the first of three days of eclectic programming.
Roots veteran Tony Furtado will perform at the Folk’nFiddle Festival in Sidney this weekend. ALICIA J. ROSE


Where: Various venues, including the Mary Winspear Centre
When: Friday, June 29 through Sunday, June 11
Tickets: $29 from

If last year’s edition of the Seaside Folk’nFiddle Festival could be termed a rebuild, following two years of pandemic-related inactivity, the upcoming third installment is nothing short of a breakout.

The popular Sidney event, which attracted more than 1,000 people in 2022, gets underway Friday with the first of three days of eclectic programming. On-deck are musicians from B.C., Ontario, Alberta, Saskatchewan, New York, and Oregon, playing everything from Americana and bluegrass to Celtic, country, and jazz — all thanks to the vision of artistic director Oliver Swain.

His decades of experience playing and producing folk festivals gives him a unique perspective on such matters, and he approached this year’s festival with a hankering for exploration, greatly expanding upon last year’s B.C.-centric programming with a varied and diverse line-up.

“This year I really put on my artistic-director’s cap, and found some stuff that I’m really excited about,” Swain said. “Diversity is really important to us.”

Roots veterans Stephen Fearing, Tony Furtado, and The Fretless are joined by newcomers like Cut Knife, Saskatchewan’s Jake Vaadeland and Calgary’s Mariel Buckley, who both drew effusive praise from the Juno-nominated Swain, who is performing Sunday with his project, Club Voltaire. The weekend also includes several key Victoria performers, such as Emily Braden, Pierre Schryer, Adam Dobres, and Richard Moody.

A total of eight events are on the schedule, from performances held at the Mary Winspear Centre and the Sidney Army, Navy & Airforce building on Fourth Street to a pair of free shows at the Beacon Bandshell near the Sidney waterfront.

The festival’s footprint will give the town an all-encompassing feel throughout the weekend, similar to when festivals of the same ilk are held in large cities throughout Canada, Swain said. “We wanted to make it so that you could come and spend the weekend [in Sidney].”

There will be both individual and collaborative performances, including sets between artists with little to no prior experience playing together. That’s an old folk festival trick, Swain said with a laugh, designed to get the artistic juices flowing and audiences engaged.

For that reason, he purposely booked performers for their versatility. “I’m sure there’s going to be some real interesting collaborations. It’s a beautiful thing in Sidney. It’s a small town, so all these stages are just a few minutes apart. I think we’re doing something really special here.”

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