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Victoria Function Festival creates space for BIPOC performers

“I’ve never really felt like the events happening around the city were made for me and people who look like me. What I really want to do is to put something on for everyone to enjoy, and to highlight people who are most commonly missed or forgotten about.” — Festival organizer Charity Williams
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Dallas rapper Kaash Paige will make her Victoria debut on Saturday. JASON LANDIS

THE FUNCTION FESTIVAL

With: Kaash Paige, Boslen, Notorious Cree, and more

Where: Ship Point, 812 Wharf St.

When: Saturday, Aug. 20, 2 p.m.

Tickets: $35 from functionfestival.com; children 12 and under are free

When it comes to the duties of a festival producer, the scope of the event is irrelevant. From logistics and travel to budget, it’s an all-consuming job no matter the footprint or focus.

Which makes you wonder how organizer Charity Williams is going to have a moment to breathe this week as she prepares for Saturday’s inaugural Function Festival.

The Victoria athlete was in town Tuesday, dealing with all matters pertaining to the music and culture festival, which doubles as a community block party and showcase for up-and-coming Black, Indigenous & People of Colour (BIPOC) performers. But she was out of the city Wednesday and on a plane to San Diego, California, as part of her commitment to Rugby Canada and the national women’s rugby team.

“I fly back to Victoria to set up [for the festival] on Friday,” Williams, 25, said with a laugh. “It’s going to be insane. I’m literally leaving the country for a day or two to play rugby and then coming back. I fly in through Harbour Air, and will literally land at the festival site.”

A bronze medallist in women’s rugby at the 2016 Rio Olympics, Williams has a degree in child development from Ryerson University, and said she has always felt the need to help people. In Victoria, she has worked as a child and youth worker and decolonial educator, and used some of those skills to establish a zero-tolerance BIPOC working group within Rugby Canada, to assist in the development of equality-based policies and education.

The idea for the Function Festival came to Williams in 2020 after she helped organize a Black Lives Matter peace rally in Victoria. She was also the lead organizer behind the controversial More Justice, More Peace mural in Bastion Square, which she hoped would further explore matters of equality in Victoria.

“I’ve lived in Victoria for almost 10 years and that was the first time I’d seen so many people of colour in one place,” she said of the peace walk.

“I was so overwhelmed with emotion, because of the great tragedy we were all there for, but also because I was seeing and meeting a community I had been longing for for such a long time. I wanted to recreate that space, but instead of coming together out of tragedy we’d come together out of joy and love.”

Producing a festival on the shores of the Inner Harbour has put every element of her skill set to use in recent months. With a wide range of acts — including rappers Kaash Paige and Boslen, and performer and TikTok influencer Notorious Cree — on board for the first-ever event, Williams said it has been a steep learning curve for her fellow organizers. the team at the Black History Awareness Society, which is presenting the event.

“I’m a professional athlete, I’m not a festival organizer by any means,” she said with a laugh. “But I respect and value music and arts and culture so much.

“I felt that if I can play a part in bringing a wider community to Victoria, then I should do that. People of colour in Victoria know that this is so necessary. I’ve never really felt like the events happening around the city were made for me and people who look like me. What I really want to do is to put something on for everyone to enjoy, and to highlight people who are most commonly missed or forgotten about.”

mdevlin@timescolonist.com