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Victoria Ska and Reggae Festival set to have its biggest year to date

The Victoria Ska and Reggae Festival is widely known for its international flavour, with past appearances by acts from as far away as Italy, New Zealand, Colombia, and South Korea.

Victoria Ska and Reggae Festival

Where: Ship Point, Victoria Curling Club, and more

When: June 23-26

Tickets: $19.50-$49.50 from ticketweb.ca or Tourism Victoria Visitor Centre (812 Wharf St.); $149.50 for festival pass

The Victoria Ska and Reggae Festival is widely known for its international flavour, with past appearances by acts from as far away as Italy, New Zealand, Colombia, and South Korea.

But for the festival’s first in-person installment since 2019, the Canadian acts are the ones jumping off the page. Tickets to concerts featuring Tanika Charles, Bedouin Soundclash, Kobo Town, Five Alarm Funk, and The Gaff, among other Canadians, have been selling extremely well.

If the trend continues, founder and Victoria BC Ska & Reggae Society artistic director Dane Roberts said the five-day festival headlined by The Wailers, King Yellowman, and Too Many Zooz could post historic numbers through the weekend.

“Tickets sales do seem to indicate as such,” he said. “I do believe we’re going to hit a record in terms of ticket sales this year, especially with the addition of the Curling Club.”

The venue at 1952 Quadra St. is a big part of the festival this year, for the first time since 2010. In previous years, the Capital Ballroom (capacity: 600) and Lucky Bar (capacity: 200) would have been used, but Roberts wanted to use venue which could accommodate bigger crowds in 2022. The Victoria Curling Club, which can hold 1,400 people, now makes for a formidable pairing alongside flagship venue Ship Point, which has a capacity in the 2,200 range.

The remainder of the ticketed performances will be held at Upstairs Cabaret (capacity: 500) and Hermann’s Upstairs (capacity: 260), which will give the Victoria Ska and Reggae Festival an impressive city-wide footprint this weekend.

Roberts said he resisted the urge to scale-down the event and be conservative, in the wake of the pandemic. He has been handsomely rewarded, and is in a prime position to succeed with the festival’s long-awaited 23rd edition.

“I really want to put on the best event possible. Our community needs this, especially since we haven’t had it for two years. I’m a cup-half-full kind of person, when it comes to vision. That is what helped us through.”

The planning process was “a bit chaotic,” Roberts said. With artists from Brazil, Colombia, Jamaica, New Zealand, United States and United Kingdom, new protocols made for new headaches, particularly in the areas of work permits and vaccination requirements. Health restrictions were lifted in Europe before those in Canada, so many of the performers Roberts was attempting to book settled on overseas festivals after months of negotiations to come here.

“We were at a disadvantage, in terms of logistics and getting artists into the country. We had to work at least twice as hard to book this festival.”

Problems arose in other areas, too — securing goods and services, even staff, proved difficult. “All of these things that we would usually have at our fingertips, that would be routine, all of a sudden became this big thing,” Roberts said.

“We had to fight for everything. But even despite all of that, we managed to pull it off. It’s incredible. It shows our community spirit. We had to do everything three times as fast, because there was so much uncertainty with the pandemic. We did some hurry-up offence to figure out a way to get the same results in a faster way.”

mdevlin@timescolonist.com