The DIY Spring Festival is ringing in the good weather with some great programming next weekend, May 4th and 5th.
The first DIY Spring took place two years ago and was hosted by Debaser and Babely Shades, two crucial music and community organizers in the city. Back in 2016, the two organizers split responsibilities—Debaser took over back-end organization, while Babely Shades focused on the promotional aspects of the festival. This year, Elsa Mirzaei of Babely Shades took the responsibility into their hands and went from grant writing to booking the entire lineup. This year’s lineup consists of emerging talents such as Seiiizmik, Thandie Dice, Strange Froots, River Doucette, and Larissa Desrosiers. Elsa says they would like the festival to promote social change within the community while empowering one another.
DIY Spring is a festival that came from the lack of intersectionality and space for minority groups in Ottawa’s music scene—which was predominantly white men. There was a sense of frustration with the lack or representation and lack of inclusiveness amongst marginalized groups, and so DIY Spring was born. Hosted in an artistic and found space, General Assembly, Elsa wanted to pull away from business models but also create a safe space for LGBT folks and minorities.
“I wanted to go into a place that is literally like the labour of love of Sothea Khan and Bruno Souliere,” Elsa explains. “They worked so hard to create not only the physical space but the mental space and the emotional space that is General Assembly, and I think I really wanted to find a way to honour something that’s really important and really vital to arts in Ottawa.”
This year in particular, DIY Spring is genre inclusive. There isn’t a set genre that defines the festival and each act brings a unique twist of their own. There’s a tie between R&B and Indigenous artists, and the two share a space on the same bill. The festival looks to push for a normalization of queer folks, POC, and women who are front and centre making music.
“Not sticking to any genre and sticking to artist’s visions is kind of what helped,” Elsa says. “That’s why it’s diverse, and it’s also why when you think about the kinds of music people are creating it’s kind of directly related to their own environments and atmospheres. It’s why it’s not genre specific, it’s just to pay respect to everyone’s own roots and backgrounds, to make space for everyone.”
On top of the incredible space and genre diversity, Halifax-based multidisciplinary artist Shaya Ishaq will be taking over General Assembly and applying her artistic visions to it by transforming the space and immersing audiences.
By moving from the core values of traditional festivals, DIY Spring is shifting focus and promoting much-needed social change within Ottawa’s music scene. Working hard to promote inclusivity and give a voice to those who may not otherwise have one (but deserve one), the festival is an important fixture in Ottawa and continues to push for change. The hopes remains that DIY Spring will lead by example and encourage other promoters to be more inclusive and diverse with their lineups.