Hillside, Eden Mills Writers’ Festival cancel this year’s events due to COVID-19 | CBC News

Two high-profile festivals are calling it quits for 2020 due to COVID-19.

Hillside Festival announced on Thursday the festival will be put on hold until July 2021. The annual music festival is held each year at the Guelph Lake Conservation Area just north of Guelph. 

The Eden Mills Writers’ Festival also announced it is cancelling its September weekend event, which brings many authors and hundreds of readers to the village of Eden Mills, just east of Guelph.

A letter from Hillside Festival’s board said, “To say we are crushed by this news is an understatement.”

“The highlights of any Hillside — live bands, the press of happy bodies, dancing, singing, jamming in a drum circle, hugging, holding hands, rolling in the grass with friends — these could be the very things that may undo us right now,” the festival’s board of directors said in an emailed statement.

Organizers said they’ve been considering their options for the annual summer music festival since March. Part of that has included talking to other festivals facing the same situation.

“The spirit of collaboration, information sharing, and moral support that has infused these meetings has made our dawning realizations more bearable,” the festival said.

Anyone who has bought tickets for this year’s festival already will have those tickets honoured in 2021 or people can ask for a full refund.

Writers’ festival goes online

The Eden Mills Writers’ Festival was scheduled for Sept. 11 to 13, but instead, organizers will move some aspects of the festival online starting in May.

Book clubs, panel discussions and presentations for children will be part of the festival’s In Your Own Backyard series.

Festival artistic director Nicola Dufficy said they made the call to cancel the festival because of the uncertainty of what will happen in the coming weeks and months.

“We didn’t want to plan something wonderful and then have to cancel. There are so many incredible books being published in Canada this year, and we want to share them with our community,” she said in a release. “So, we decided that if we couldn’t host the festival in our backyard, we’d bring it to yours.”

Registration for the various events will open on May 1 on the festival’s website.

‘Create some sort of new normal’

The news comes after a number of other festivals have announced closures. The first in Waterloo region was the Elmira Maple Syrup Festival, which cancelled its April 4 event.

Since then, the Kitchener-Waterloo Multicultural Festival has been cancelled and this week, the Stratford Festival announced it is postponing its season.

“Sadly, we have to come to terms with the fact that, as it relies on large public gatherings, theatre will be one of the last sectors to recover from this pandemic,” the Stratford Festival’s artistic director Antoni Cimolino said in a news release.  

Dave MacNeil, head of Festivals and Events Ontario, which represents about 2,500 festivals around the province, said the challenge festivals will face post-COVID will be rebuilding their communities.

He said festivals need to consider that people may not be eager to gather in large groups. It may mean scaling down some festivals when they return to be smaller with room for people to still keep a distance from other festival goers.

“We’re gonna have to create some sort of new normal,” he said. “We were one of the first [industries] to get hit and we’ll be one of the last out of it.”

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