Thursday, 12 October 2017 06:49

Gowan retires from role as concert and festival organizer in Swift Current

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Shann Gowan addresses a recent concert. Shann Gowan addresses a recent concert.

After many years as an event and festival organizer in Swift Current, Shann Gowan is looking forward to spending more time with family and friends.

She has become synonymous with some key cultural events in the city, but after 15 years she has retired from her role as the artistic and executive director of the Windscape Kite Festival, the Blenders concert series, the Long Day’s Night music festival as well as the StirCrazy Blues festival.
“My parents have become elderly and I want to spend a little bit more time with family and friends,” she said. “It seemed like a good time. The festival is in good shape and it's growing. It took us a while to get all that stuff in place so that it would be an easy transition. We've been advertising and we've got somebody that's good.”
She retired at the end of September and fulfilled her final duties as event organizer at the Blenders concert on Sept. 30. Sheri Florizone, who was the festival chair of the Cathedral Village Arts Festival in Regina, has been appointed as the new artistic and executive director of the different cultural festival in Swift Current. Gowan felt this change will be a good thing for these events.
“Everything's got to grow,” she said. “Somebody new will bring some new ideas and make some positive changes and make it a bigger and better festival, and it was time for that to happen.”
She has many fond memories of the years she worked to organize these events, but the most lasting one will be the many friendships that were formed through her work.
“I've ended up with a bunch of summer students that will always be part of our lives and they're probably our greatest take-away from this,” she said. “Many of them come back every year, even though they're no longer summer students, and my kids included in that group, and they're something that made it as fun as it was.”
She had the opportunity to meet kite flyers from across Canada and the world who came to Swift Current to participate in the Windscape Kite Festival.
“I've met lots of kite flyers that were really special to us, and we'll be friends with them for ever and ever,” she said. “On the music side I've made lots of friends in the music industry.”
During all these years she never had time to attend other kite festivals, but that might now become a reality.
“I'd like to at some point actually go to another kite festival somewhere else besides ours because we've never been to a kite festival and I think that will be kind of interesting to go to,” she said.
There were many challenging aspects to her work as an organizer of the different events, and each event have different demands.
“Fundraising is always hard, coming up with the grants and the sponsorships,” she said. “That's always the most difficult part.”
The Windscape Kite Festival requires a lot of dedication and organizational effort, including the coordination of the many volunteers who are helping each year.
“We've always been lucky to get enough volunteers, but it's always a pretty big struggle to find enough volunteers at that time of the year to get everything covered over,” she said. “It's a big festival. If it was just a music festival, it would be so much easier. The kite festival has a lot of moving parts and lots of other festivals have other groups that come in and do certain portions of it. Because it's the kind of festival that it is, we do 95 per cent of it ourselves. So it is just a lot of logistics and that's always hard to keep on top of.”
During these 15 years she has produced over 35 festivals and more than 350 concerts. It basically started in 2002 when she asked Kim Houghtaling, the curator and director of the Art Gallery of Swift Current, if she could organize a concert at the gallery.
“He let me and it was successful,” she recalled. “So I did quite a few more, and then in 2003, that summer, I put on a five-day music festival. It was downtown, and people didn't like the noise down there. So we moved it out to the edge of town and when we did that we added the kite festival.”
That idea came from a previous exhibition about the kite as art, which was held by the art gallery in 1998.
“They had a kite festival as part of that exhibition back in 1998 and then they never did it again,” she said. “I had an empty tent during the day and so in 2005 decided that resurrecting the kite festival and putting it back into the day time part of the tent, and joining the two festivals was a good idea, and it has been.”
Those music concerts at the art gallery became the Blenders concert series and the StirCrazy Blues festival at the Lyric Theatre, while the Long Day’s Night music festival on the southwestern edge of the city eventually included the Windscape Kite Festival.
Gowan is looking forward to attend future musical performances at Blenders as an audience member, and she plans to still be a part of the kite festival as a volunteer.
“People don't realize that volunteering at Windscape is a lot of fun and it's a great way to do the festival,” she said.
“So we'll probably always volunteer, because it really is a great environment to be part of.”

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Matthew Liebenberg


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