Big Fun

By Chris Bryson

The Big Fun festival has been going on since 2012 and has become a beloved staple and growing fixture of the Winnipeg music scene. Since its inception, the multi-genre festival has been evolving and changing. It is now comprised of four members, and covers 14 shows over 5 days at multiple different locations.Talking about the changes the festival has gone through over the years, Big Fun co-founder and co-artistic director David Schellenberg says “it’s sort of been the nice pace of a natural evolution.

The first year it was only three days. It was all just local bands and that year was entirely at unconventional venues. We did the live shows in warehouses and sort of more DIY, and then the Sunday we had the brunch at the Lo Pub. And then it just progressed naturally and got a bit bigger and bigger and sort of found our niche happy place of five days, fifty-ish bands and nine venues. Featuring out of town acts and flying in artists and some touring bands from Western Canada, and sometimes bands come up from the Midwest and the US.”

Schellenberg says that the process of running and managing the festival has become easier over the years as they’ve been able to create and foster stronger partners and ties within the community and the festival system.

The festival’s success over the years has also made it easier for Schellenberg and his Big Fun partners to have greater liberty with the decisions they make.

“It’s been good, it’s been steady each year. It gets easier to get bigger and bigger crowds and more and more people are aware of the festival. More people are taking a risk on some programming,” says Schellenberg. “And it’s nice the community sort of trusts us in what we’re curating where sometimes we were more hesitant to do some more weird or more out there stuff and now we feel confident in what we’re doing and the community has been supporting us very well. So it’s been a nice organic progression.”

Schellenberg says the Big Fun festival came about after co-founder and co-artistic director Stefan Braun volunteered at Pop Montreal in 2011 and returned wanting “to make a mini-Pop Montreal, a mini-Sled Island.” The resulting Big Fun festival, Schellenberg says, being “modelled after those larger multi-venue festivals that our country has.”

“The whole point is to sort of get yourself some culture in a very culture-less time of the year,” says Schellenberg. “Get yourself out of the house and doing something fun.”

The festival also advocates Safer Spaces policies as something to promote more safe and comfortable atmospheres at their events.

“We’ve become more public with it of course,” says Schellenberg. “We have Safer Spaces training for all of our volunteers and all of the staff leading up to the festival. As being a music festival in the small city that we are we have ties and open lines of communication with Rainbow Trout and Real Love festival and everything like that so we all sort of banded together to make sure that we all create a safe environment for audience members.”

In deciding the lineup Schellenberg says they get anywhere from 200 to 500 submissions each year. And between the two artistic directors, Schellenberg says they sort of have a wishlist of potential headliners that they like, and curate based on those headliners and what shows they think would complement each other. “We curate the locals and the headliners just sort of based on availability and what makes the most logical sense stylistically.”

Check out the full lineup here :

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