On Saturday, Dundas Street will close for London’s first annual LOLA Festival. The festival is a free, outdoor celebration of London’s independent arts and music.
LOLA Festival, which stands for London Ontario Live Arts, is part of the City of London’s initiative to connect students with the local community.
In conjunction with CHRW 94.9 FM’s 25th anniversary, LOLA will showcase some of Canada’s best emerging bands and over 70 artists.
Alicks Girowski, LOLA’s co-ordinator and CHRW’s music director, hopes the festival will enhance London culturally, especially its younger residents.
“[LOLA Festival] is about bringing the forefront of independent music artists here in London who want to show their musical talent without these major labels representing them,” Girowski says. “It’s our duty now as young Londoners to keep culture alive and the awareness of art and music alive in students.”
Besides Richmond Row’s bar scene, much of London’s entertainment is geared toward an older crowd. LOLA targets 18 to 44-year-olds.
“We’re trying to push the culture into younger people’s arms now,” Girowski says. “We have many things in London that are for the 55 and over crowd. The main venue [for the younger people] right now to check out bands is Call The Office. [LOLA’s organizers wanted to provide something else for the younger crowd.”
Girowski says many students don’t notice London’s cultural liveliness because everything they need is on or near campus. London offers numerous creative forums and other resources but, unfortunately, no one really knows about them.
“It’s really hard in this city for musicians to come into town and play at a large enough location to attract a huge crowd,” Girowski says. “I know that from personal experience working at CHRW and having so many contacts with bands who play in London.
“There’s only a certain amount of press that I can recommend them to. [LOLA] will be another sort of outlet as well for those artists to play for a rather huge crowd.”
LOLA’s lineup includes London’s Basia Bulat, a folky soul and jazz-influenced singer. Bulat says any opportunity to play for a big crowd in London is amazing.
“There are so many potential opportunities in London people have to take advantage of,” Bulat says. “There are so many creative minds and the enthusiasm here is untapped. I think it’s just a matter of getting people together and getting the word out.”
Girowski says indie darlings like Tokyo Police Club, Cuff The Duke, and the thoroughly buzzed about Jon-Rae and the River aren’t small, insignificant bands; they’re major players in Canada’s independent music scene and will hopefully draw large audiences to LOLA.
Equally talented bands like Elliot Brood, Born Ruffians, the Hylozoists, A Northern Chorus, and Wooden Stars share the two outdoor stages.
Andrew Francis, the festival’s director, said he’s always believed London needed something like LOLA to create a forum for creative expression.
“I’ve been involved with arts programming for a while now and thought it encumbered upon us to take responsibility to enhance the scene a little,” he says.
As the Alex P. Keaton’s owner, Francis is surrounded by talented bands and singer/songwriters who receive little exposure.
“I hear a lot of people complaining there are not a lot of things happening in London,” Francis says. “So we should take advantage of this festival. It’s not everyday the city lets you close down a street to do something like this. There will be extremely creative people with free reign in this open space.”
With several sponsors, student groups, independent artists, bands involved in its organization, the LOLA Festival will hopefully help revitalize London’s cultural and artistic scene.
The LOLA Festival takes place Saturday from noon to 11 p.m. on Dundas Street between Richmond Street and Wellington Street. Admission is free. Visit www.myspace.com/lolafestival for more information.