Ten Years of Diversity
By Dave O Rama
An area of stunning natural beauty the west coast of British Columbia provides a healthy rural playground for its inhabitants who for decades have taken advantage of its remote sanctuaries for their private beach parties and bush gatherings.
As the first wave of the digital era hit Canada’s western edge it created an opportunity for greater communication and creative interaction between its numerous isolated communities. Ambitious partiers influenced by the growing DJ culture and inspired by the audacity of the developing global rave scene began to take these backwoods bacchanals into more technically elaborate territory, and it was from within this bush party culture that the Diversity Festival experience was born.
In the past few years, due to my work as a community radio broadcaster in the region, I have had the personal pleasure of being welcomed into the Diversity collective as a performer and stage host. Because of our familiarity Coplin recognizes the “serendipity” of this situation. It’s obvious that he trusts our connection and quickly his apprehension dissipates. “Diversity has always been a word of mouth event. It’s been built on that and I think this is where the quality of the festival comes from more than anything else.”
Coplin goes on to explain that the location of the festival inspired the birth of the event. Texada Island’s Shingle Beach was one of many BC forestry recreation campgrounds originally maintained by the forest industry and later by the provincial government. Then the BC government decided they were no longer willing to foot the bill and suddenly the maintenance of these campgrounds fell into the hands of local communities and individuals. That’s when Coplin and his collective decided to step up to the plate. Shingle Beach “was not considered a viable campsite – kind of the ugly stepchild in a lot of ways – so we came up with the idea to produce an event there to fund the year round maintenance of the area as an alternative to individuals and the community investing personal time and money.”
The festival site is natural and serene. The central focus of the event is an expansive meadow which serves as the main festival site, forested hills rise up on the east side of the park while the lower flatland eventually gives way to a gorgeous crescent shaped beach where you will encounter a stunning ocean vista dominated by the Gulf Island of Lasqueti.
There are two main festival stages constructed from local materials, rustic post and beam structures designed to blend in with the natural surroundings. The two main stages create two distinct performance areas, one for bands and one for DJs. Bands are presented at the larger Diversity Stage situated in the field at the center of the park, while the Beach Stage sits just above the shoreline on a gorgeous sandy plateau.
The Diversity Festival audience is a devoted tribe, as traveling to the fest from areas on the south coast and Vancouver Island requires road time, multiple ferry crossings, with the last stretch of the journey a half hour drive down a gravel logging road. A strict limit on ticket sales also keeps the festival population restrained to a comfortable population of approximately twelve hundred revelers.
As a result, Diversity has to be one of the most laid back pleasurable festivals I have ever experienced, hosting the most positive, appreciative and well behaved collective of partiers one will find. Security is friendly and unobtrusive. Campers nestle in areas surrounding the Diversity Stage or in more private areas further up in the forested hills, with the beach being the most popular location to camp. Best of all there are no overflowing waste receptacles at the site. As Coplin mischievously points out, “that’s because there are no garbage cans — we have a strict pack in pack out policy — what a concept eh?”
Coplin stresses that Diversity avoids all political affiliations and instead seeks only “to explore cultural diversity with a strong focus on supporting our local upcoming talent and enhancing our local scene.” Overall the festival lives up to its name featuring performances that run the gamut from international folk music, rock, funk, global grooves, hip hop, reggae, and every genre of electronic dance music imaginable gleaned from the local, national and international scene.
The energy of the event is that of a woodland circus filled with costumed revelers, stilt walkers, acrobats, and a wild assortment of coastal tribalists. One reason for the mellow nature of the event is that the festival and the audience are symbiotic, as there are no VIP zones or fenced off areas that infer privilege or hierarchy. With a core group of contributors, such as analog fractal loop wizards Trypton Media (a mainstay of the Beach Stage); Coplin admits “we like to rely on certain individuals that can be virtually independent. Being as rural as we are this is an important factor in the success of the festival.”
Recruitment of performers is almost completely application based and accessible from the festival website, diversityfestival.ca. There’s no strict cut off point, so artists and DJs are encouraged to apply now. Coplin admits “it’s interesting; we’ve had a lot of feedback from past performers saying ‘I was discovered at Diversity’. A lot of agents come to Diversity. It’s a bit of a sounding board. There’s been a lot of first time performances at our festival.”
The Diversity Festival 2012 will mark the tenth anniversary of the Diversity collective and the ninth anniversary of the festival itself.