Home Travel Sudbury’s Up Here Festival denied funding due to incomplete application: Ont. tourism ministry

Sudbury’s Up Here Festival denied funding due to incomplete application: Ont. tourism ministry

Sudbury’s Up Here Festival denied funding due to incomplete application: Ont. tourism ministry

Ontario’s tourism ministry said Tuesday that Sudbury’s Up Here festival didn’t receive the money it expected because it submitted an incomplete funding application.

In a social media post Monday, the Up Here festival said it was told last week that it would not receive any money from the Experience Ontario program this year, leaving them financially short three weeks before the event and with no choice but to cut some of the programming.

The statement from the office of Neil Lumsden, the minister of tourism, culture and sport, contrasts with what Up Here organizers said Monday, blaming the missing $66,000 in funding to budget cuts. 

“Organizers for the Up Here festival submitted an incomplete application, missing required documents and as a result, failed to meet the established program criteria,” Alan Sakach from Lumsden’s office told CTV News in an email Tuesday afternoon.

Last year, Up Here said it received $66,600 in funding from the program and had its largest turnout of nearly 13,000 people, including approximately 28 per cent from out of town.

“We received $69,000 in 2021, $24,167 in 2020, $48,895 in 2019, $50,000 in 2018 and $45,000 in 2016,” organizers told CTV News in a social media message.

“We had anticipated and budgeted for some funding reductions, due to the government of Ontario reducing the total envelope from $50M in 2022 back down to $19.5M this year, but with Up Here’s proven track record, growing out-of-town attendance, and an overall economic impact of over $5M to date, we never imagined our funding would be eliminated entirely.”

A shift in timelines for submitting applications and receiving answers has impacted many summer festivals.

“This year the fund only opened early April for applications and it ended late April, so there was a really small window to get applications in,” said Jayme Lathem, Up Here Festival’s general manager.

“There’s zero time to pivot. And for festivals like us with only three weeks, it becomes very difficult to pivot a budget with such a substantial loss, because our artist contracts have already been signed, our venues have been rented, so it puts us in a rock and a hard place.”

Lathem said they expected a funding reduction, but not on this scale.

“We received this news Thursday morning, so three weeks out. It was so disheartening. It was obviously disappointing and it was shocking in a panicking a little bit.”

Denelle Balfour, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport, told CTV News in an email the program received applications asking for more than double this year’s allotment.

“Experience Ontario is a highly competitive program with no guarantee of funding. $52.51 million was requested by applicants from a program with a budget of $19.5 million. Unfortunately, not all applications could be supported and we encourage applicants to explore all prospective support and partnership opportunities when planning their festivals and events,” Balfour said.

“While unsuccessful in meeting program requirements this year, Up Here festival organizers have been notified that ministry staff are available to assist them with preparing future applications when 2024 program guidelines are available later in the year.”

Organizers for the Up Here Festival told CTV News in a social media message they received no explanation from the ministry other than “the program was oversubscribed.” 

Through Up Here, many public murals and art installations have been created downtown.

This year’s festival, which includes musical performances, is scheduled for Aug. 18 – 20.

Due to the funding shortfall, the following changes are being made to the schedule:

  • Performance from Elizabeth Balcuz of Latvia is cancelled

  • New mural by Katie Green is being put on hold this year, with the hope of her returning next year

  • Some late-night Friday and Saturday shows are being cancelled and acts moved to the main stage

  • The show at Place des Arts on Aug. 18 is cancelled, the artists will be rescheduled throughout the program

  • Some art installations are being cut and others will be scaled back

“We will be reaching out to those who bought tickets to the affected events soon,” the festival said.

In response to the changes, community members are stepping up to contribute with donations.


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