GREAT HEART FESTIVAL , TORONTO
The Great Heart Festival is a cool little unplugged event that takes place over four days in Trinity Bellwoods Park in Toronto. And when they say unplugged, they really mean it! Aside from the occasional generator for a slide guitar, there is no electricity, no amps, no mics. Just pure raw acoustic music. It's also totally free. There is no entrance fee and the artists and organisers make no money. It's simply music for music's sake.
I heard about the event after flicking through the free music and arts magazine that had been left in the communal area of my apartment block. After seeing that Twin Bandit were playing - a band that I was already a fan of - I thought it was worth checking out so, in the beautiful Canadian sunshine, I walked West from my downtown apartment and wandered around the park until I came across a small gathering of people standing at the foot of a hill.
For anyone who missed the one small banner laid out on the grass, it might be hard to guess that there was a festival going on but after a few folk turned up with guitars, it was clear there was some sort of performance happening. I walked up the hill to find a shaded spot in front of the performance area and got settled while a crowd gradually developed, dotting themselves around the grassy mound that acted as a natural amphitheatre. With the sound levels being unamplified, I was worried it would be difficult to hear the artists perform, but the audience respectfully hushed as each artist started their set and the music drifted up through the crowd. As well as a hauntingly beautiful performance from Twin Bandit, I discovered some other fantastic Canadian acts and got chatting to some lovely people so, by the end of the evening, it felt like I was hanging out at the park with friends.
About 1,000 people attend in total over the four-day event, with artists travelling from all across Canada to perform. There are also occasional visits from musicians from the US and Europe. Co-Organiser Mike Juneau said, "We call it the Great Heart Festival because everyone who works in it - both the promoters and the bands - we all do it for free. So everyone does it out of the greatness of their heart".
This little unassuming festival was definitely one of the musical highlights of my time in Toronto.
Check out the Great Heart website here