Seasons Festival Preview: Groundwerk remind us why community matters

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When Joel Cottingham started Groundwerk in March of last year, the goal was to provide a platform for Vancouver’s electronic music producers to collaborate and grow together. Since then, the project has reached its ninth listening party and is set to hold a showcase in conjunction with next week’s Seasons Festival.

Nickolas Collinet, a third of Groundwerk’s team, recalls the project’s modest beginnings: when we first started, we didn’t really know what it was going to turn into, because we had never been to Studio Social, he said, referring to Groundwerk’s Calgarian inspiration. While they weren’t exactly sure how the project would evolve, they knew they wanted to prioritize accessibility.

“Arts scenes can be kind of exclusive feeling, and we wanted to make it really welcoming, one of the strengths of our listening parties is that Joel is on the mic the whole time, helping people understand what’s happening, introducing the songs, introducing different things that we’re up to,” Collinet explains. “We try and have keynote speakers that don’t focus on the technical aspects, they talk about their creative process and things that inspire them so that kind of information can be interesting to anyone that’s there.”

The success of the listening parties has allowed Groundwerk to fulfill their goal of acting as a mediator for artists looking for potential collaborators. “Thats what its all about, really, helping people meet each other,” reflects Collinet. “It’s Groundwerk’s job to market these people that are all on their own.”

Collinet used to run Some Kind of Music Blog with fellow Groundwerk team member Steph Parkes before transferring their efforts to Groundwerk full time. Their experience running the blog made the transition a smooth one. “We knew there were a lot of overlapping goals…” he says. “We noticed that the most meaningful part of what we were doing with our blog was local.” With Groundwerk gaining a foothold on Vancouver’s arts scene, the team have been able to focus their efforts on making real, tangible change in the city. “We have this resource of knowing all these different entities within the music scene, now we’re trying to use that knowledge in conjunction with Groundwerk’s mission to get people working together.”

Despite this positive impact, it’s been an uphill battle. Arts scenes in Vancouver have traditionally had little support from the city, due in part to its strict liquor laws and the high cost of renting arts spaces, but Collinet maintains that with the correct guidance everyone can benefit. “There’s always going to be a need for people to go out and do things, the goal of Groundwerk is just to connect entertainment with community and arts – through that, you create an industry,” he says. “I think the city needs to realize that this is all good for Vancouver.”

Although the project is growing at a steady pace, an undertaking like Groundwerk can be incredibly time consuming – and ultimately time is money. “Right now, we’re at a saturation point with the amount of time we put into this, we all have a lot of responsibilities with our jobs.” Still, Collinet is optimistic about the project’s future, “we want our website to be the go-to place for people to engage with local electronic music and events,” he says, citing artist management, starting a label or opening a cultural space as potential future developments.

For now though, the team are just focused on maintaining their momentum, their Seasons Festival showcase is just one of several late night parties which have acted as an extension of the intimate listening sessions. “With the Seasons party we had an opportunity to work with Blueprint,” says Collinet, “the goal of that was booking people for our parties who submitted to us, kind of like a reward….basically this is giving these DJs an opportunity to play at a festival where they are getting a bit more exposure.” Ultimately, Groundwerk’s collaboration with Blueprint is not only a way to further support Vancouver’s electronic music scene, it’s also a testament to their dedication to this city and its arts community. “That’s why we‘re involved with this festival, because community is a part of it – and community is the soul of Groundwerk.”

You can catch Groundwerk’s Season’s Showcase on Thursday March 24th at M.I.A.

Written by Ben Carney. Connect with him on twitter @benjaamin.

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