As announced in the fall, the Indian River Festival Board of Directors decided to embark on a brand refresh, including updates to the organization’s logo, marketing, and the Festival name. The decision to change the Festival name was approached with much thought and care, and included consultation with stakeholders, audience members, artists, and the local community. From this work emerged three primary reasons for a new Festival name: the former name does not clearly indicate that we are a music festival; it does not reference or connect to the organization’s mandate, which is to present quality music to highlight the unparalleled acoustics of Historic St. Mary’s while helping restore and preserve this beautiful venue; and after 25 years, the organization feels the current name does not reflect an awareness or respect for different cultures. Our hope is that longtime and new concertgoers, the surrounding community, all Islanders, and other visitors to this magnificent space feel welcomed. Ultimately, the board decided that the current name does not align with the mandate and purpose of the organization and work began to develop a new name to reflect the values of the organization.
The Festival received funding through Central Development Corporation (CDC) and the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) to hire a professional creative team—including local brand strategist Dee Enright of JEBBCA Strategies and creative team copywriter Margaret MacQuarrie and graphic designer Cathy Little—to develop the new brand. A working group was struck to help guide the vision of the brand refresh that included representation from board members, artists, Festival volunteers, and other members of the community. The working group analyzed results from their 2021 post-concert survey and conducted a specifically designed stakeholder survey sent to sponsors, community groups, industry professionals, as well as previous board members, former Festival staff, and volunteers. The group underwent a lengthy consultation process to assess the current brand followed by a development process, culminating in a brand statement and other materials needed by the creative team to design the necessary graphic elements.
Dean Perry, Festival board member and chair of the Rebranding Committee, spoke about the process. “When artists sing, play and speak, we should listen. Maybe artists are spies who see when it’s time for change before the rest of us. They nudged us to look at our beloved festival, with its magnificent historic venue and glorious acoustics—how are we to steward it into the future? With consultation from artists, board members, volunteers, stakeholders, patrons, and the local community, all under the guidance of a brand strategist, writer and graphic designer, we explored every aspect of the festival. We brainstormed, discussed, debated, disagreed. But we uncovered the true heart of the festival and unanimously agreed on a wonderful new name and look. What a productive and exhilarating process it was!”
The Festival’s Board of Directors has been considering updating the name since first hearing complaints, observations, and calls to action from various visiting artists. Since 2021, the staff and board have completed education on anti-racism with BIPOC USHR and education from the PEI Human Rights Commission. The Festival board and staff will continue to seek education and guidance focused on equity and inclusion to ensure every person can feel welcome in our space, but recognizes the first step to take is to update the current name. “I am excited with the new direction we are going with the Festival that has been home to our community for over 25 years,” comments Board Chair Juliana Elsinga.“I feel that this rebranding effort is happening at a time when we are coming out of a very tough couple of years and this will provide a fresh start where we will again have the opportunity to showcase local, national and international artists. We are confident that as we reopen after this pandemic, we will all be ‘inspired’ to attend and enjoy what is in store in the acoustic wonder of Historic St. Mary’s.”
Although this is news of significant change, the mandate and core ideals of the Festival will continue to build on a legacy of over 25 years of beautiful music set in an unparalleled venue, the beloved Historic St. Mary’s. Since its founding in 1996, Under the Spire Music Festival (USMF) has hosted some of the best Canadian performers and strives to present musical excellence spanning multiple genres. From Isabel Bayrakderian to Matt Anderson, Catherine MacLellan to the Saskatoon Children’s Choir, beautiful music will always be welcome in the summer at Historic St. Mary’s. Artistic Director of over two decades, Robert Kortgaard, especially looks forward to welcoming audiences and artists back to celebrate the 120th anniversary of Historic St. Mary’s. “I am very excited about the new look, freshness and energy emerging this coming festival season. For over two decades we’ve had a grand time presenting superb Canadian and internationally renowned artistry within the warm, welcoming hospitality of the local community… and we can promise a glorious future with magical music under the spire of our award winning, acoustically splendid venue. We can’t wait to get the season started…. and we look forward to welcoming you to a unique festival experience on beautiful PEI.”