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The Quartier des Glasses is back in service with festival season

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Tony Vaughn
Tony Vaughn
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(Montreal) Festival season begins in downtown Montreal.

Jacob Cerebrin
Canadian Press

At the Quartier des glasses, sound auditions were underway Friday night on the music stage – the second day of the Just for Laughs festival. Tickets for many of the festival’s free outdoor performances – restricted by COVID-19 regulations – have found buyers.

Two blocks away, about a hundred people attended an acoustic performance by the Isaac Neto trio – as part of the last weekend of the International Nuits d’Afrique Festival, a celebration of music from the African continent and the African diaspora.

With venues limited in capacity due to the COVID-19 pandemic, festival organizers say they are happy to be back, but are looking forward to next year with the hope that restrictions and limits on capacity will not affect their plans.

Charles Decari, president and CEO of Just for Laughs Group, said it was a “transition year” and that his team designed a festival by bypassing restrictions imposed by Public Health.

When planning began in February and March, Decari said, organizers worked on a large number of scenarios with varying audience sizes, ranging from no spectators to half the usual capacity.

“You have to build scenarios,” he explained. You have to plan a little more than usual because you have to have alternatives. ”

As in the past, festivals include both paid indoor shows and free outdoor shows. Outside, there will be fewer stages and smaller crowds than in recent years, Decari says. Indoor shows will operate at 30% of their capacity, while outdoor shows will occupy about 10-20% of spectators before the pandemic.

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“Normally, we welcome about 1 million people during the 15-day festivals, and this year, we would be happy if 200,000 people visit us in the next two weeks,” said Decari.

In Quebec, outdoor events hold a maximum of 5,000 people, and they must be divided into separate sections of 500 people. Indoor events are limited to 3,500 spectators, who must seat in sections of 250 people, with separate entrances and toilets for each section.

Due to border restrictions, which Mr. Decari described as “a major concern,” some shows have been filmed in New York and Los Angeles and will be shown online.

“This is how we were able to access international talent,” he said. We decided to change our way of doing things, and we went for it. ”

He said the in-person performances will feature local artists.

Other festivals in Montreal also say they plan to bypass border restrictions by focusing on local artists.

Festival general director and co-founder Suzanne Russo said Friday that the International Nuits d’Afrique Festival features local artists and recorded performances from previous years.

“The first few nights in particular were fantastic,” she said of the festival, which began on July 6 and runs through Sunday. “This is my first public show in a year and a half,” the artists said. ”

The outside of the festival consists of two small cabaret-style stages, the master commented.I Rousseau. Instead of the main stage, a sound and light show is projected onto a building. It presents video shows covering 35 years of the festival’s history.

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“The important thing is that festival-goers can come and watch the performances for themselves,” she said. And for online benefits for people who can’t get to Montreal or who can’t travel. ”

MI Russo said she hopes to keep some shutters online for years to come, but she also wants to hold a bigger festival next year.

“We are really happy to have a festival this year, it prepares us for next year,” she said. This gives us the ambition to be ready to receive more people, more offers and a complete experience. ”

Some major summer festivals in Montreal, including the Montreal International Jazz Festival, have been postponed to September. MI However, Rousseau emphasized that she had never considered postponing this year’s edition of the Festival Nuits d’Afrique.

“It’s really important to be there during the summer. There was no doubt we would,” she said.

With events postponed, the festival period will last until October this year, said Francis Bouchard, a spokesperson for Tourism Montreal, a non-profit organization that promotes the city’s tourism sector. He said it was encouraging that festivals and events that were postponed or canceled last year are returning this summer and fall.

“It is a relief that it is back,” said Mr. Bouchard. He added that while border restrictions are limiting visitors, advertising campaigns for tourism are now targeting Canadians.

Mr. Decari said he was optimistic about the future of festivals in Montreal, adding that people “have an appetite” to celebrate summer in the city.

“We’re excited,” he said. we, re back. ”

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