Thank you very much Mr. Chairman.
I appreciate the opportunity to speak to the committee today. As I've been introduced, I am the vice-president of programming for the Banff Centre. I thought I should begin with a bit of background about the Banff Centre. It began life as the Banff summer school of the arts 78 years ago, and it's now one of Canada's leading cultural organizations. We are designated by the Department of Canadian Heritage as one of Canada's national arts training institutions, and we attract some 4,000 artists each year to our mountain setting. I think it's important to give you an idea of the setting itself.
We're located on the side of a mountain, in the heart of Canada's first national park, which has been designated a UNESCO world heritage site. It's also been a significant spiritual site for the first nations for over 12,000 years.
The artists who come to this site, 25% of whom come from outside Canada, come from countries throughout North America and South America, Europe, Australia, and Asia. They come to the Banff Centre to create, exhibit, and perform works in a dozen different arts disciplines. One of our objectives is to showcase the work of those emerging and established Canadian and international artists in an exciting way, so we produce the Banff arts and mountain festivals, multidisciplinary, critically acclaimed festivals that produce over 300 ticketed and free events in the months from May through the end of October.
The Banff arts festivals showcase jazz and classical musical, theatre, classical and contemporary dance, opera, visual arts exhibitions, film and new media, literary readings, and aboriginal arts.
The Banff mountain festivals showcase internationally recognized writers and filmmakers who focus specifically on mountain culture, sports, and the environment.
The Banff Summer Arts Festival is actually Canada's oldest multidisciplinary arts festival. It was begun in 1942, and our Banff mountain festivals are now in their 35th year.
Our festivals deliver premier presentations for audiences visiting Banff National Park, adding an important dimension to the tourism industry. The events provide unparalleled access to artists, musicians, filmmakers, and writers through specially designed events presented in our three theatres, our art gallery, our concert hall, and our brand-new outdoor stage, the Shaw Amphitheatre.
The centre is able to host and engage audiences from around the globe in this very special setting. Only 18% of our audience comes from Banff. Another 44% comes from across Alberta, and the remaining 38% comes from across Canada and around the world. You can see why I'm very happy to be here with my colleagues working with Festivals and Major Events Canada, FAME, the national organization that regroups festivals across the country, because we also believe in FAME's mission to play a leading role in the economic and social promotion of international-scale Canadian festivals and events.
I have to agree with both Anita and Janice. We also believe that our experience provides an excellent platform from which to help the committee and the rest of Canada think through what we should be doing for Canada's sesquicentennial celebrations.
It's also important, because despite the importance of our festivals to Banff, we don't believe that everything that happens in Banff should stay in Banff. We work with partners in order that the art created here can be seen elsewhere. For that purpose, at the conclusion of our annual Banff Mountain Film Festival, which is the world's leading festival of this kind of genre of film, we produce the best of the festival world tour, and that undertakes an extensive circuit around the globe. We have 168 tour sponsors, and just this past quarter our world tour was featured by tour hosts in 76 screenings in 13 countries on 5 continents, including Antarctica.
In addition, this year National Geographic worked with us to produce an hour-long television special on the Banff mountain festivals, which they will air on channels in 148 countries.
With that as a bit of background, I would like to focus on a couple of things from our experience, which the committee might find helpful in thinking through how best to approach Canada's 150th anniversary. Those things are positioning, partnerships, and community engagement.
I'm going to start with positioning. I mentioned at the start that the Banff Centre was founded 78 years ago, so three years ago we celebrated our 75th anniversary. Seventy-five years is a long time for an arts and cultural organization to be around and to be thriving, so we wanted to celebrate.
In thinking about positioning the Banff Centre on its 75th anniversary, there were a few messages we wanted to get out. The first was that Banff is an important site for indigenous peoples and takes seriously its responsibility to support the development of work that reflects their culture. The second was that it attracts artists from around the world, because the artists who attend from Alberta and Canada can take their own place on the world stage. The third is that we believe it's important to support the creation of new works of art to add Canadian music, dance, theatre, literature, and art to the global repertoire.
In thinking about Canada at 150 years, I think some of these pieces will also be important to position Canada as a nation that did not just begin 150 years ago with Confederation but long before that with the first nations. Secondly, they will position Canada as a nation with a diversity of talents, reflected by accomplished artists whose work should be showcased to the world.
In order to celebrate our own 75th anniversary, we had a number of objectives, and we needed to make sure that we could get the word out beyond Banff in order to position the Banff Centre as a unique resource for Albertans, Canadians, and the world. Events were planned and took place in Los Angeles, Seattle, Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Winnipeg, Toronto, Ottawa, and New York, as well as here. Our alumni were featured everywhere, and work that had been created at Banff was featured at festivals and events across Canada and as far away as Beijing.
None of this could have happened without partnerships, institutions such as the Governor General's office, Harbourfront Centre in Toronto, One Yellow Rabbit: High Performance Rodeo in Calgary, etc.--they were all partners. For instance, we co-produced A Rocky Mountain High, a special weekend mini-festival at Harbourfront Centre in Toronto, which showcased the works of 60 Banff Centre alumni.
What I think is important to remember here is that one couldn't have done any of this without partners. We worked with Luminato, for instance, to co-commission Tono, an aboriginal dance piece, which has since been around the world and was featured at both the Beijing and Vancouver Olympics as well as at the Shanghai Expo.
If we think it was important and useful to have partners, I can only imagine how exciting it would be for Canada to reach out to a whole range of different kinds of partners. Festivals are some of the partners within, but Canada should also reach out to partners outside.
We've also had some experience in helping to celebrate Parks Canada's 100th anniversary as we are situated in Banff National Park. Parks invented a wonderful program that I think is a great symbol of the next thing we should talk about, which is community engagement. Parks invented a program called Canada's Greatest Summer Job, by which it invited young people to apply to spend the summer creating films that told the stories about Canada's national parks from their own point of view. Nearly 1,000 university and college film students from across Canada applied, and there were something like 35 of them selected to spend the summer documenting each park. They began here with their film boot camp at the Banff Centre, and it was guaranteed that those whose work was best would be featured in our Mountain Film Festival.
The resulting work of these individual young people was personal, idiosyncratic, and utterly delightful, because it wasn't created or dictated by Parks Canada; it reflected their own experience of each park. It gave Parks Canada wonderful content for a variety of media platforms, just to underline Anita's point that we need to be thinking about how we can use technology and the interactive platforms that exist to spread the word far beyond live performance.
There's another movement of which all of us here today are a part called Culture Days. The ability to engage the public in the arts is at the heart of Culture Days, the national movement for which the Banff Centre is a founding partner and serves as treasurer. Culture Days is a collaborative, pan-Canadian volunteer movement to raise the awareness, accessibility, participation, and engagement of all Canadians in the arts and cultural life of their communities. It was spurred on by the vision that was inspired by Quebec's Journées de la culture. Hundreds of volunteers have self-organized themselves in communities across the country to create events across the same weekend that Quebec has claimed for the past 12 years.
The result is that in our second year as the national Culture Days more than 800 Canadian cities and towns—up from 700 last year—opened their doors and offered some 5,500 free Culture Days: hands-on classes, excursions, tours, demonstrations, seminars, panels, and behind-the-scenes experiences.
This was all promoted by our marketing partners, the Globe and Mail, CBC, and Aeroplan. And it proved that self-organized, connected by social media, and sharing umbrella marketing plans, you can create extraordinary events that are excellent examples of community engagement.
In closing, I would just like to emphasize that when we consider the variety of partnerships one could put together to celebrate and really acknowledge the unique qualities of Canada, we also have to think about the possibilities of community engagement and the ways in which we can reach out to Canadians across the country to help create their own visions of Canada.