Published Mar 15, 2016The City of Toronto has announced plans to restrict the annual African music and culture celebration Afrofest from a two day event to one. Set to take place at Woodbine Park in Toronto's east end, the city cites curfew violations and noise complaints from residents as the forces behind their decision.
Started in 1989, Afrofest is the largest annual African music festival in North America. Drawing a crowd of up to 60,000 daily, it has become an extremely important African celebration locally and internationally. Music Africa president and festival organizer Peter Toh maintains the city's allegations are inaccurate, calling the decision "completely unfair and discriminatory."
"The sound company we employ does most of the events at Woodbine Park, including Canada Day and Beaches Jazz festival concerts, and use the same sound equipment, crew and sound levels," he explained in a statement. "The volume at Afrofest is no different than at those events but in our case they are being called violations."
Typical weekend operating hours for music festivals include curfews at 11 p.m. on Saturdays and 8 p.m. on Sundays, though the city alleges Afrofest has exceeded their Sunday evening hours the past two years.
"In 2014, they had a candlelight vigil for Nelson Mandela, and last year they had the Pan Am torch coming in. I'm not going to say no to a candlelight vigil, but each year, there's a new reason for them to keep it going," Ward 32 Councillor Mary-Margaret McMahon told NOW Magazine. "We kept trying to get them to comply, and they didn't. Everyone else seems to behave."
Toh added that the city had agreed, in writing, six months prior to Afrofest 2015 to extend the curfew in order to accommodate the Pan Am ceremony, before changing the permit conditions two weeks later. "There seems to be no understanding of the contractual obligations we had, both to accommodating the Pan Am Torch Relay and to the headline act that followed," he wrote in a press release.
While Music Africa acknowledges they are willing to work constructively with the city in finding a resolution, they believe the set conditions will jeopardize the success of this year's festival, contradicting Toronto's "music city" aspirations.
Music Africa is calling on Afrofest supporters to write, phone or email City Councillor Mary Margaret McMahon and Mayor John Tory to express concerns about the decision.