39 Days of July is A Wonderful Duncan Festival
By William Doyle-Marshall
This is a very special time to visit the City of Duncan especially as the 39 Days of July festival is taking place, says Mayor Phil Kent. The festival is organised by Longevity John, who is described by the Mayor as a “very bohemian member of our community” who is very dedicated to promoting and encouraging music in the city. The festival is produced in cooperation with the Cowichan Duncan Festival Society. It is a 39-day free concert. It’s quite an undertaking for local talent to showcase their work and it is an opportunity to see some special artist from all over the world.
Longevity John says you can “call me Long for short but you can’t call me short for Long”. We sat backstage talking about the festival which is now in its seventh year. The 39 Days of July starts on the first weekend of July and runs all summer through the long weekend of August adding up to 39 days. It started off as a Centennial Project in 2012 for the community of Duncan. It went from ten, to 16 then to 31 days and everyone asked what would be next so John made it 39 Days. The Sunday of the Labour Day weekend has been added as the 40th day of July 39 Days.
There are 345 slots over the 39 days that are programmed and when we conversed about the venture 59 shows had already been done since Canada Day weekend. The show takes place in the biggest city park where people drive by on Canada Avenue or Duncan Street. “They may not stop but they see the commotion, they see the excitement; they see the people. They always say I see the festival is doing well,” John reflected about his project.
When quizzed about which part of the festival people like, they confess that they never stopped but were attracted by the large crowd. “So it makes them believe they live in a rather fun place to be, which is what we are trying to do; it convinces them to feel good about the community they live in. Once that’s done then they will express that to the rest of the world which is the excitement they have about their own community. A lot of people hate their home town; they want to leave it. Well you can live your town but don’t be afraid to come back. It’s a wonderful town.”
Teo Mance a five-year resident of Duncan made his second appearance at the festival this year. He was on a four year hiatus and confessed at being very comfortable performing here because it is a very small community here. “There is nice support. I cannot let them down because they are not going to let me down either. It’s win-win situation. He performs three or four times a week but previously he did it daily but got burnt out,” he reflected.
Another performer at this year’s festival was Ish da Fish, a multi-instrumentalist and story teller who lives in Lake Cowichan. “I think this is a wonderful festival,” he confessed. Da Fish had appeared at the other Duncan Days programme for nine years. He had just returned from Portland when we talked about the 39 days of July and he believed this Duncan festival reminds him of Portland especially as the City celebrates the arts which brings the community together. Pleased with John’s work at promoting and producing the festival, Da Fish is very pleased to be associated with it.
39 Days of July continues through August 6 and supporters who are exposed to the happening will have the opportunity to witness 200 acts that will bring joy with lots of smiles to their faces.
Rick Martinson, president of the Duncan-Cowichan Festival Society says “the arts can build community capacity and leadership. People involved in community arts projects feel better connected, more inspired to get involved, and more confident about their ability to make a difference in their communities.”