How Field Trip’s response to a severe weather evacuation shows Toronto’s growth as a Music City

June 14th, 2016

Soul singer Charles Bradley at Field Trip 2016 following the rain delay.

Just before 3PM on Sunday, June 5, 2016, Field Trip Music & Arts festival staff made a stage announcement and published an urgent Facebook note regarding the suspension of Day 2’s scheduled acts due to an incoming severe thunderstorm.

Festival attendees were evacuated from the site and told to seek shelter, while those gearing up to head to Fort York & Garrison Common were encouraged to stay home. Word immediately began to spread across social media as the storm approached, and thousands of music fans were left wondering how the day would unfold.

What happened next stands as a testament to the City of Toronto’s commitment to growing as a Music City and the guidelines laid out in the Toronto Music Strategy.

“We always put public safety first and foremost,” said Robert Kerr, Supervisor of Special Events at Fort York and the City of Toronto. At around 2PM Sunday, Kerr was made aware of the situation by Field Trip organizers closely monitoring the weather patterns, who had detected electrical activity with the impending storm.

The decision to postpone the festival was made around 2:30PM, with the official announcement coming shortly after. Evacuees took shelter in surrounding Fort York sites, and were treated to surprise performances from Kevin Drew and Dear Rouge.

Following the evacuation, festival staff immediately began rescheduling the evening’s set times in accordance with the festival’s permit of a 10PM curfew. While the City’s noise bylaw allows for an 11PM curfew, the Fort York curfew is set at 10PM as a courtesy to the surrounding residents.

As Kerr and the Fort York staff began floating the idea of requesting a half-hour curfew extension, Ward 19 Trinity-Spadina Councillor Mike Layton reached out offering his assistance with the process.

“I agreed with the proactive decision to delay the performance and thought it was the responsible thing to do,” said Councillor Layton, who is also a member of Toronto Music Advisory Council. “I offered a brief extension to the noise permit to help facilitate their program.”

At 4:45PM, Field Trip published a revised schedule, and gates were reopened by 5:30.

“We were always intending to bring the festival back,” said Aaron Miller, Arts & Crafts‘ Manager of Events & Programming, noting that the curfew extension allowed his team flexibility in the rescheduling process. “The City was very supportive and made the most of the situation we were in.”

Kerr and Layton agree that the curfew extension was an extraordinary circumstance, and a lot of credit is due for Field Trip organizers and staff. “One way for us to help deliver as good a show as possible was to extend the curfew,” said Kerr. “We hope in hindsight, and given context, that residents [who’ve submitted noise complaints] appreciate the rationale.”

“Field Trip has quickly become one of Toronto’s signature music experiences.,” said Councillor Layton. “They have managed to capture all that is amazing about Toronto and condensed it into two days at Fort York.”

With the 2016 edition of the festival, Field Trip has also managed to capture the City of Toronto’s support for the local music community, outdoor festivals, and the growth of the Music City initiative.