Music in the Lake hits sour note with local community radio station 98.7–FM

Lake Cowichan’s monthly music show Music in the Lake is on the rocks.
The trouble started last week, when the scheduled Thursday night music show at Lake Cowichan’s Central Park was cancelled last-minute.

Lake Cowichan’s monthly music show Music in the Lake is on the rocks.

The trouble started last week, when the scheduled Thursday night music show at Lake Cowichan’s Central Park was cancelled last-minute.

The announcement of the show’s cancellation came only a few hours before the show was to take place, resulting in a number of people showing up at Central Park to disappointment.

The cancellation comes in response to local community radio station CICV 98.7-FM pulling its sponsorship of the event.

“I just got a letter last night,” key organizer David Lowther said, Thursday morning.

“Without such a sponsorship, it is impossible for the program to continue.”

The free music show was to be part of the monthly Music in the Lake series of concerts that has been gracing Lake Cowichan’s Upper Centennial Hall for over a year.

In July, a special well-attended outdoor show was held at Lake Cowichan’s Central Park; the same thing planned for what was to be last week’s show, when local musician Beverly McKeen and out-of-town group The Pelta Tiller Duo were both set to perform.

Cowichan Valley Community Radio Society chair Mike Bishop said that the decision to discontinue the sponsorship came as a result of a realization that it was outside their scope.

“It was a nice show, but it was outside the scope of our radio mandate,” he said.

The concern was that the shows weren’t as local as they could have been, with most months seeing the hiring of professional musicians from outside the Cowichan Lake area.

The cancellation of this month’s event was the decision of Lowther, Bishop said, adding that radio volunteers were prepared to help with last week’s event.

“How much support can I expect from them?” Lowther asked.

Walking such a fine line between breaking even and losing quite a bit of his own money, Lowther said that it’s too much of a risk without full support.

Last month’s event, as an example, took in $530.

Of this money, $400 total went to the two features, and $150 went toward sound, leaving a loose end of $20.

And this was with full support.

“It’s worth it for the evening’s entertainment,” Lowther said, of the $20.

This won’t be the case if it becomes hundreds of dollars.

Without the radio station’s support, the event doesn’t have the insurance it requires.

“The point of it was to provide locally-made programming for a local radio station, and if the local radio station doesn’t want it, what does that mean?” Lowther asked.

CICV has been recording and re-broadcasting Music in the Lake over the airwaves, on Wednesdays at 4 p.m., and Sundays, at 10 a.m.

With regard to the shows not being “local” enough, Lowther points out Beaverly McKeen, who was to co-headline last week’s show.

“I booked her in the line at the Country Grocer. You don’t get more local than that!” Lowther said.

Every show also opens up with an hour’s worth of open stage, during which time anyone interested in performing is invited to do so.

Looking back on the past year’s worth of shows, Lowther said that it’s been a worthwhile endeavour, with some truly interesting acts coming to town.

“We had a lot of fun, and hosted a lot of great acts in town,” he said, of the Thursday night events.

Overall, it’s been a break-even endeavour, thanks to a number of enthusiastic locals, including the ladies at Curves, who donated baked goodies that have helped pay for the rent every month.

Local musician Mary Egan also helped out.

“When Mary Egan played, she refused to take the money, which gave us some contingency,” Lowther said.

This contingency proved useful when trying to break even during slower nights.

Musician Graeme Card, from The Jug Bandits, also opted out of getting paid, accepting only gas money for his performance.

Mary Lowther was also instrumental in making each event a success, by heading the kitchen and taking care of finances.

A number of volunteers from the radio station also routinely helped out.

Although Music in the Lake has been squashed by CICV’s pulling of its support, Lowther said that his hopes for local music shows haven’t also been killed.

“I hope to do it again,” he said.

But, they’d require a group to sponsor the show, so they can benefit from the group’s insurance, which they require to put on shows in town.

“Unsupported, we can’t afford to do this,” Lowther said.

Over at CICV, Bishop said that the radio station is also planning events for the future.

“We’re in discussions with these type of things,” he said.

“We have some irons in the fire, with a focus on more local talent.”

A couple days later, acting society chair Ron McKenzie implied that things aren’t necessarily over for Music in the Lake.

In response to an e-mail by Kathryn Swan, stating that the station’s pulling of their sponsorship was a mistake, McKenzie responded by writing that the decision to pull their sponsorship is being put on hold until the board discusses it during a September meeting.

The meeting will include “an invitation to Mr. David Lowther to speak on behalf of retention,” the letter reads.

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