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Ottawa Bluesfest officially cancelled for 2020

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Having been at the helm of RBC Bluesfest since 1994, I can say that although we have weathered many storms, including a tornado in 2005, a stage collapse in 2011, and a family of stubborn killdeers in 2018, COVID-19 is one that we cannot overcome in 2020.

Even a month ago, the idea that we might not hold the 27th edition of the festival was unthinkable. But in light of the serious situation confronting us this summer, it is with a heavy heart that I must announce that the RBC Bluesfest for 2020 is cancelled. 

First and foremost, all ticket purchasers will be entitled to a full refund. We understand how important that is to many in this time of uncertainty. We are honoured that so many of you put your trust in us by purchasing advance tickets, and while our plans have changed for 2020, rest assured we are moving forward with future projects to bring music to our community. More on that later.

Our decision to cancel was not taken lightly.  Over the past several weeks, we have listened to advice from healthcare professionals and government officials, and heard the concerns of our patrons. We fully agree that public health must come first—now and always – and support the measures being taken to ensure the health of our community.

Again, I want to thank everyone for your loyalty and patience as we weighed our options and assessed the potential outcomes of various ways forward.

To our ticket holders: before you choose to refund your ticket purchase, we would like you to consider the following information: 

  • We are working to reschedule many performers for 2021, and will update fans regularly as these acts confirm. Currently we have booked (in alphabetical order): Billy Talent, Blink-182, Blue Rodeo, Boyz II Men, Dashboard Confessional, Jack Johnson, July Talk, King Crimson, Lil Tecca, Patrick Watson, Sharon Van Etten, The National. We’ll also be adding more exciting talent to next year’s event, which will provide the same level of world-class musical performances you have come to expect.

  • RBC Bluesfest is one of the longest operating employers in the festival and entertainment community in Ottawa. This cancellation will cause financial hardship for our organization, but we are already in the midst of planning for 2021 and have committed to keeping our staff employed and working on next year's event. We are also exploring new digital initiatives to further our reach and be more accessible to our community.

  • We are continuing to deliver multiple community programs including 'Be the Band' virtually, and will resume in-person programs once we are able to. We have been reaching over 7,000 local youth, students and aspiring musicians annually through all of our community programs, since 1999. These programs employ local artists year round and positively influence our local youth through the spirit of music.

Finally, most of our funding comes from you, our ticket purchasers. We cannot thank you enough for your twenty-six years of ongoing support. It is critical to the survival of the festival.

We encourage you to think about keeping your ticket for next year, which will help support our local non-profit organization to continue to retain our staff, employ local artists, and deliver an exceptional festival in 2021. Many of our sponsors, volunteers, and supporters have already recommitted to us and we are grateful for their support, now and ever.

We fully understand if you choose to refund your ticket and will move quickly to make this happen. However, we also want to express our commitment to our community at this date – we are not going anywhere, and when the time is right we will gladly welcome you back to our events. 

Until then, stay safe, stay healthy, and take good care of one another. We wish you the very best and hope to see you soon.


Mark Monahan
Executive/Artistic Director
RBC Bluesfest

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This is a shame to hear....

Anyone think musical gatherings of any real size (i.e. club/theatre gigs, etc.) going to get an approval in coming months?  I am fully expecting any of the remaining shows that I have booked for the summer to be cancelled....trying to hold out hope for something

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I don't think we will see any large gatherings, at least in Canada until the fall if not all the way to 2021.

For the US, it will likely be MLB and NFL that will dictate what the entertainment industry does. They have major lobbyists in every front office and if anyone can force resumption of activities this year, it will be driven by those groups.

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They're already pushing 2021 though.   They certainly would like to encourage people who purchased passes to avoid refunding for this year and let it roll.  It's interesting to me how advance ticket purchases have incremented from a few months, to 8 months and now we're at 15 months advanced ticketing.   I'm waiting for the "lifetime festival pass" to be introduced by a festival. 

RBC Bluesfest organizers today confirmed that Rage Against The Machine and Alanis Morissette will, in fact, be included in the 2021 program, along with numerous other exciting acts that were confirmed on the festival website, yesterday.

“On the heels of announcing the cancellation of our 2020 event a few days ago, we are happy to share what we consider to be some pretty great news for 2021,” says Mark Monahan, the festival’s executive and artistic director. “We know 2021 seems like a long time coming, but this announcement is something we believe a lot of ‘fest fans will be happy to hear, and something they can mark on their calendars for the coming year.”

RBC Bluesfest is planned to run from July 8 to 18, 2021.

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