Kerry’s Block Heater: Our Folk Fest Meets Our National Music Centre


Kerry Clarke has been working the Calgary Folk Festival shop for so long we felt it indiscreet to ask her how many years it HAS been. Instead we asked for her take on a most interesting aspect to the first day of this year’s midwinter folkfest, the Block Heater:

“We’re doing the premiere of a Canadian film called Brown Girl Begins, which I think is really cool! We haven’t done a lot of films, but we’ve got a brand-new screen at Festival Hall, so it’s kind of exciting. It’s also exciting that it’s a premiere of this film.”

As a big fan of Calgary’s new National Music Centre, we ask Kerry about the changes for the Block Heater since they started 3 years ago.

They’re waiting for you and the music: join in! Image courtesy of The Calgary Folk Festival

“We’re still somewhat in Inglewood, but the first 2 years were completely focused (there). We’re moving down what they call the Music Mile in with our pals at the National Music Centre. . . The majority of the programming happens on the Friday and Saturday night in the NMC.

“But ,on Thursday night we have 2 venues (Festival Hall and The Ironwood), and the same is true of Saturday afternoon, one of which is the (NMC’s) King Eddy.” The other is the Calgary Folk Festival’s own Festival Hall, grand dame of local folk.

Kerry is happy that Studio Bell has “given us an opportunity to utilize a cool space . . . We’ve got more dance music upstairs in the NMC’s Studio Bell and the Skybridge, (whereas) last year we may have had the dance music at the Alex Dance Centre or the Festival Hall: it just depends on the venue . . . (Being mostly inside) does make it a bit more of an obvious festival atmosphere, than when you have to get out on the street to completely change venues.”

MUSICAlive! asks who had this brilliant idea, the NMC or the CFF?

“This was our idea: ever since they were working on opening, we always had an idea that we’d like to use the National Music Centre. We talked to them about it last year, but (neither of us were  ready).”

This will be many people’s first chance to see what Calgary has done to the venerable King Edward Hotel, former “Home of the blues”, which is incorporated into the National Music Centre’s operations. We ask Kerry: What’s it like to have this little midwinter Folk Festival in there in 2018?

“It’s a really nice space: it’s got some beams and such in it, but it’s really cool. It’s like the old (King Eddy) space, but it’s clean. (We laugh) They didn’t carry over all of the years of beer and sweat.”

That’s probably for the best. Ms. Clarke mentions that there are 15 performers each night of the block Heater: “There’s 2 to 3 different performances in each of the 4 spaces each night. We have mostly concerts, but we also have a carryover from the Festival; the Collaborative Sessions, (which has) several artists together on the stage, playing in rotation, backing each other up. There’s 2 of those per night at the King Eddy, and on Saturday we have  2 at the King Eddy in the afternoon,  and 2 at Festival Hall.

Kerry and MUSICAlive! engage in a little enthusiastic gushing about the Studio Bell space, and how, in fact, it kind of emulates the open-air active engagement of a festival itself.

“Like the Folk Fest,” Kerry expands, “you might happen upon something because you might enter the (NMC) space, and you might have the intention to head right upstairs;  but then you see an artist you really like, and you might stay for a few songs.”

Which is exactly what we recommend. Starts Thursday; ends Saturday; info at the Calgary Folk Festival events page.

Local songwriter and performer Iris Demente is a Folk Festival regular, and she’ll have lots of friends with her at the Block Heater. Image courtesy of The Calgary Folk Festival



Posted by Theresa Johnston

Author: Carey Rutherford

Swallowed by the mutual loves of words and music (but far too chicken-shit to perform them with a band), Carey’s writing career started slowly as a freelance writer in 2003, starved him nearly to personal bankruptcy until 2008, and changed directions while writing for FastForward, Beacon Calgary, GayCalgary, and Examiner magazines. With the death of many old-school periodicals, and the explosion of musical diversity in Calgary, the modern approach to writing about live music performance in the Calgary region presented uncluttered landscapes for the focussed passion that Carey’s conversations with musicians, drag queens, festival producers and small animals has uncapped. He was moulded by the brilliance of paper-based periodicals old and new (Life, rolling Stone, Swerve! and Adbusters etc.), and sees the info-verse as needing creative, empathetic, but clear-eyed Agents to communicate these performances.