Is Langley becoming a mecca for art and entertainment lovers?

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Langley was once known only for its fertile farmland. It is now home to a new kind of culture.

Langley’s gradual transition from a farming community to becoming the arts center of the Lower Mainland and perhaps a mecca for music lovers dates back years.

Aldergrove farmers formed an association in 1912 called the Aldergrove Agricultural Association.

To celebrate productivity and display their products and products handmade by housewives, the association began to organize an annual festival, unwittingly giving rise to one of the oldest festivals in the community.

Over the years the Aldergrove Fair – originally an annual show for local farmers and housewives – has become a popular outdoor entertainment event for the community.

With more and more events and attractions contributing to Langley’s arts scene, many believe the area is becoming a mecca for live entertainment.

ARTISTS AND PROMOTERS SHARE THEIR OPINIONS

When Teri James, Executive Director of the Downtown Langley Business Association (DLBA), began her career 21 years ago, Arts Alive was the association’s only event. She relied on a group of volunteers to make the day happen. Two decades later, due to the scale of the event, she now works with nearly 50 people to ensure the success of Arts Alive and other events.

“The caliber of the event as a whole has grown tremendously,” she commented.

“Over the years, word has spread through the entertainment industry, both locally and across Canada, that Langley’s festivals and events are very well organized and a great place to perform” , she added.

His bold statement is backed by the response his team has received from the community lately.

Every year, DLBA starts receiving emails a year in advance from musicians wanting to perform. During COVID, many have even agreed to keep their registration fees with DLBA for two years.

James sees Langley as a place “where there’s always something cool going on”, especially when it comes to music-related events.

With organizations such as Langley Community Music School, Fort Langley Jazz and Arts Festival, Bez Arts Hub, Langley Ukulele Ensemble, Langley Good Times Cruise-In and many more offering live concerts, James said that audiences had “many” opportunities to enjoy the performing arts in their own community. Additionally, with the federal government injecting $113,742.24 in COVID relief funding into Langley’s arts scene in May of this year, some organizations are expected to expand their plans.

As the city’s and township’s open spaces continue to draw audiences into the summer, Councilwoman Rosemary Wallace said the entertainment scene will thrive due to the availability of “exceptional and diverse” talent here.

One of Wallace’s favorite memories as an artist is putting a piano outside one of Langley’s galleries and watching the array of talent who sat and played there daily.

There are organizers who provide live music at many occasions and events such as Indigenous Peoples Day, Langley City Community Day, Jazz Festival, Aldergrove Fair Days, Langley Terry Fox Road Artists City, Langley City Arts Crawl, Bopping in the Park, Art Alive, Summer Beats in the City, Langley Events Center Outdoor Stage, and more.

“It seems like every week you can find a place where musicians sing and play,” said Walllace, an artist herself.

Not only organizers, but also artists find in Langley a safe and creative place to live and create.

Singer-songwriter and lead singer of local band Whiskey Blind, Benjamin Aaron Ferguson said the community meant the world to him. The 26-year-old moved to Langley in 2008 for high school and has been here ever since.

“It’s a great community that’s great for raising a family and working,” Ferguson said.

He added that it’s easy to find events and businesses that support local artists.

“There are lots of bars, businesses and events that support local music and there’s tons to do here.”

Russ Rosen, artistic director and concert curator at the Bez Arts Hub, agrees that the volume of live music events has increased.

MORE SITES MEANS MORE COMPETITION

But it also means increased competition for talent. Bez has focused much of his advertising budget on Langley residents, but he still said most people aren’t familiar with the world-class shows that take place every weekend in Bez.

“I know there are other promoters working to engage Langley’s growing market in the thrill of live music,” he said.

There are plenty of Juno Award-winning touring artists that Rosen was able to bring to Bez, but with more public buy-in, Bez could do more.

Rosen said Langley is far from having the “fulfilled” music scene it could be.

The competition is indeed not only in terms of who attracts more people, but also who gets the funding.

With funding given only to select groups, Ellie King, an entertainment industry veteran, said little effort has been made to advance the arts in general in Langley.

King, general artistic director of the Royal Canadian Theater Company, said professional theater in Langley had been neglected for years.

Rosen admitted there was no shortage of local talent, but organizers should mix local talent with touring artists to create a live music culture in Langley.

“Hard-working local musicians can often really leverage their connections with their neighbors to motivate them to come see live music,” he commented.

Acknowledging Langley’s “ideal” geographic location, Rosen said getting to Vancouver is getting more and more expensive. He said the potential is fantastic with the growing local restaurant and winery scene partnering with the arts community.

Although diverse in their opinions, entertainment providers agreed on one thing – greater involvement of local politicians in supporting local venues could only benefit the community.

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Sandy and Russ Rosen launched the Bez Arts Hub in Langley in 2017. (Langley Advance Times Special)

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