The story of the Greater Victoria Performing Arts Festival Association (Festival) begins in 1927 - well before the Second World War.
At this time the then Victoria Musical Festival Association was a major event in the City's cultural and social life. In 1935 Mayor David Leeming opened the Festival by remarking that one-tenth of Victoria's population was represented (more than 800 entries and 7,000 competitors). In 1937 the "Formal Inauguration Programme" was opened with the Provincial Supervisor of Technical Education officiating.
Entrants came from the BC Mainland, Washington and Oregon. Adjudicators were imported from Eastern Canada and Great Britain, and the local newspaper provided extensive biographical details on them. Daily coverage was given of Festival classes, locations, competitors and prizes awarded. Some of the prizes currently awarded have their roots in these first years - the Rose Bowl (Vocal) and the City Medallion (Piano).
World War II interrupted the Festival. In 1950, it was restarted under the aegis of Dr. Fred and Mrs. Ada English and renamed The Greater Victoria Musical Festival Association. Dr. and Mrs. English collected a small group of volunteers who became the core of the society until well into the 1980's. Classes included piano, strings, vocal and choral, speech arts, school dance, school choirs, bands and orchestras.
In June 1950, the Festival lasted four days and utilized three churches for venues. Four adjudicators were engaged for 608 entries. Miscellaneous expenses recorded in 1962 included: entertainment for the adjudicators, lunches for Festival help, transportation of pupils to Honours Concerts, and rental of parking space. Throughout the 1950's and 1960's, membership sales were actively pursued and many other strategies were employed. As example, boy scouts were paid a nominal fee for every membership they sold. In 1966, the Constitution notes that "At the special discretion of the Board, (members were entitled) to special entry privileges during the sessions of the Festival."
In the 1980's, the Music Festival joined the Performing Arts Festival and thereby brought studio dance in to the fold. The name was subsequently changed in 1994 to The Greater Victoria Performing Arts Festival (GVPAF) to better reflect the inclusion of Studio Dance and Speech Arts (the latter having been part of the Festival since the 1950's).
Festival currently showcases approximately 9,000 performers ranging in age from 5 to 80 at close to 130 adjudicated sessions with an average of 25 adjudicators and jurists. Over 300 volunteers at approximately 12 venues across our community support these participants, while over 8,500 audience members applaud this great talent at 13 Highlights Concerts.
The GVPAF has been a member of the Provincial Festival for many years. This membership gives opportunity for promising students to be recommended by their adjudicators to go on to competition at the Provincial and National levels.
The GVPAF has been an important aid in career development for many talented young performing artists. Festival is equally proud of the avenue it provides for the pursuit of an appreciation of the arts, and fosters this passion in all Festival participants.