Hillside Festival: a celebration of independent music, community spirit, and great food.

The invitation sounded easy enough: just tell the audience who you are, what you do and what you know about food. And it was easy, but Jeff had lots of other questions (choose episode 196), and most of them I answered using concrete examples from Hillside Festival. This is Hillside’s 34th year, and the organizers have spent every one of those years upping the ante from their original intention: create a community-oriented music festival that steps lightly on the planet. Hillside continues to lead the way in sustainable innovations in festival event practice. I list them below, and I’m always eager to find out what the Green Team will be focusing on this year.  Patrons of Hillside partially fund these initiatives by donating to the Green Team over the weekend. (Listen to the podcast).

Supporting independent live music events is another positive environmental act.

As for what I’m working on now, well, a food-themed issue. AJ covers the topic of food with great regularity and numerous issues: Reaping What We Sow, Food for All.... As for who I am, beyond my A\J bio: I’m farmers' market junkie and encourage you to support your local farmers' market – or visit the local farmers' market when you travel. It’s a delicious environmental act: farmers' markets are the heartbeat of any community, shopping there supports the local economy and you get to engage with the people who provide your food). I’m a fiend for live music. Supporting independent live music events is another positive environmental act. Outside of enthusiastically supporting Hillside Music Festival in Guelph, I’ll periodically organize small music events, usually with good friends Wendy and John at the community-minded Princess Cinemas. Once in a while I’ll conduct an interview or write article when the situation compels. 

A\J’s long-time staffer Marcia Ruby visits Jeff Stager’s CKMS Agriculture show.

AJ is working on a new food issue – on how we can keep our food system resilient in the face of a changing climate. Think transition towns, green belts, urban agriculture, the 100-step menu, eating bugs and the future of food, etc. Other food issues include Shrinking Fisheries,  Thought for FoodSaving the Land that Feeds Us, Just FoodFood and Drink, and our upcoming working title: Food in the New Age of Climate Change.

 Here are some of Hillside’s outstanding initiatives in sustainability:

  • They make public transport free and easy from the city of Guelph to Guelph Island conservation area.
  • They provide free safe lockup area for bikes.
  • They curate a fantastic lineup of food from local establishments and farmers. (Of note: Natures Nurturing organic microgreens, with their inventive menus for Hillside patrons, their veggie Hot Rod knockoffs and refreshing live food choices.  + Choco Sol who use coffee, chocolate and maize to help us all navigate our way to an equitable, socially just food system. Their tagline: Foods for the body, mind and SOIL!
  • They built a main stage on the island with a green roof (a permanent garden ecosystem on top of the roof). The Hillside Sun Stage is solar-powered.
  • Vendors use exclusively reusable plates and cutlery – and mugs that patrons bring back each year.
  • A solar-powered water heater reduces energy in the state-of-the-art Hillside dishwashing system.
  • Hillside volunteers and campers enjoy solar-powered-water-heated showers
  • Hillside volunteers developed a state-of-the-DIY-art recycling and composting system that brings the entire weekend’s waste to near zero.
  • Hillside’s biggest tank for free drinking water rests beside the Main stage. No bottles of water are sold or given away at Hillside. Patrons bring their own or buy low-priced souvenir Hillside mugs.

Hillside was the first or early adopter for most of these initiatives – fresh tap water tank at the main stage, reuseable dishes and cutlery (and no disposables), the trash turnaround system. Researchers from uWaterloo and York University have been studying the impacts and savings that Hillside sustainability initiatives have garnered.

Jeff’s last segment is to focus on what’s stealing your time now. My favourite pastime is finding the intersections of art and environment. So I shared three A\J covers that really tickled me.

1. Highpoint: Creating A\J’s Music and Environment issue and doing the photo shoot of Sarah Harmer for the cover. Brian St Denis was the photographer.

2. Most entertaining intersection: Our food cover in 2011 by artist Ju Duoqi who recreates masterpieces such as the Mona Lisa (Leonardo Da Vinci) and Napolean on his horse (Jacques-Louis David), and in the case of our cover, the famous Chanel No 5 photo ad of a naked Keira Knightly concealing herself with a bowler hat – made out of Chinese cabbage.

3. Hard hitting in the food department: The 2013 food issue had the beautiful and sassy work of Klaus Pichler where he had a ceramic polar bear feasting on rotting cherries, which were transported 12,500 km from Chile to Vienna, Austria. It is part of his “One Third” project to raise awareness about food waste.

As requested, final thoughts:

1. For a good time that gives to your community in many ways, seek out and support live music

2. Go to your local farmer’s market regularly, and when you travel, get to know the community by visiting their local farmer’s market.

And, by the by, HAPPY HILLSIDE!

Marcia Ruby is the publisher emerita and creative director of Alternatives Journal.

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