OUR HISTORY (in brief)
In the summer of 2012, Waterloo (Ontario) area condominium/real estate lawyer, Michael Clifton, met with then student and music promoter, Care Finch, to get some guidance from her on putting together a memorial concert to commemorate the 10th year since Joe Strummer's untimely passing. Care proposed that the event could be more, and, ultimately, the two of them, with a cadre of other volunteers, and the support of various corporate sponsors (mostly Michael's colleagues working in the areas of condominium management and development) organized a music festival that took place on December 14 and included 22 performances at 7 venues in downtown Kitchener, Ontario, (including an outdoor stage at Kitchener City Hall). The day before, the event was launched with a movie presentation ("Joe Strummer: The Future is Unwritten") and art show at Princess Cinema in Waterloo. From the start, Strummerfest was a non-profit, fund-raising event supporting the charities, Waterloo Region Suicide Prevention Council and Your Life Counts. Strummerfest 2012 was accepted as a nominee for a Waterloo Region Arts Council Award.
A more ambitious program took place in 2013, with Michael organizing three additional "pre-festival" concerts that represented a range of musical styles including ska, rock and indie ballads. Then, in December, 2013, Care's team and Michael produced another multi-venue festival event with 30 different performances and a "VIP Event" attended by local civic leaders (MP Stephen Woodworthy and City Councillor, Dan Glenn-Graham) along with representatives from Strummerfest's supported charities, and an art show on the surrounding walls. Over its two initial years, Strummerfest was able to give hundreds of dollars to each of its supported charities, while Michael, Care, the bands and venues all participated on a purely volunteer basis.
In 2014, Care was moving on to other things in her career, and Michael intended to let the Strummerfest concept go, but after being contacted by Chailey Nelson, the owner of Regal Road Studios in Guelph, they decided to hold a smaller event just at the studio. A handful of 6 bands then entertained just about that many individuals, keeping the Strummerfest name alive another year. However, despite that, Michael took a genuine hiatus during 2015 after that. In the meantime, he also joined Chailey's punk rock cover band, C.I.D.
In 2016, the Joe Strummer Foundation invited its supporters worldwide to organize and host "StrummerJam" events during the month of August. Michael and C.I.D. took up the challenge and hosted two concerts ~ one at Jimmy Jazz in Guelph and one at the Linsmore Tavern in Toronto ~ to raise funds for the Foundation. These concerts kindled Michael's desire to continue with Strummerfest, so he organized "Strummerfeast" ~ a gala dinner event at the Boathouse restaurant in Kitchener, held in December. A special menu was prepared and number of individuals attended, including then recently elected MP and Cabinet Minister, Bardish Chagger.
It just so happened that 2017 was both Strummerfest's 5th year and the 40th anniversary of the of The Clash's first and selt-fitled album. To make this these two occasions, Michael planned a return to a festival format, arranging with the events coordinator, Josh Bean, at the City of Waterloo, to bring Strummerfest into Waterloo Public Square as an outdoor summer event at the beginning of August. Ten bands entered on the outdoor stage, and the City committed to support Strummerfest's new "Summerfest" programming for years to come. Michael also added Kitchener's House of Friendship to the group of charities supported by Strummerfest.
For the second annual Summerfest in Waterloo Public Square, the new innovation was to make it a two-day event. Strummerfest 2018 ran from 2 p.m. to 11 p.m. on both the Friday and Saturday of the August Civic Holiday weekend, featuring 18 bands, including some travelling from Montreal, Toronto and Burlington. This was also Strummerfest's most well promoted event ~ being featured on CBC radio, CTV news and in both the Waterloo Chronicle and Waterloo Region Record newspapers ~ and our most successful fundraiser so far.