Following the recent floods that devastated Canada’s east and west coasts in November, Halifax couple Sondra Rutman and Jason Brown felt compelled to do something. A mere three weeks later, on Dec. 19 and 20, they had successfully co-organized an online music festival which raised over $20,000 for the Canadian Red Cross.
“At the beginning it seems almost insurmountable to do something,” said Brown. “But you realize from Judaism that you have to make a start. You don’t have to finish things, but you have to start.”
The Great Canadian Flood Relief streamed live from both coasts, with one site in Surrey, B.C., and the other in Halifax. Although it was planned to run a single day, a second was added due to the high level of interest from musicians. In total, 30 artists performed, including, according to the ads, “Juno Award winners, a Latin Grammy winner and Grammy nominee, and more music industry credits than we can shake a drumstick at.”
Rutman, who is a registered nurse and legal nurse consultant, had the idea while talking to a client who lived in B.C. She brought the idea to Brown, a math professor at Dalhousie, who was enthusiastic about realizing the vision.
“It gave me the opportunity to focus outside of myself, to realize that there are people who are much worse off,” said Brown. “I found it great to be able to focus on helping people.”
He started by reaching out to Robert Campbell, a friend who he collaborates with musically.
“Robert had run a number of festivals, he had that kind of background. It was essential for putting this together,” said Rutman. “I made a lot of emails and calls, but I didn’t get a tremendous response. But then, he knows people personally.”
Campbell in turn connected with music and event producer Derek Bird, whom he had worked with while living in B.C. Campbell and Bird are both from Maple Ridge, B.C., although Campbell now lives in Halifax.
“It just took off,” said Brown. “And we had to run with it.”
The Great Canadian Flood Relief will continue to take donations until Dec. 31. Both days of the festival will remain free to watch on Facebook and Youtube.
The federal and B.C. provincial governments have agreed to match donations to the B.C. Emergency Flood Relief until Dec. 26.
As of Dec. 22, The Great Canadian Flood Relief has raised approximately $6,000 for B.C., with government contributions making the total over $18,000. Approximately $2,600 has been raised for the Maritimes.