Sled Island cancels 2020 event

Another Calgary festival casualty — and this one hurts a little more.

For the second time in its 13-year history, organizers of local alternative music and arts event Sled Island have had to pull the plug on one of their festivals.

The first, was of course, during the 2013 Alberta floods, with the city quickly filling up with water just after Sled had kicked off.

Now it’s the COVID-19 pandemic, which has forced the cancellation of any large gathering in the city until the end of June. Sled was set to run June 24 to 28 at various venues around town.

In a release posted on their website, organizers noted that they made the decision with “a heavy heart,” but of an understanding and appreciation for the situation and the need for citizens to follow the recommendations of governments and health care officials.

The release continues: “This decision was based on a number of considerations including travel restrictions issued by several countries where some of our scheduled artists are from, travel restrictions announced by the Government of Canada, the announcement by City of Calgary on April 3rd, 2020 that ‘all festivals and events in Calgary with an audience of 50 people or more, must be canceled or postponed’ as well as the order from Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health prohibiting the gathering of persons in excess of 15 people in a group. As a result of these unfortunate developments, the scheduled events can no longer take place and our wonderful artists are unable to perform.”

They also noted that the possibility of merely postponing until later in the year was untenable because of the logistics of such a large city-wide event, as well as an understanding and uncertainty of the different schedules of the acts already booked.

Sled had already announced part of their 2020 lineup including: guest curator Sudan Archivers; dissident Russian feminist rock act Pussy Riot; Austin psych rockers The Black Angels; legendary free jazz trip the Sun Ra Arkestra; iconic New York no wave poet, writer, actress, artist and musician Lydia Lunch and her project Retrovirus; and San Fran drone metal band OM.

The good news is that Sled has announced that it will definitely be back next year, although they’re asking for a little help from their audience.

“We will be issuing refunds to all pass and ticket holders requesting them and will be contacting everyone shortly with details on how to proceed. Alternatively, to those whose personal situation allows, we humbly ask that you consider transferring your pass to the 2021 festival or donating the cost of your pass or individual ticket(s) to Sled Island in exchange for a charitable tax receipt. Keeping the festival alive is a precarious endeavour under the best of circumstances, and we expect the fallout of the pandemic to affect our revenue significantly in the year to come.

For the full release, please go to