PHOTO: dean mullen

Folk Fest’s year-round space has a warm intimacy that swaddles you in sound

Festival Hall, the 200-seat venue owned and operated by the Folk Festival Society of Calgary — the same people who bring you the annual summer Folk Music Festival — officially opened in January 2013 after some “soft opening” events the year before. And while the tall building at 1215 10th Avenue S.E may look a little utilitarian from the outside, it’s “pretty on the inside” as Hole once sang, with a stunning interior resplendent with reclaimed Douglas Fir beams in a room that delivers on its promise of superb acoustics.

As part of a commitment to supporting local arts, endearing woodcuts created by artist Lisa Brawn and inspired by the nearby Inglewood Bird Sanctuary grace the bar in the lobby, and you can play “Do I know them?” as you rest your beverage on the drink rail engraved with donor and supporter names. 

To sit in the hall itself while enjoying a performance is to be swaddled in intimacy, as every seat is close enough to see the differing gauges on a guitar’s strings. Those marvellous acoustics mean rich textures of each note arrive in their full glory.

At press time, every upcoming posted show was sold out. And no wonder. 

Jenn Grant plays April 12th — she wrote Dreamer, the song millions of folks hear around the world when watching CBC’s beloved Heartland series and appeared at last summer’s folk fest. Montreal’s Land of Talk plays the hall on May 3 and Burnaby’s Luca Fogale makes an appearance on May 16. Check folk fest’s website regularly or sign up for their newsletter to be first to hear about upcoming shows.

Oddly, the hall was created as a solution to the problem of the not-for-profit festival’s year-round staff being shuffled from their offices several times.

Longtime artistic director Kerry Clarke remembers those days and the panic of having no home base in a market with a 1% vacancy rate — oh, how times change. 

“In 2009, we were able to purchase a small plot of land in Inglewood and proceeded to fundraise and build a bright and functional office space for our modest staff and volunteers and a flexible boutique performance venue for the organization and community. It’s really rewarding and grounding to be one of the few festivals in the country with our own landing pad,” Clarke says. 

Since opening, the hall has hosted artists including Justin Rutledge, Birds of Chicago, and Great Lake Swimmers and has been used for fashion events, theatre, weddings, markets and more. 

While there were originally some nerves from nearby music venue owners about competition, the hall was always all about musical cooperation, bringing more people to nearby venues for appys, dinner or after-show drinks on nights the hall hosts a show. It is an anchor of Calgary’s Music Mile, established in 2016, which celebrates the venues from The Eddy in the East Village to The Blues Can Inglewood at its eastern reach. The venues cooperate on events like the Folk Fest’s winter Block Heater Festival, when the hall and other stages around the area are hopping with nearly continuous music.

Clarke fondly recalls those early shows.
“The Fringe in August 2012 and our inaugural October concert with Cold Specks before Festival Hall was quite ready and the smoke detectors went off – causing the first of several fire truck visits – were the Hall’s initial occupants. From our own opening celebration featuring Corb Lund and Ian Tyson to Festival Hall Unleashed in January 2013 where 2000 folks came through the doors to take in 25 local artists in our unique, curated collaborative sessions to trapeze artists, craft fairs, local and touring artist concerts, Making Treaty 7’s Bear Grease, One Big Jam, the Arabic Film Festival, Emmedia’s multi-media extravaganzas to weddings and celebrations of life, Festival Hall has seen it all.”

For information on Festival Hall’s curated concert series, visit — and visit often, shows sell out more than a month in advance.

To book Festival Hall for your own event, visit