MONTREAL — An attempt to banish two English-speaking bands from a Fete nationale concert drew widespread criticism Monday, prompting a main sponsor to offer a different explanation for saying it wanted to dump them.
Lake of Stew and Bloodshot Bill were on the verge of being dropped after the sponsor, l’Association culturelle Louis-Hebert, reportedly threatened to pull its funding from the event because of the presence of English.
But late Monday, the association distanced itself from the language-related comments of one of its directors that appeared to have sparked the brouhaha.
A spokesman pointed to possible protests at the June 23 event as the No. 1 reason for the proposed lineup change.
“There have been some rumours of a demonstration and we didn’t want to compromise the festive and familial character of the event,” said Julien Larocque-Dupont, adding the threats were aimed directly at the presence of the English acts.
“We had concerns that the city would cancel the event if there was a threat of a demonstration.”
C4 Productions, the Montreal concert promoter that booked the lineup, is sticking by its choices for the concert — dubbed L’Autre St-Jean.
The concert is being billed as an alternative to the larger annual St-Jean-Baptiste bash in Montreal and is to be held in the working-class, French-speaking neighbourhood of Rosemont Petite-Patrie.
The promoter and sponsors hope the concert can go on peacefully, but a final joint decision on whether Lake of Stew and Bloodshot Bill can play will be made on Wednesday.
The production company says the anglophone acts will play only 40 minutes in the six-hour show, which will include a number of popular Quebec musical acts.
C4 Productions was sent an email last week saying l’Association culturelle Louis-Hebert disagreed with the show’s philosophy and threatened to block its financing.
Quebec Culture Minister Christine St-Pierre called that move the actions of the “intolerant” sovereigntist fringe.
She said the bands are no less Quebecois just because they perform mainly in English.
“I find it very sad because of the message it sends: it sends a message of intolerance,” St-Pierre said.
“It’s telling certain people in Quebec that ’you’re not invited to the fete because you’re anglophone.”’
Her Parti Quebecois counterpart, Pierre Curzi, said the group was off base by seeking to exclude the English bands.
“Maybe their intentions were good, but they need to reconsider this bad decision,” Curzi said.
“I think it’s great that anglophone bands want to take part in the Fete nationale. It shows that our society is open.”