Photo of Camp Sled Island
Camp Sled Island | Photo by: Elyse Bouvier

Sled Island

By Meghan Power

Sled Island Music and Arts Festival has been around since 2007; it features live music, visual artists, film, and comedy, featured at approximately 20 different venues within Calgary’s downtown core.

“We program artists from all over the world,” says Executive Director, Maud Salvi. “While most of them are already established artists, we are known as a discovery festival, meaning that we also invite many emerging artists from Calgary, Alberta, and from across the country. When people come to Sled Island, they expect to be exposed to, and discover new music as part of their experience.”


Maud believes it would be almost impossible for festivals like Sled Island to exist without funding from organizations like CADA. “It allows us to hire local artists, which helps them feel valued and part of the local community and economy. If these types of creative opportunities for artists in Calgary or Alberta aren’t available, we’ll lose them to the cities that have more music infrastructure and opportunities like Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver—that’s a huge loss for Calgary and Alberta.


Like many music festivals, Sled Island was forced to cancel the festival due to the pandemic. “We were fortunate enough to retain our funding from CADA to support various new initiatives like our Rock Lotto,” says Maud.  “Normally the Rock Lotto happens as one of our annual fundraisers, we invite 45 local artists to put their names in a hat – we pull names and create bands. These random bands have the rest of the day to meet and collaborate, creating three or four original songs that they perform live later that night. It’s a completely unique experience for the artists and audiences.”


Because of the pandemic, and in lieu of the festival, Sled Island decided to experiment and try holding the Rock Lotto remotely and on a much grander scale and instead of only inviting local artists they decided to invite musicians from across the country to play. “Offering the Rock Lotto during a time when we couldn’t run our festival gave us a unique and creative way to help artists make money during a time when live shows weren’t happening,” explains Maud. “It was a unique opportunity for us to create collaborative moments for musicians nationally. Many of the artists involved didn’t know each other, nor were they familiar with each other’s music and so we ended up with bands that had truly diverse music styles.”


“It was important for us to make sure that the Rock Lotto was a paid gig for the musicians involved. This project had a high-value impact creatively, socially, and artistically. The funding was critical. Without it this programming would not have happened. It was so great to be able to offer a different way for musicians to come together and create an album, at the height of the pandemic, that just wouldn’t have happened otherwise. CADA’s funding fully supported the infrastructure needed to make this happen.”