Celebrating Freedom of Expression, activist performances and a broad range of eclectic, independent, and controversial art of all forms, the infringement festival is modelled on the original 1947 Edinburgh Fringe, which was a DIY (do-it-yourself) artistic protest against corporate elitism and exclusion of local artists.
The Montreal infringement welcomes a variety of collaborations, performances and cultural resistance: theatre troupes, players of all types, street activism, political drama, musicians, radical performances, visual artists, films, marginalized arts, spoken-word, puppet shows, disadvantaged groups, and anyone wishing to artistically infringe on the corporate monoculture that destroys our culture and creeps into every corner of our lives.
At the infringement festival, artists and audiences of all backgrounds are invited to create a charged environment where people come together to take chances, push boundaries, explore uncharted territory, and to do so without corporate interference or having to pay any fees. Designed as an arts democracy, the Infringement Festival empowers communities, artists, and audiences to take charge of the culture and use it as a tool for social justice.
The infringement movement was born on June 19, 2001, when the trademarked St. Ambroise Fringe Festival booted the innovative show Car Stories from the festival, allegedly on orders of a corporate sponsor. When artists didn’t receive their ticket sales after paying hefty fees to participate in the now-trademarked “Fringe” Festival, they were outraged.
This sparked off the creation of the infringement movement, an activist and do-it-yourself way of producing the arts based on the original Edinburgh Fringe of 1947. The infringement festival was founded in Montreal in 2004. The infringement festival is mandated to protect grassroots culture by challenging corporate interference and has since been staged in other cities, such as New York, Hamilton, Ottawa, Toronto, Regina, Brooklyn and Buffalo. Incredibly, the festival took root in Buffalo and it currently the largest festival in the city!
The Infringement Festival has also participated at the first two World Fringe Congresses in Edinburgh, Scotland. In an effort to persuade Fringe administrators to start putting artists first, in the tradition of the original Fringe of 1947, Infringement has presented workshops and performances at the Edinburgh Fringe and the World Fringe Congress that are critical of excessive corporate manipulation at Fringe Festivals (e.g. “A World Fringe Philosophy?”).
While artists from Montreal and Buffalo Infringement festivals had hoped to continue to dialogue with Fringe managers about important issues in the arts, their applications were rejected by the Canadian Association of Fringe Festivals (CAFF), hosts of the 2016 Congress being held in Montreal. CAFF has the word “Fringe” locked in a Canada-wide trademark and uses this fact to exclude people from participating in Fringe arts.
To counter the exclusion, not only is the Infringement Festival being offered as an inclusive space, but will also hold the first-ever World Infringement Congress on Saturday, November 19, to examine issues that tend to get glossed over at the original event and to provide a platform for the excluded artists to voice their concerns.
Furthermore, the Montreal Infringement Festival has issued a debate invitation to CAFF to engage in a Canadian parliamentary-style debate about its trademark on the word “Fringe” and the resulting exclusion of artists.
Through these strategies, the Montreal Infringement Festival aims to challenge the Fringe trademark and spark an important dialogue about finding concrete ways to protect artists and culture from excessive corporate interference.
Hopefully the Fringe administrators come with an open mind. By taking advantage of this exceptional opportunity, they can learn how to better protect artists and find ways to prevent corporations from compromising what was once an authentic, grassroots, artist-driven festival.
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