Montreal’s infamous infringement festival runs June 17 – 21!

When Montreal artists protested the trademarking of the word “Fringe” in 2004 with an “infringement festival”, they never expected their activist gesture would blossom into the international movement of rabble-rousing festivals it has become today. Rejecting corporate models that co-opt culture to reduce artists to advertising and spectators to consumers, the infringement festival promotes the arts as a tool for creative activism and community-building.

For its 12th edition, the Montreal infringement festival will once again welcome dozens of critical artists from Montreal and abroad! Running from June 17 – 21, this year’s infringement features an eclectic mix of burlesque dancers, actors, musicians, storytellers, spoken word artists, painters, poets, activists, filmmakers, culture-jammers  and artistic visionaries!

Celebrating innovation, independence and critical thinking, these artists come together in a multi-cultural, bilingual and inclusive environment. Rejecting corporate manipulation in the arts, the Montreal infringement festival encourages artists and culture-lovers to join the global, Do-It-Yourself movement!

Based on the original Edinburgh Fringe Festival of 1947, which was a protest by arts-activists against exclusion and elitism, the infringement movement insists on authenticity by adhering to a mandate that protects the festivals from corporate abuse. This year the global infringement movement is especially thrilled to welcome a new festival, the Columbia Infringement Festival, into the fold. Emily Olyarchuk, based at the University of South Carolina, originally founded the festival as a senior thesis project, however it has since grown into a meaningful community event.

“We could not be prouder,” said Donovan King, founder of the international infringement festival movement. “What started off as a small protest in Montreal has blossomed into a global movement of cultural resistance,” said King, “and for that we have to thank artists like Emily Olyarchuk, who was inspired by the Buffalo Infringement Festival so exported the concept to her university. It’s exciting to see the infringement movement spread!”

Since starting in Montreal in 2004, the infringement festival has taken root in Buffalo and Columbia and also appeared in cities such as Brooklyn, Manhattan, Ottawa, Toronto, Hamilton, Regina, and Bordeaux, France.

The festival welcomes anyone who wishes to artistically infringe on the monoculture and oppression that creeps into every corner of our lives. The festival welcomes organizers (volunteer collaborators), artists of all stripes, and people who want to do both! Click on Get Involved to learn how to participate!

Finally, there is a new challenge in the global objective of protecting the word “Fringe” from corporate abuses (such as trademarking and charging artists money to use the word): the World Fringe Congress is moving locations in 2016.

Generally, every two years a World Fringe Congress is held and infringers attend to challenge the ongoing commercialization of the Fringe. While there is no Congress being held in 2015, plans are afoot to attend next year, when the 3rd edition is held at a Fringe Festival outside Edinburgh, Scotland.

Last summer infringement founder Donovan King attended the Congress in Edinburgh, where he crossed paths with Fringe trademark holders from the Canadian Association of Fringe Festivals, sparking off a heated debate. King demanded to know why the CAFF broke their own mandate by not paying Fringe artists their hard-earned ticket sales in 2001, when experimental show “Car Stories” was kicked out of the Montreal Fringe Festival. Despite paying hundreds of dollars in “registration fees”, the artists never saw a penny of their ticket sales after a week long-run, when their show was unceremoniously expelled from the festival, allegedly on orders of a corporate sponsor. The CAFF treasurer, Kathy Navackas, offered no explanation.

King also presented his Critical Report from the World Fringe Congress at the PBH Free Fringe (Edinburgh, Scotland), as well as at the Harlequin Fayre (Norwich, England) and Ballinamore Free Fringe (Ballinamore, Ireland). These festivals are all similar to the infringement in that they challenge corporate manipulation in the arts and they put the rights of the artists first.

Overall, infringers are working for positive changes in their arts communities. By rejecting corporate models that co-opt the arts, by creating viable, artist-run alternative festivals, and by challenging the corporate stakeholders who would exploit “Fringe” arts and transform artists into commodities, infringers are calling for nothing less than a revolution in the arts world!”