Charitable Choices: Desmond Murphy of Calgary Folk Music Festival

Calgary Folk Music Festival (CFMF) is an integral part of the Calgary music scene. Running for 45 years, its foundation has been its volunteers. We connected with long-time volunteer Desmond Murphy to learn more about the importance of this organization and the role it has in the local arts and culture of Calgary.

Calgary Folk Music Festival

Describe your charity/non-profit/volunteer work in a few sentences.

My volunteer role with the CFMF is threefold: 1) to share in the oversight of the volunteer crews under the Volunteer Services management area, along with another volunteer Manager and two CFMF staff people; and 2) to aid in the recruitment and training of new volunteers, by helping to facilitate general volunteer orientations and new coordinator training, and to recruit and interview prospective new crew coordinators; and 3) to help all of the other volunteer crews during the festival weekend with problem-solving, including tasks such as finding replacement volunteers for no-show volunteers, dealing with volunteer discipline issues that arise, and even ensuring the “tarp run” goes smoothly. My volunteer work occurs over 7 or 8 months spanning the summer festival.

What problem does it aim to solve?

The CFMF is not an organization with a stated purpose of solving a problem; rather, the CFMF aims to provide the Calgary community with an eclectic and family-friendly music and cultural festival in the heart of our city’s downtown on beautiful Prince’s Island, in order to contribute positively to the city. In my opinion, the CFMF is one of North America’s premier music festivals, showcasing amazing artists from our own backyard and from around the world. The CFMF has been showcasing Calgary and building community spirit for 45 years this year, and it could not happen without the 1800+ volunteers who make this event such a success every year.

When did you start/join it?

I’m not sure exactly when I started volunteering for CFMF, but it’s been at least 28 years. In that time I’ve never missed a festival! My wife was also involved as a volunteer for more than 25 years, and our two children “grew up” at the festival and both became volunteers when they reached the age of 13. For several years we were fortunate to be able to volunteer together as a family on the same crew, assembling volunteer t-shirts, badges and other items into volunteer packages.

What made you want to get involved?

I was a big music fan, and a relatively recent arrival to the city, when a work colleague, who was a CFMF volunteer, suggested that I might like to volunteer as well. I enjoyed my first year of volunteering, and two things have kept me coming back every year: the sense of community and common purpose, and the wonderful people I have met along the way. By the way…that work colleague? I set him up with a woman who was on my volunteer crew in year 2 or 3, and they have been happily married now for close to 25 years! That is the magic of the wonderful community of volunteers at CFMF.

What was the situation like when you started?

When I started, the CFMF seemed to be floundering, after a few years in a row of heavy rains during the festival negatively affecting ticket sales. It was a smaller event, held on Friday evening and Saturday (I think). The Main Stage at the time was a temporary structure. At the time there were fewer than 500 volunteers and far fewer patrons.

How has it changed since?

The CFMF is now a 4-day event, running Thursday through Sunday on the 4th weekend of July every year. There is now permanent infrastructure to support the CFMF on Prince’s Island, including a permanent covered concrete Main Stage, overlooking a grassy field, which regularly holds close to 10,000 music lovers. There are now 6 “side stages” which hold smaller jam sessions (called “workshops”) and concerts throughout the day, including a “free” stage where music is available for the public at no cost. There is also now an alternative Main Stage, called the Twilight Stage, at the opposite end of the park to give patrons more musical choices. There are now 1800+ volunteers contributing their time to ensure a successful annual festival, and the festival itself now is a summer highlight for many Albertans. Some years are better than others in terms of ticket sales, but every year at least one or two of the four days is a sell-out, the revenue from which goes toward booking world-class bands and artists. In my opinion, the festival has grown over my years of involvement to become one of two of Calgary’s biggest and most coveted summer events. As well, the CFMF also now has a mid-winter mini-festival called Block Heater, held in February every year.

What more needs to be done?

More Calgarians should support the CFMF because in doing that, they are supporting local arts and culture, and most importantly supporting live music by exceptionally talented artists. In this day and age where people stream music, artists who are not megastars have a hard time making a living, and playing live music is one of the ways they can connect with audiences and get their music “out there”. The CFMF showcases many of these lesser-known artists.

How can our readers help?

Readers can get their 4-day passes for the 45th Anniversary of the Calgary Folk Music Festival coming this July 25-28, 2024! Readers can also sign up to volunteer for the CFMF.

Do you have any events coming up?

The 45th Anniversary of the Calgary Folk Music Festival is coming this July 25-28, 2024.

Where can we follow you?


PAY IT FORWARD: What is an awesome local charity that you love?

Presently, because it’s top of mind, I want to shout out about CKUA Radio, Canada’s oldest public broadcaster (older than the CBC). CKUA relies 100% on listener donations, and presently they need to raise $3,000,000 by September or they will have to close their doors. CKUA is a gem in Alberta (and around the planet on the internet), and I like to say that they play “the other 99% of the music available that commercial radio stations don’t play.” They also typically sponsor the CFMF.