Guide to SkirtsAfire 2024

Feb 29, 2024

SkirtsAfire Festival began (as so many good ideas do) with red wine, popcorn, and some brilliant women! The festival was created to address the gender inequity that women artists were experiencing in the theatre community and larger multidisciplinary arts communities, from lack of roles for women to a disparity within leadership positions. SkirtsAfire was built to create opportunities for women in the arts and to highlight the diversity of their stories. In conjunction with International Women’s Day, this year's 11-day programming features a wide array of passionate, transformative, and engaging women-led performances, workshops, and exhibits.

Starting out on Alberta Avenue, the festival has grown and evolved over the 12 years it has been running. Since 2012, SkirtsAfire has produced over 182 shows, 24 workshops, 24 exhibits, and given opportunities to over 1455 women. Additionally, over 21,860 audience members have visited the festival!

Something else I’m super excited about is our guest show, Speaking Vibrations. Told through ASL song and poetry, percussive dance, movement, spoken word, and song, while using creative captions, vibrotactile devices, and audio description, this show welcomes audiences who are Deaf, hard of hearing, hearing, Blind, and DeafBlind. It is the most accessible show ever seen at the festival.

In our hopes to continue removing barriers and inviting more communities to the festival, SkirtsAfire will also feature two additional ASL-interpreted performances for Mermaid Legs and a brand new show called Nehiyaw Nikamowina ᓀᐦᐃᔭᐤ. Nehiyaw Nikamowina ᓀᐦᐃᔭᐤ is a Cree language concert curated by Connie LeGrande and her daughter, Cheyenne Rain LeGrande. Bringing shows like Speaking Vibrations and Nehiyaw Nikamowina ᓀᐦᐃᔭᐤ to the festival this year serves as a powerful reminder of the crucial role language plays in understanding and respecting other cultures. Historically, many were punished for speaking their languages, and speaking them now is a way of celebrating cultures and honouring those who were stripped from these rights.

This is my first year working with the festival. I came to the festival as a patron in 2020. I was brand new to the city and had been attending anything and everything to get to know the community better. The first thing I saw at the festival was a staged reading, and I was blown away by the writing. I had only planned to attend one event, but after leaving, I decided to check out everything I could. When I hear artists talk about the festival, I'm often told that they love SkirtsAfire because it's a welcoming space for all, and I truly understand that. From a past patron to now the Artistic Producer, SkirtsAfire was the first place where I felt I belonged. I can only hope to continue this tradition, because I know Edmonton is a better place with SkirtsAfire. I hope to support women in their journeys in this industry, and I want women in the arts to know that they can find a home here.