Best Arts and Culture Summer Festivals in BC

Fill your festival calendar this summer with some of BC's best creative talent

BC’s summer festivals offer a rich mix of local culture, creativity and art. Fill your calendar with these top picks and celebrate the province’s best creative works

With more than 24,000 artists in residence, more than any other province in Canada, BC has a unique cultural footprint, and every community expresses its creativity in its own way.

BC's summer arts and culture festivals celebrate the best in local talent – so pick your preference, whether it's dance, music, theatre, artisan crafts, or even the art of winemaking (and of course, wine drinking), and you're sure to find a festival or two for you.

Here are a few to start with.

Bard on the Beach Shakespeare Festival

May 31 – September 22?

Enjoy the works of Shakespeare performed under a canopy of lofty canvas, and set against the backdrop of mountains and ocean in Vanier Park.

The Bard on the Beach delights audiences with The Taming of the Shrew (May 31 to September 22), which runs in repertory with Macbeth (June 13 to September 20) in the BMO 742-seat mainstage tent (open-ended).

The 240-seat Douglas Campbell Studio Stage tent presents The Merry Wives of Windsor (June 28 to September 21) in repertory with King John (July 11 to September 19).

Special events include: Bard Explored: Lecture Series (June 23, July 14, and August 1 & 4); a wine-tasting on August 18 after the matinee and before the evening performances; Bard B-Q & Fireworks: salmon, no-host bar and the Celebration of Light viewing, July 28, August 1 & 4.

30th Annual Sunshine Coast Festival of the Written Arts

August 16-19

A full slate of outstanding Canadian writing talent will be on hand at the Sunshine Coast Festival of the Written Arts, including long-time festival favourites Peter Robinson and Wayson Choy. The lineup of Canadian talent includes: five female novelists, two world-class poets, three big league mystery writers, and a broad sampling of BC's best non-fiction and memoir writers.

Self-published authors also offer a wide range of genres from humour, mystery and history, to picture books, spiritual, physical fitness, and more.

Enjoy some high-energy jazz, the "Big Tent" (the place to buy literary goods, including autographed books), and a wide selection of festival fashions and souvenirs. Watch for daily contests at the Rockwood Gardens.

30th Anniversary Filberg Festival

August 3–6

The stunning 9-acre waterfront Filberg Heritage Lodge and Park, a designated Heritage Site, is the location for the Filberg Festival. With over 120 artisans from across Canada, the Filberg Festival features everything from pottery, woodcraft, and metalwork to original paintings, jewellery, textiles home and garden décor and more.

One-of-a-kind items are plentiful, as is a showcase of specialty foods from soups and sauces to gourmet confections. Guest artist Mary Fox will be in attendance alongside her exhibit.

Spirit of the West kicks off the festival's musical lineup, followed by big-name acts like Barney Bentall, Shari Ulrich and JUNO award-winning jazz artist Phil Dwyer (to name a few), with the Great Canadian Songs Concert closing the event.

Pacific Rim Summer Festival

July 1-15
Tofino and Ucluelet

The Pacific Rim Arts Society presents the Pacific Rim Summer Festival, a world-class art and entertainment festival featuring music, dance, theatre and film. The celebrations kick off on Canada Day, followed by Monday night movies in Tofino.

Highlights include: John Reischman and the Jaybirds with special guests, July 3; Wednesday nights "under the stars" outdoor foreign films at the Botanical gardens; theatre in the park with a First Nations visual arts and storytelling installation production; Clayoquot writer's group at the Wickaninnish Inn and Pablo Cardenas on piano at the Clayoquot sound theatre in Tofino.

Barney Bentall headlines at Black Rock Ocean Front Resort, July 12; Jaffa Road world music from Toronto, July 13, and Ballet Victoria, July 14. The festival wraps with a top-notch marionette show from Poland, July 15 in Ucluelet.

Annual Summer Okanagan Wine Festival

July 7-15
South and Central Okanagan

Sip, savour, and spit your way around the Okanagan during the Summer Okanagan Wine Festival. Kelowna and various communities throughout the South and Central region play host to 30 intoxicating eclectic events.

Highlights include: The Kick-off – Valley First Pops the Cork (over 30 wines, cheese and music in Kelowna's Cultural District), July 7; Music on the Mountain at Thornhaven, July 7 & 15; Okanagan Art and Wine Exhibition Featuring local artist Tammy Jackson at Wild Goose Vineyards, July 7; Artists in Action at House of Rose Winery, July7/8 & 14/15; The Winetender Mixology Face-off (bartenders concoct a BC wine/spirits beverage), July 12; Quails' Gate Dinner in the Vineyard (harvest table set between the vineyard rows), July 14.

Experience Kelowna Wine Trails before and after the festival (five trails, over 200 wineries).

9th Annual ArtsWells Festival of All Things Art

August 3–6
Wells and Barkerville

Learn everything from beat boxing, Ukrainian dance, and lyric writing, to laughter yoga and much more at over 20 different workshops at the ArtsWells Festival of All Things Art.

An inspiring collaboration of all things art, the festival showcases over 100 musical performances on nine stages including folk, jazz, country, funk, hip-hop, electronic, world, pop, and roots to name a few. Take in screenings of independent films as well as local theatre productions and the 12th International One Minute Play Festival.

A visual ArtWalk around Wells and an artisan market are favourites among past festival-goers. Activities for children, a crafting station, stage and workshops keep kids involved. More ArtsWells musical acts are in Barkerville Historic Town.

Kaslo Jazz Etc. Summer Music Festival

August 3–5

When a floating stage is nestled on the shoreline of Kootenay Lake, coupled with musical genres like blues, funk, soul, world, Latin and jazz, you know you're in for something special. The Kaslo Jazz Etc. Summer Music Festival hosts top names and newly discovered acts in a unique natural amphitheatre, surrounded by pristine wilderness.

One highlight among many is multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Taj Mahal, one of the most prominent and influential figures in late 20th century blues and roots music, August 3.

Vendors include craft and food booths and an on-site beer garden that supports local breweries and vineyards. Check out the artisan and farmers market on Saturday and Sunday at Front Street Park.

Edge of the World Music Festival

August 10-12
Haida Gwaii

Festival organizers say the Edge of the World Music Festival on Haida Gwaii should be on your bucket list. The festival opens and closes with traditional Haida song and dance, and musical acts performing First Nations, world beat, electronica, blues, country, rock, reggae, and more.

Expect eclectic music from headliners and featured performers such as FM Hi Low, Alseny Diallo and Kikeyambay (performing its West African drum and dance show), C.R. Avery, The Broken Mirrors, Road Engine Dreams, West My Friend, Aurora Jane, Maria in the Shower and The Pernell Reichert Band.

Look for merchandise and food vendors, fringe performances such as fire spinning, a children's area, and diverse workshops by local talent. The Annual Lantern Parade, inspired by long-time festival contributor Joanne Hayward, marks its 6th year; EOTW 2012 is dedicated to her memory and cancer awareness.