This article originally ran in the owen sound sun times on july 14, 2021

Written by James Keelaghan


In my third year as Artistic Director of Summerfolk, my family and I decided that we would do something different. Usually the four of us would just fold ourselves into a hotel room, but the boys were getting bigger and needed a bit more space. We rented an RV from a local company and we parked it at Harrison Park for the week of setup and the festival.

I’d visited Harrison Park before. You can’t come to Owen Sound and not pay a visit, though it manages to stay discrete.There’s no other urban park in Ontario like it. The Park is like your favourite uncle or aunt — comforting, not demanding and way more fun than the parks that resemble your parents.

I wasn’t acquainted with Harrison Park until that week when we stayed there. All the camping spots are shady and cool. In the evening, when you are cooking out, the sound of the bass band wafts up from the bandshell. There’s hardly ever a wait for the showers and for the kids, well it is one huge playground. The best thing is that you are only a short kayak, bike or walk to downtown. Heck, you can even camp and use public transit to get around.

That’s a part of what makes Harrison Park a jewel. What seals the deal is that it has mini golf!

It also has a connection to Summerfolk in that the very same Harrison family that endowed the park to Owen Sound, were the originators of the Summerfolk Music and Crafts Festival.

So it would appear that fate and good taste dictate that we set up a couple of venues in Harrison Park for Summerfolk 46. The first stage will be south of the basketball courts near the bandshell and the Harrison Park Inn, the second will be at the Black History Cairn on the northern end of the park.

In order to comply with public health regulations, we have to fence off our stages to create an area where we can determine occupancy in compliance with the public health guidelines. At the present time, each of the stage areas will be able to hold 100 patrons, safely spaced. At these venues, you’ll be able to be unmasked when sitting but will have to mask up while moving around the venue.

Who is it you’ll see at these two stages? Well, there will be six performers on the two stages over the course of the weekend. Let me highlight two of them.

Emm Gryner is not a flash in the pan. She has been many things in the 25 years she’s been in the music industry — an author, a coach and sometimes a CBC radio personality. First and foremost though, she has been a singer and a songwriter. From her debut album, And Distrust It, in 1995 to 2020’s Just For You, Gryner has excelled at producing insightful, relevant, pop music. She’s done it all as an independent artist, with one brief sour experience with a major label. Unfettered by the expectations of the corporate model, she’s had the latitude to immerse herself in life-expanding projects, like helping make the first music video in outer space or touring the world with David Bowie, appearing on the albums Bowie at The Beeb, Glastonbury 2000 and others. 

The past few years dealt her some unexpected blows and challenges, but in the Emm Gryner way, she’s turned it into a book, The Healing Power of Singing: Raise Your Voice, Change Your Life (What Touring With David Bowie, Single Parenting and Ditching The Music Business Taught Me in 25 Easy Steps). 

Oh yeah, she’s also the only person I know who was an answer in a NYT crossword puzzle. Emm will be playing the Harrison Park South Stage on August 22 at 1 PM.

Alysha Brilla has been a favourite of the Summerfolk audiences since she first joined us seven years ago. Emm and Alysha share some of the same back story — the lure of the major label followed by taking the leap of faith into independence. Both created their own record labels and have followed their muse rather than a music executive.      .

Her parents are from two different cultural and religious backgrounds– a Muslim Indo-Tanzanian father who immigrated to Canada and a Christian European Settler-Canadian mother. Brilla pulls from her multicultural heritage to create performances that transform audiences into communities. She has the unique ability to take the particular and make it universal — doing it all with an infectious beat and sinuous vocals.

Alysha Brilla will perform on the Harrison Park Cairn stage on Sunday, Aug 22nd.

The Summerfolk Music and Crafts Festival happens Aug 21st and 22nd at Harrison Park and all around Owen Sound. For information visit us at

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