Co-founding Myths with Christian Pelletier
In some ways, Up Here has a life of its own now that it’s going on five years. But it started somewhere, and one of the people who started it was Christian Pelletier (along with co-founders Jen McKerral and Maggie Frampton). So, I sat down with Christian to learn a bit more about where he came from and an insider look at the festival from his perspective.
Did you grow up in Sudbury?
I actually grew up in Sault Ste. Marie and moved here when I was 13. Sudbury was the coolest place in the world when I was a kid. IT HAD SCIENCE NORTH! I feel like I always kind of had an outsider eye on Sudbury, even though I’ve spent most of my life here.
What was your experience like growing up francophone in Sudbury?
Like a lot of people, I definitely grew up thinking that my French wasn’t good enough. It wasn’t until midway through high school that I really started connecting with the whole Franco-Ontarian counter-culture, reading Patrice Desbiens, hanging out at the Morgue (Konflit’s now demolished jam space behind the McKenzie Library), and seeing punk groups like Varge! That stuff blew my mind and I realized that franco-ontarian culture didn’t have to be boring and sterile—it could be full of piss and vinegar.
You’ve been involved with Up Here from the very beginning. Looking back: What are some of the skills you’ve learned?
Aw man. Good question. Collaboration. Sticking to your gun. Not being afraid to share the big vision with a lot of people. Steal ideas from other festivals, because even if you try to copy them, you’ll end up making them your own. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Make mistakes. When you don’t know where to start, just start. Make more mistakes. Don’t be afraid to dive head first and learn things. Be curious. Unlearn things. Surround yourself with brilliant people. Care a lot about what you’re doing, but also don’t give too much of a fuck. Learn to let go of things. Try not to micromanage (still working on this one).
Who has impressed you most with what they’ve accomplished?
Hmmm, probably Jen-freaking-McKerral. When we first started talking about starting this festival in 2014, we said to ourselves, “We need someone like Jen,” and she said “Yes” right away and hasn’t stopped since. She is a force of nature, a mentor, a friend, and one of the funnest people I’ve ever had a chance to work with.
How do you describe the festival to people who have never been?
Up Here is a festival for people who hate festivals. It’s intimate enough for you to see amazing acts up close. It’s a festival for people who are curious and want to discover new things (which I’d argue is all of us, but some of us don’t know it yet).
Since announcing the lineup, what have you been listening to?
ESG. All ESG. All the time. God, I can’t believe they’re coming to Sudbury for their last Canadian show ever. It’s going to be so awesome.
Is there a particular show you’re really excited about this year?
Reykjavikurdaetur is going to be awesome. Icelandic women’s hip hop collective? I mean, c’mon!
What’s your life like during the first two weeks of August when you’re planning for the festival?
A lot of running around, strange phone calls, and accumulating parking tickets.
What’s the strangest emergency you’ve had to deal with?
Waking up to a Level 3 Toxic Emergency from Vale the first day of the festival in 2015. That was weird.
What’s the strangest request from an artist you’ve gotten so far?
A surfboard with no fin for Rich Aucoin.
What is the most impressive thing you know how to do?
Convince people that I know what I’m doing when really I’m scared shitless.