In the Soil Arts Festival is proud to once again partner with Brock University in delivering the 9th edition of the fest. Not only are many of our 2017 festival artists former or current students, faculty and alumni of Brock programs; when we got to thinking about it, if it wasn’t for Brock, we wouldn’t be here. (Or at least not right here on the cusp of this ambitious year nine).

OK, so here it is straight up.

The festival was cofounded by six people, all Brock grads: three from the Dramatic Arts, two from Communications and Culture, and one from Philosophy.

To go even further, In the Soil is produced by Suitcase in Point, a theatre company founded by a handful of Brock grads who decided to make St. Catharines their home fifteen years ago. We chose to stay. It was a choice not to leave after graduating to pursue our careers in the arts in larger urban centres.

And here we still are.

Photo by Stan Lapinski

Our experience at Brock was unique, at least we think so. We got to know each other. We got to develop relationships with our community, with our professors, with other emerging and established artists. We got to make things happen. And our community and our university embraced us.

When we founded In the Soil in 2009, Centre for the Arts at Brock University graciously hosted our culminating showcase at their theatre for the first few years. Debbie Slade, former Director at the Centre, remains an instrumental voice of our early years, encouraging us to think outside the box and innovate at every corner.

From RHIZOMES; photo by Jamie Duncan

When Brock opened the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts last year — right in the downtown core! — faculty and staff eagerly worked with us to host RHIZOMES at their brand spanking new, beautiful, and impressive facility. And we are thrilled to be back again this year. If you haven’t experienced RHIZOMES, check out the choose-your-own-art-adventure here.

We’ve also been fortunate enough to work in partnership with the Rodman Hall Arts Centre on an interactive arts workshop led by artist and Brock professor Donna Akrey in conjunction with her exhibition Also Also; participants will be lead in making and transforming common materials into assembled sculptures that speak to urban environments, language and communication, and the “power of the habitual”. Find out more here.

This year, Brock stepped up even more as a Premium Harvester Sponsor in support of a very special In the Soil Arts Festival presentation of A.N. Myer Secondary School’s GNAW Friday 6pm in the Robertson Theatre. As the 2017 recipients of In the Soil Arts Festival award at the Niagara Sears Drama Festival, these emerging theatre makers will share their work with Soil audiences as part of our theatre showcase.

From “GNAW”

Brock and In the Soil have also treated A.N. Meyer’s budding performers and crew with all-access festival passes, providing access into all festival events. Together, we hope to encourage youth to engage in the arts in Niagara and provide a place to “experience creativity,” as Brock offers with so many of its programs. We hope they have the very best time and are inspired for years to come.

So, thanks Brock. For supporting the festival, for engaging the community, and for believing in your students.

— Annie Wilson, Natasha Pedros, & Deanna Jones


Music at the Merch has been a staple of the fest ever since there was a fest – and before that too. Suitcase in Point performed their very first cabaret show there 15 years ago, and now the team at The Merchant Ale House have come on board yet again as a 15th Season Sponsor and festival partner.

For those few not in the know, The Merchant Ale House is a local, independent microbrewery in St. Catharines, and one of In the Soil’s main venues. Start at 6pm on Friday, there will be music acts – both local and touring – playing their intimate stage until well into the night. If you’re more of a day concert person, you can head over Saturday at 12pm to catch the first set, and hang around until 2am, when things start to wind down. It’s the place to go for music at the fest – once you’ve checked out the main Festival Hub stage – and to get a pint of local brew.

Omar Shabbar has been involved with the fest as both a musician and volunteer for 6 years – last year he was the venue manager at the Merch and this year his band Century Thief will be there ripping it up on Friday night. He also grew up local and is the brother of the fest’s fabulous Volunteer Coordinator, Anah Shabbar. Keep on reading for an interview with Omar, where he shares some insights on his time as a volunteer and performer, growing up in the Niagara music scene, and what he’s looking forward to this year!


Can you tell me a bit about your work as a musician? 

I’ve been playing music with different acts for about 15 years – playing guitar, bass, banjo, and singing. My main act right now is my band – we’re called Century Thief. We’ve been together for around 7 years and we’ve toured out east and throughout Ontario. We’re about to come out with our second album and that’s what we’ll be playing at In the Soil this year. I also got the SWC music award when I graduated (:

How did you get involved with volunteering at the festival?

I’ve been volunteering or performing at In the Soil for around 6 years now. Last year, my band Century Thief was focusing on recording our second album, so we weren’t able to play. Of course, I wanted to still be involved in the festival some how so I asked to be a venue manager. It also helps that my sister is the volunteer co-ordinator.

How do you find working both as a musician and in more producer/manager roles? Do these intersect or conflict with each other?

Well I don’t manage/produce often so I’ve never really had any problems with conflicts. I do put on shows sometimes with my sister under our arts collective Greenbelt Arts, which we co-founded. A lot of those shows I’d book and play and do sound at and, while it’s a lot to do at once, it’s always fun.

What is a typical day or night working as venue manager at the Merch like? What’s the best thing about it? What’s the hardest thing about it?

I should start by saying Merch is my favourite bar in the city (as per most people in St. Catharines) so working there is easy and fun. Adding live music to the equation is bound to be good. Last year I was able to meet a lot of great musicians and make new and meaningful connections. The best thing is a tie between the beer and the music. The hardest thing about it is people who don’t understand the value of paying cover – the money goes to the musicians and it’s so so so important to support local musicians.

What are you looking forward to as a performing this In the Soil? 

Merch. Friends. Family. Home. I live in Toronto but I’m from St. Catharines so playing in St. Catharines has always been important to me. I know it’ll be a great night.

Can you tell me a bit about growing up in the Niagara music scene? What’s it like coming back?

Yeah, I mean the festival is really unique. I think everyone’s attitude is what makes it so special. It’s as if you’re buddies with everyone, even if you don’t know anyone. There’s no salty, “high horse” attitudes that you find in too many festivals and shows.

Growing up in St. Catharines, the music scene was pretty bleak. With the venues, promoters and everyone (myself included) trying to rip off alexisonfire, it was hard to play any meaningful shows. The good part is the people I met and still play with to this day; some of my favourite musicians are from the region. There’s a certain sound they have that – to me – is instantly recognizable as Niagara. This obviously could be different for other people growing up but that was at least my experience. Since then, it’s basically been a 180. There are really unique venues and people come out to shows because they’re genuinely interested in hearing new music, not just interested in draws, money, or abiding to a certain sound. I’ve played in a fare share of cities in Ontario and out east to know this kind of welcoming atmosphere mixed with the amount of amazing musicians is hard to come by. In the Soil is the epitome of this.

Make sure to check out Century Thief Friday night at 9pm, and stick around to catch more of over 20 acts playing The Merchant Ale House stage this weekend. Check out the festival schedule for more!

St. Catharines is exploding with local talent! In the Soil isn’t just a place for artists, musicians, and performers to share their work – the Vendor Bender also showcases amazing artisans from St. Catharines and the surrounding areas. From woodwork to skincare to upcycled fashion and jewellery, Vender Bender 2017 is bound to be another fantastic marketplace for local and independent creators. This is all thanks to the incredible team at the Craft Arts Market, who have come on board as a community partner! Since opening, the Craft Arts Market has skyrocketed the profile of artisanal talent, providing a place year-round for makers to showcase and sell their wares. It’s never been easier to buy locally and sustainably, and Craft Arts Market is the place to go for anything from home deco to some of the finest coffee in the province.

We’re thrilled beyond belief to have Craft as one of our festival partners, and as one of our 15th Season Sponsors. This year, the Craft Arts Market and In the Soil are working together on a bender chock-full of amazing local artisans. The fine folks at Craft have curated each of the vendors – a few of which appear in their shop year-round! Check out our Vendor Bender page, and read on for more details:

Scent House’s amazing soaps!

Scent House

Scent House is an artisan soap company based in Hamilton, where they hand make gentle soaps with coconut oil. No lard or other animal fats allowed!

Road to Happy

From downtown St. Catharines, Road to Happy are the makers of colourful handmade curiosities, with specialization in aromatherapy and gemstone creations.


Some pieces by Nefarious

Also from downtown St. Catharines, Nefarious lovingly hand make clothing from lightweight and recycled fabrics.

Sarah’s Soaps

Sarah’s Soaps is a small batch vegan skincare company, specializing in simple and natural skincare using essential oils, fresh fruit and vegetables, and fine herbs.

Wild Blue Yonder

Pieces by Wild Blue Yonder

Founded by Amber Aasman, Wild Blue Yonder is a handmade jewellery company celebrating wood, the earth, and adventures in the beautiful Canadian wild. Their unique pieces use reclaimed materials, lumber scraps, and fragments of wood, bark, and lichen found in nature.

Worldscapes Fine Art Photography

Sergei Chriqui is a fine art photographer based in St. Catharines, who works on canvas, art paper, and photographic paper. Sergei’s work is always “chasing the light fantastic!”.


A natural wood succulent holder by Timberfolk

The folks at Timberfolks create natural wood succulent holders (succulents included!), cheese boards, and coasters. You can all check them out at the Craft Arts Market!

This & That Design Co.

This mother-daughter team from Hamilton make beautiful pouches and makeup in colourful fabrics and prints.

Gusset Leather

Gusset is a small leather-craft operation based in Burlington, where they create unique, durable, and gorgeous pieces. They specialize in messenger bags, satchels, purses, wallets, and belts.

Some adorable felt cacti from It’s All My Felt

It’s All My Felt

Based in St. Catharines, It’s All My Felt makes one of a kind handcrafted needle decorations, nursery mobiles, oil diffusers, and accent pieces from 100% wool felt.

MJ Dickson Woodwork

MJ Dickson is a St. Catharines-based woodworker, who specializes in both furniture and smaller pieces. He’ll be showing serving and cutting boards, coasters, hand-turned bowls, and other pieces at the fest!

Vendor Bender hours are from 5pm-9pm Friday night, and 11am-5pm Saturday and Sunday! Come get yourself some goodies and stick around to check out a free show at the Festival Hub!



In the Soil is just over a week away! If you’re having trouble planning all the ins and outs of your festival weekend (with over 150 things to see and do, honestly, who’d blame you?) the founders and organizers of In the Soil have shared their top fest picks for 2017:

Annie Wilson, Co-founder / Artistic Producer
Pick: Festival Launch

Annie with Brittany Brooks

I’m most excited for the Festival Launch because our good friends from The Woodshed Orchestra will share a special performance of their album Guest Book and feature a heaping group of talent, including a cameo from my dear pals Brittany Brooks and Aaron Berger. Launching begins at 5:30pm!


Joe Lapinski, Co-founder / Musical Director
Pick: The Rheostatics

The first time I saw The Rheos were back in 1993, at the Hideaway in North St. Catharines.  To say the least, it was a life-changing moment for me on many levels.  Guitars that sounds like whales? A drummer playing indie-rock, but could easily be transplanted into a Thelonious Monk inspired jazz act? Punk-rock meets Prog-rock meets The Beach Boys?  Songs about the ‘burbs and being Canadian? YES PLEASE!  You too can live a moment like that, with the original line-up of the band.  The Festival Hub Stage, Friday 28 April, 9:30pm.  FREEEEE!


Sara Palmieri, Co-founder / Collaborator
Pick: Saturday Morning at the Hub

After all these years of being part of In the Soil, it’s hard to just pick one event. The joy of the festival is in the surprise of coming across something that you weren’t expecting. One thing I always love is Saturday mornings – free yoga with the lovely Tracy Duru from Moksha Yoga with the music of Dr. Khan on tabla (it wouldn’t be Soil without Dr. Khan). Plus I love the massive band parade that kicks off at the Library – always puts a smile on my face to see all ages, getting musically pumped for the day ahead!

Natasha Pedros, Co-founder / Visuals + Collaborator

Watching RHIZOMES grow from that first year at the Old Courthouse in 2014 has been amazing. Before we launched RHIZOMES, Dee, Annie, Sara and I travelled to Ottawa to collaborate with our friends at FixtPoint to present a multi-media performance piece called Stor(y)age at Subdevision (part of the 2013 Magnetic North Theatre Festival). We were so excited by the format and the experience, we had to adapt if for Soil. I love seeing how each artist responds to the challenge of transforming a space. It’s the best opportunity to see a range of surprising work, and to explore one of the remarkable new buildings in our downtown.


Alex Brown, FOG Manager + Administration
Pick: Rob and Edwin Go to the Bottom of the Sea

Rob and Edwin Go to the Bottom of the Sea is my pick of the year! I am so excited to see this silly and fun sequel to last year’s adventure in space. Buds Rob and Ed crash land in the ocean on their way back from space and they have to rebuild their space ship into a submarine. On their adventure they meet ancient peoples and cowboys and visit the old town of Atlantis. Last year was so hilarious I almost peed my pants. I can’t wait to hear their new songs and laugh uncontrollably again. Check it out at the Oddfellows on Friday at 9pm or Sunday at 2pm.




Rebecca Walsh, Hub Manager
Pick: My Son the Hurricane

My pick of this year’s fest is My Son the Hurricane. Love LOVE their groove and energy. Last time I saw them it was such a dancy, sweaty, bouncy experience and I can’t wait for them to blow the roof off the tent at the Hub this year. Will totally be worth chasing the tent down the street. They are headlining the The Hub on Saturday @ 9pm.





Anah Shabbar, Volunteer Manager / Collaborator
Pick: The Ferns

My pick of the 2017 Festival is……… The Ferns !!! Back in 2012 Kurt, Luke, Duncan and Dave were members in a band called The Bends and played at our Rock n Roll Brunch. Now, five years later, they bring a new sound to In the Soil under the name The Ferns. We often get the chance to see artists grow and develop alongside the Festival and seeing the transition of these young dudes from The Bends to The Ferns is one of my favourite examples.  Don’t miss their performance Saturday Night at 10pm in my fave festival venue: Oddfellows Union Lodge.


Johnny Cann, Technical Director
Pick: Let’s Try This Standing

LET’S TRY THIS STANDING! Gillian Clark is one of my favourite emerging theatre artists from Nova Scotia. Her work is engaging, filled with charm and vulnerability. In Let’s Try This Standing, Gillian’s storytelling is set against a lush background of projections that makes for a solo show experience like no other. Trust me, you will not want to miss this show. This is not just my East Coast bias.




Hayley Malouin, Blog + Social Media
Pick: MSM [men seeking men]

I am so excited for MSM [men seeking men] I might cry before it even starts. Being surrounded by such an incredible and loving arts community, it’s hard to remember sometimes that the wider Niagara region isn’t necessarily as accepting of difference. There are a lot of isolated people in the area for whom this project can be a chance to see themselves reflected onstage, and for others it’s a chance to see into the lives of a community that is marginalized – in this region and others. For me, that’s what art and theatre are about: building community, celebrating difference, and getting to laugh and cry along the way. I’m so pumped.


Deanna Jones, Co-founder / Artistic Director
Pick: The Whole Thing!

My pick is the whole festival! Do it all. Drop in and out of RHIZOMES each day. See a wild and funny musical, Making Love in a Canoe. Catch Bruce McCulloch!  Bop in and out of the Merchant Ale House and see over 20 bands. Go see Men Seeking Men and then walk down to the NAC to dance your bliss into the night! Go to the Central Library Saturday morning with your kids, nephews/nieces, young friends and watch a hilarious acrobatic duo search for dinosaurs. Make seed bombs for your garden! Walk through a cardboard dragon! See Re:Current Theatre’s, This is What I Know at Oddfellows Temple. Stop by Mahtay and listen to literary artists speak their words while sitting “underwater” in an installation by Mackenzie, Lepp and Ring. Go on – get a festival pass and take in as much as you can. It really is going to be a wonderful weekend. I can’t wait.

Make sure to get your festival pass – available at the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre box office – and join us at The Hub Friday night for festival launch!

In the run up to the festival, we will be profiling some of the people who make this whole thing possible: our incredible volunteers. Volunteers are the fertilizer of our festival, and a big part of what makes this community tick. Lily Smith has shared why she loves volunteering, and turning strangers into life long friends!

How many years have you volunteered with In the Soil?
This’ll be my second year volunteering.

Why do you volunteer with In the Soil?
I volunteer because I’ve been enjoying the festival for years and can’t imagine anything quite as fun and rewarding as actually getting to be part of it.

What’s your favourite memory of the festival?
My favourite memory is definitely getting to know the other volunteers and make so many new friends out of total strangers!!

If you’re interested in joining the fun, check out our Volunteer Page – get a festival pass discounted or free, and be a part of an awesome experience!

Calling all kids, or anyone else who wants to make sock puppets and get their face painted: In the Soil is once again going to be packed full of fun and free activities, including music workshops, crafts, theatre, and more! Saturday April 29 is the day for families, with theatre and workshop programming for all ages at the St. Catharines Central Library. Be sure to also check out ongoing events at the Festival Hub and around downtown all weekend! Here’s a taste of what’s in store:

Carousel Players will be showing a workshop performance of their new play Boys, Girls, and Other Mythological Creatures, set to tour schools through April and May. Characters Simon and Abby play dress up and make believe, fighting dragons and turning into mythical beasts, while Simon’s brother Zach has concerns about all this fairy tale business. With themes of imagination, self-expression, gender, and friendship, Boys, Girls, and Other Mythological Creatures is a funny and honest comedy about our ability to imagine and transform.

The Philip and Lucinda Dino-Show

Clown duo Philip and Lucinda will be performing The Philip and Lucinda Dino-Show Saturday morning. Performers and writers Zita Nyarady and Myque Franz combine elements of clown, circus arts, mask, and Commedia Dell’arte in their acrobatic dinosaur adventure. Birdwatchers Philip and Lucinda discover both a book full of dubious facts about dinosaurs and a mystery, and embark on a hilarious Jurassic quest. Be sure to catch this show before Philip and Lucinda embark on another quest, performing in summer festivals across Canada!

All weekend long the Festival Hub will be a-buzz with free family activities and workshops. The Interactive Village is back, with Summer Collective’s Cardboardland Creature, face painting, craft workshops, and more. The PuppetComputer, operated by MeatPuppet Devon James, will be dispensing wisdom to those brave enough and Play: Four Square will transform James St. into a large playground, with a series of recess-reminiscent activities to engage adults and children alike in community play. And, of course, the Massive Band Parade led by music director Joe Lapinski will convene at the Central Library on Saturday at noon for a music-making workshop before setting out on parade to the Hub.

From In the Soil 2016

Tons of other music, art, and theatre events – including a bunch of this year’s RHIZOMES – are also friendly for audiences of all ages, so check out our family scheduling for more info.


Although In the Soil started as primarily a music festival, it has always played a big role in supporting local and emerging theatre groups as well as bringing in work from around the country. With 11 theatre and comedy acts lined up (not including the handful of theatrical pieces involved in the RHIZOMES and Suitcase in Point’s festival-end cabaret) this year is no different. The success of the Performing Arts Centre – still new at just over a year old – and In the Soil’s continuing partnership with Brock University and the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts means there are more venues than ever for theatrical work to blossom, and more chances to see some truly unique local and touring productions. Here’s a brief rundown of what to expect from this year’s theatre and comedy productions.

from MSM [men seeking men] by lemontree Creations

Toronto company lemontree Creations will be presenting MSM [men seeking men], a dance theatre piece that originally debuted at the Toronto Fringe in 2013 to critical acclaim before having its world debut at the 2014 WorldPride Festivities. Inspired by transcripts of conversations between men seeking men online, MSM aims to explore and deconstruct online masculine personas and desire. Audience members are not only allowed but encouraged to use their phones – especially any dating apps they might have – during the performance to connect and talk with locals, fellow audience members, and even the performers themselves.

from Let’s Try This Standing by Keep Good (Theatre) Company

Other incoming productions include Re:Current Theatre’s This Is What I Know, a multimedia stand-up/live art piece about sexuality and coming out, as well as Let’s Try This Standing by Halifax’s Keep Good (Theatre) Company, written and performed by Gillian Clark of Tarragon Theatre’s 2016/17 playwrights unit. Clown duo Philip and Lucinda of The Grand Salto Theatre – who played the festival several years ago – are returning with The Philip and Lucinda Dino-Show, an acrobatic, comedic, family-friendly affair. Kyle Golemba and Alex White will perform their CanCon-cabaret Making Love in a Canoe, full of Canadian references, witticisms, and music.

A number of local companies will be joining the festival, as will a number of faculty members and students from the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts. Stolen Theatre Collective will be presenting The Ash Mouth Man, a collaboratively devised piece directed by Dramatic Arts faculty member Gyllian Raby. Danielle Wilson, also an instructor, will be performing alongside actors Fede Holten-Anderson, Sean McClelland, and Colin Anthes (both McClelland and Anthes are Dramatic Arts graduates). The Ash Mouth Man, a film noir-esque dark comedy about eating disorders and dentistry, debuted in the fall of 2016 in St. Catharines, and incorporates puppetry, music, and dance and physical theatre.

Other local productions include My Dad’s Last Name is Guilt, written and performed by Genevieve Jones, The ADHD Project by Welland theatre collective Squirrel Suit Productions, and GNAW, performed by the Myer’s Masked Marauders theatre troupe from A.N. Myers Secondary School and in partnership with Brock University.

Bonez Poley

There’s some fantastic home-grown comedy acts lined up too, with KO Improv performing their original improv format Everyone is Alex on the Friday night at 11pm, and Bonez Poley delivering her sardonic, testimonial stand-up Sunday at 9pm. And, as always, Suitcase in Point will be closing out the festival with their legendary Dirty Cabaret. We hope to see you there on Sunday night to put another fantastic festival weekend to bed, but, before you do, be sure to indulge in the explosion of theatrical work all weekend long.

-Hayley Malouin, Social Media

Some of Andrew’s work from last year’s fest!

In the run up to the festival, we will be profiling some of the people who make this whole thing possible: our incredible volunteers. Volunteers are the fertilizer of our festival, and a big part of what makes this community tick. If you’ve been to the fest before, then you’ll have seen some of Andrew’s amazing chalk art, which he does on top of being the ITS chief bar wrangler. Here are a few of his favourite things about In the Soil:

How many years have you volunteered with In the Soil?
This will be my 3rd year with In The Soil as the official street chalk artist, as well as my 2nd year organizing the bars around the festival.

Why do you volunteer with In the Soil?
In The Soil brings the entire Niagara arts community together for one action packed 3-day party, every year. It would be an absolute shame to miss out on that. There are so many experiences, friends and memories to be a part of. I wouldn’t trade it for anything else.

What’s your favourite memory of the festival?
Now that is a tough one… The Lemon Bucket Orchestra comes to mind a couple of years back. Something about a gigantic tuba as the centre of the dance party at The Hub is something that will stick with me forever.

If you’re interested in joining the fun, check out our Volunteer Page – get a festival pass discounted or free, and be a part of an awesome experience!

In the run up to the festival, we will be profiling some of the people who make this whole thing possible: our incredible volunteers. Volunteers are the fertilizer of our festival, and a big part of what makes this community tick. Scott Hutchison has been in charge of the chill zone kitchen – where artists and volunteers can hang out, take a breather, and have some warm ‘n’ delicious food ‘n’ drink – for three years. Here’s why Scott loves volunteering with the fest (spoiler: it’s all about luuurve):

How many years have you volunteered with In the Soil?
I’ve been volunteering at ITS for 3 years, this year will be my 4th festival!

Why do you volunteer with In the Soil?
I volunteer at ITS because of what the festival means to me. It’s one of my favourite weekends of the year. I love the people that are involved with the festival and have made many new friends through the years. And come on, the live music and art installations that happen every year are amazing.

What’s your favourite memory of the festival?
My favourite memory from ITS is obviously meeting my girlfriend Rebecca Walsh. During my first festival I was told to go and look for this Rebecca person who would put me to work. Well she did – we’ve been together since shortly after that weekend. I love her and I love In the Soil. And now you know why ITS means so much to me!

If you’re interested in joining the fun, check out our Volunteer Page – get a festival pass discounted or free, and be a part of an awesome experience!