Established in 2000, the Victoria Ska & Reggae Festival is the longest running annual ska festival in North America. Run by the non-profit Victoria BC Ska Society and their 200-strong team of volunteers, the organization works in collaboration with local schools, artists and community organization to educate the community about Jamaican and Caribbean history, culture, music and cuisine through festivals, events and installations.
The music festival was founded by University of Victoria student Dane Roberts as a school project. The one-day concert featured ska and reggae artists including the Scofflaws, King Django, and Chris Murray. The festival has greatly expanded since then, now spanning over five days and incorporating acts from the worlds of Latin music, soul, jazz and world beat. Performers have included Amy Winehouse, Shaggy, the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Dub FX, Toots and the Maytals, Tanya Stephens, Mos Def, Morgan Heritage, Booker T Jones, Fishbone, Katchafire, Sweetleaf and the Black Seeds. During the festival, artists host free workshops to teach participants about their culture and related music skills.
In 2012, the festival introduced the Rocksteady Collective, a visual arts component that extends to include cultural dance and cuisine. Though many of the festival’s nighttime shows are 19+, daytime shows are open to fans of all ages. The festival has also brought their acts to other cities both on and off Vancouver Island, including Vancouver, Cumberland and Whistler, to ensure that other BC rudies don’t get left out of the fun.