Following the success of last year’s inaugural Transform Cabaret Festival, Urban Ink and The Cultch are teaming up once again with a digital edition in 2020.

“This year’s festival is everything that you remember from last, only digital,” says Urban Ink’s festival co-curator Corey Payette. “Some of the most popular artists from last year return, joined by exciting new performers for this online festival that aims to decolonize the digital stage.”

“I think it is really beautiful to bring together so many artists that are reclaiming their cultural heritage and understanding what it means to work ancestrally and showcase a living culture.” – 2020 Festival core artist Sierra Tasi Baker

Co-curated by Urban Ink’s artistic director Corey Payette and The Cultch’s executive director Heather Redfern, the Festival not only prioritizes the work of Indigenous artists but also celebrates collaborations between Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists.

“I think what is really fantastic is that Indigenous and non-Indigenous collaborations are leading the way [with online creation], and now some of the innovations are going to be tailored to Indigenous perspectives,” says Payette.

Returning for this year’s Festival is Musqueam protocol keeper Quelemia Sparrow and Hot Brown Honey’s Lisa Fa’alafi.

Fa’alafi, along with her fellow Australian co-creator Busty Beatz and Vancouver’s Pippa Mackie, will direct a core group of artists to create exclusive material for the Festival. These core artists will be the keystone of two weekly “bashes” to kick off the two festival weekends as an introduction to the artists with feature shows happening in the subsequent weekends.

The first weekend of the Festival will include three full-length shows in addition to the opening night bash. Kicking it off are returning favourites The Darlings, with a brand new digital show. New to the Festival is Black and bearded UK drag sensation, Le Gateau Chocolate with ICONS. Wrapping up the weekend with some family fun is the Vancouver drag family Peach Cobblah and Isolde N. Barron, who returns with a family drag brunch of stories and dress-up.

UK drag sensation Le Gateau Chocolate performs as part of this year's Transform Cabaret Festival. Photo by Alison Croft.
UK drag sensation Le Gateau Chocolate performs as part of this year’s Transform Cabaret Festival. Photo by Alison Croft.

Week two of the Festival features two full-length shows on top of the second opening night bash. Candy Palmater takes the digital stage for a special Transform episode of her APTN show, The Candy Show, featuring a lineup of guests. Vancouver’s Indigenous burlesque troupe, Virago Nation, will close the Festival with its new performance Deadleh Indigenous.

“It was so important to us as makers to have this amazing project, to make this festival,” says Redfern. “But most of all, it is important that the artist and the audience have the opportunity to connect with each other. That is the most important thing; it is why we exist.”

A byproduct of moving the Festival online is an opportunity to reach a wider global audience. “The Cultch is excited to introduce people from all over the world to Transform Cabaret Festival, and give them the opportunity to connect to this powerful group of artists,” says Redfern.

The Transform Cabaret Festival takes place online from September 24 through October 3. Visit transformcabaret.com for tickets and information.