Festivals and Cultural Tourism

Festivals have mastered the art of attracting locals, regional and international travelers to their event. Leaders at TIFF, Ottawa Bluesfest, Toronto Caribbean Festival and Fringe North talk about what has worked well to attract and engage visitors in the past, and what they have learnt over the last year that they will carry forward.

This lecture was part of Ontario Culture Days symposium, Now, into the Future: Cultural Tourism in Ontario, held June 16-17, 2021.

Speaker bios


Heather Kelly,
Ontario Culture Days
Heather Kelly is an award-winning marketing and communications professional with a passion for making good things happen and a twenty-five-year history of creating success for artists, businesses, non-profits, and some of Canada’s most significant cultural organizations. She is working with Ontario Culture Days as a marketing and communications strategist and director. She has worked with many other festivals, including Harbourfront Centre summer festivals, Small World Music Festival, and festivals created within cultural communities. Heather has directed the marketing for the launch and ongoing marketing of Koerner Hall at The Royal Conservatory for more than a decade, she directed marketing and communications for the gallery launch and exhibitions at the Ryerson Image Centre for 10 years. In May 2021, Heather Kelly took the helm of Akimbo Art Promotions as its new owner/director. Heather founded the Bloor St. Culture Corridor, which brought together 22 Toronto cultural organizations to create the city’s most diverse arts and culture district, and she co-founded and co-hosts the monthly Global Arts & Culture Sector Meetup


Tova Arbus,
Fringe North
Born and raised in Sault Ste. Marie Ontario, Tova has been involved in the arts since childhood. Her passion for theatre and the performing arts was nurtured by several incredible mentors, who motivated her to attend Laurentian University where she successfully achieved her Bachelor of Fine Arts (HON) in Theatre Performance and Music. Tova has participated in over 40 productions as an actor, director, producer, stage manager, light and sound technician, and stage hand, working with multiple theatre companies and projects across the province. In addition to these credits, she has successfully served as a member of the board of directors with the QUONTA Drama Festival, and currently sits on the board for the Sault Community Theatre Centre. She frequently consults with community based theatre groups, offering her experience and ideas to further learning, growth, and sustainable practices.

Mark Monahan,
Ottawa Bluesfest
Mark Monahan founded the Ottawa Bluesfest in 1994. Since then, the event has grown from a one-stage, three-day event to a multi-staged, two-week music extravaganza featuring some of the best talent on the planet. As executive/artistic director, Mark has turned Bluesfest into one of North America’s largest music festivals, attracting more than 300,000 fans each year. In 2011, Mark took over the management of the Ottawa Folk Festival, ostensibly salvaging the event. Since then what is now known as CityFolk has been viewed as an artistic juggernaut. The inaugural edition of CityFolk featured a stellar line-up that included Van Morrison, and the 2016 line-up included James Bay, Vance Joy and more. 2014, saw the launch of yet another successful initiative — the Ontario Festival of Small Halls. Staged by ‘The team Behind Bluesfest’, the Festival of Small Halls brings exceptional Canadian and international musicians to small venues across Eastern Ontario.

Andre Newell,
Toronto Caribbean Carnival
Andre Newell is responsible for Marketing, Communications and Partnerships for the Toronto Caribbean Carnival. In 2010, his innovative marketing strategy received “Best Virtual Marketing Campaign,” in the $500,000+ category at the Festival and Events Ontario Awards. Throughout his career he has worked on a number of high profile events, including the 2016 NBA All Star Weekend, the association’s premiere event and first staging outside of the U.S. He has been involved in the Tourism industry for over 10 years, with various organizations, including the Caribbean Tourism Organization, representing over 33 destinations in Canada. In 2021, Andre joined the Tourism Economic Recovery Task Force and served as chair of the Gateway Cities subcommittee, responsible for advising the Ministry of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries. Andre is also the Executive Director and Co-Founder of North America’s largest acting showcase, Monologue Slam Canada.

Joana Vicente,
Toronto International Film Festival
Joana Vicente is the Executive Director and the Co-Head of the Toronto International Film Festival and the TIFF organization. Previously, she served as the Executive Director of the Independent Filmmaker Project (IFP), The Gotham Awards and she founded the Made in NY Media Center by IFP in partnership with New York City’s Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment. Vicente is a producer of over 40 feature films by acclaimed directors such as Jim Jarmusch, Nadine Labaki, Brian De Palma, Amir Naderi, Hal Hartley, Nicole Holofcener, Alex Gibney and Todd Solondz. She is also recognized as a leading figure of the digital film revolution, having co-founded pioneering digital production companies Blow Up Pictures and HDNetFilms, which she launched with partners Jason Kliot, Mark Cuban, and Todd Wagner. These companies ushered in a new era of digital filmmaking that transformed the landscape of American independent film production and distribution.

We acknowledge and thank the Province of Ontario and the Canada Council for the Arts for their support of this project.