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Quartier des spectacles, Part II: MUTEK and POP Montreal weigh in on the new space

So for Part II of our Quartier des spectacles retrospective, we heard from the other end of the festival stage. In other words, we discussed the partnership and the venue spaces with actual event organizers. Overall, they served as timely bookends to the Quartier’s summer season, as the MUTEK festival is already a thing of the past in distant June, while Pop Montréal’s reign only starts come September—with a big, outdoor Arcade Fire bit to boot.

Sure, both fests may have been around the Place des Arts block more than a few times, but they’re both just at the start of a relationship with the people over at QdS. It's pretty obvious that Alain Mongeau, MUTEK’s Artistic Director, is just as pleased with the downtown collab as Hilary Leftick, Pop’s Executive Producer, is excited for it to really begin. But hey—you can read that all for yourself in the two interviews below.


The MUTEK festival included a number of shows this summer in Quartier des spectacles territory—the outdoor shows at Place de la Paix and others at Metropolis, for example. So what was your experience working alongside them as entertainment partners?
AM: Well, the MUTEK festival took place in a few different venues under the Quartier des spectacles label. But we’ve actually been using places like Metropolis for over the past ten years. For this year, our headquarters were at the SAT—the Société des Arts Technologiques—and we also used the Salle Pierre-Mercure, both part of the QdS. So physically, most of the festival was in their area to begin with. But more than that, we developed a few activities outdoors this year with the contribution of the Quartier.

©Mattera-Joly, Partenariat du QdS

So, for instance, we had a number of big outdoor concerts in their Place de la Paix space—right next to the SAT. In that way, we were in line with the Quartier’s efforts to occupy the public space successfully, which is not all that easy a thing to begin with because there’s a living population there and some parts of the park are used by the homeless. So during the four days we were there, we were kind of superimposing an infrastructure and a program unto an already existing population. But in the end, it was cohabitation that went really well.

The other element that we developed with the Quartier was a certain number of architectural projections. During the festival this year, we came up with a few commissioned pieces specifically for the Quartier’s space and three surrounding buildings. So again, that worked with the ambition of the Quartier to use the space in a good way.


Did you welcome that collaboration to begin with?
AM: Of course. Actually—this was our second year working with our partners at the QdS. For the festival before this one, we again had a number of projections, and we did our first shows at the Place des Festivals. We actually had wanted to do that again this year, but the last piece of funding fell through so we had to pull the plug on a bit of our ambitions for this year. The idea was initially to have two nights of outdoor shows, in which the QdS was again going to be one of our main collaborators. So they have been very cooperative on all accounts in respect to MUTEK. I guess our idea each year moving forward is to collaborate and bring our two cents to what the Quartier could become. I mean, it’s been colonized and used by big festivals, but I think there’s more than enough room for mid-size festivals like us.

©Mattera-Joly, Partenariat du QdS


So you’d say there’s been an even treatment of big and smaller sized festivals when it comes to the Quartier des spectacles then?
AM: Well, the Quartier des Spectacles does a really good job at collaborating with any kind of festival, I’d say. What’s missing now is that kind of will needs to be shared by other funders. I mean, that’s what happened to us. The funding that we expected and didn’t get was from other government bodies. So yes, I think the QdS does its job very well, but it can’t be the only one to support the smaller festivals like us, to support us putting on more shows in that area.


I know it’s a long way away, but are you planning to go at it with the same two-night, outdoor ambition at MUTEK next year?
AM: Yeah, totally. All the work that we did this year—we had to pull the plug only a month before the festival. But we worked for about three months before then with all kinds of different projects and so everything is ready now. So yeah, of course we’re going to come back and use some of the work we’ve already done to present a couple of great shows next year.

©Mattera-Joly, Partenariat du QdS


Can you talk a little about what your work has been like with the Quartier des spectacles, both in their space and with the people at the partnership?
HL: Yeah, so this is actually our first time working in the Quartier des spectacles’ space. Outdoors, we’re going to be presenting the free Arcade Fire show as part of Pop’s ten-year celebration. So like any place that you work, we’ve been spending time getting to know each other, seeing how we all work together. But so far, the QdS has been great, very helpful, and, like us, they’re really excited about this project.

I mean, Pop’s been going into different venues, different spaces for years now. Places like the Ukranian Federation, who we’ve developed a real long-term relationship with, to even Cinéma L’Amour, which we haven’t used for a couple years, but are going back into soon. So already, we kind of have a history of going into new spaces, and since every space is different, you have to just establish relationships with people, communicate, and make sure all partners are on the same page. Then, things tend to go just fine.

©Mattera-Joly, Partenariat du QdS

So would you say that Pop and the QdS are in line with each other—that both of you have similar visions for your collaboration at Place des Festivals?
HL: Hmm. We really wanted to do this free show, so we were trying to find a space suitable for placing it. And this one seemed—once we started talking to the city and examining possible options for what could accommodate the people we expect—like it was the best logical choice for sure.

Right now, we’re busy finalizing and starting to source out some of the details and how the show’s going to work. In general, I think maybe we’re slightly different from other festivals in the QdS space though. We’re really just doing one night—not a ten-day run there. So I think it’s a little different for everyone involved, because usually their space is used for longer. But, basically, what we’re going to be doing there is focusing on this one show.

Calendar-wise, Arcade Fire are, in a way, the real closer to the summer season for the Quartier. Is that on the mind of any people over at Pop?
HL: Actually, for them, I think it’s more of a real opening for the Fall season—because they’re year-round. But, for us, it’s really just that these are our festival dates and—in fact—we were very happy when we found out that the date coincides with International Car Free Day. So we want to collaborate with them because we think it’s a message that’s in line with what we do and how we feel over at Pop. So overall—to be honest—I’m not really too concerned of where our festival lies in the general spectrum of what everyone else is doing on the stage all summer. We’re just really excited that we have the space to accommodate everyone—that we have the place to pull this thing off.


Just one last question for you. Would you say that there’s been an even treatment of both the big and smaller sized festivals—the Jazz Fests as opposed to, let’s say, you guys (or even smaller), when it comes to the QdS?
HL: I mean, the city and the Quartier des spectacles have both been pretty open to us, very accommodating, and in general, really wanting to do this project. We’re happy to be working with them. I can’t really speak to how they might be treating other festivals, but, for us, it’s been really good—definitely a positive experience. In some ways, you know, it’s no different from any of the other venues we’ve gone into, we’re just—as I said— laying the framework to good, trustworthy relationships and to working well together.

©Mattera-Joly, Partenariat du QdS

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