Students often dread the end of the summer break, but Angelica Cooper doesn’t feel that way.
“I find Peterborough falls asleep in the summer, as students leave and people think the pulse of the city is gone,” she explained.
Cooper is in the final year of her undergraduate degree in History and Indigenous Studies. She also works as Sadleir House’s Community Engagement Liaison and will be running a one-day music festival called Sad Fest for its second year.
“Before I became the Community Engagement Liaison, I was the Summer Events student [staff],” she said of the festival’s debut last year. “I was told if I wanted to host an event I could – but I didn’t have to – just to show that the house was still alive and very much present in the community in the summer. So I decided, in a similar vein to [New Brunswick’s] SappyFest, to have a fest called Sad Fest for Sadleir.”
Sad Fest is being put on “to highlight the multi-functional uses of the [Sadleir House] building and to embrace all the sad, mopey feelings music can bring.”
Sadleir House is a historic building. Built in 1892 and purchased by the university in 1963, Sadleir House was a key component of Peter Robinson College, sibling college of Catharine Parr Traill College. Sadleir House was repurchased through a student levy referendum in 2003 after Peter Robinson College’s controversial closure in 2001. The building now houses office spaces for various university and community groups, as well as accepting bookings in its communal spaces.
This year’s festival is happening on Friday September 14 to engage more students and invite them into the Sadleir House facility.
“I lived up the street from Sadleir House, so I always came to Sadleir House and didn’t realize what this magical place was initially. I just thought it was a building that wasn’t for me,” Cooper recalled about her earlier years at Trent. “I think a lot of people, and especially Trent students, approach Sadleir House that way.”
The festival will transform the historic building’s dining hall and turret into performances spaces for seven musical acts over seven hours.
“The turret is such a common student study space that a lot of people don’t realize; it’s a hidden gem,” she said, noting that the dining hall has traditionally been a space for performances due to its stage. “To have a music set in that space gives it more energy and more life.”
Cooper cites other nearby festivals and their organizers as inspiration. Like Karol Orzechowski’s Quality of Life festival, Sad Fest insists on having “a safe, no nonsense space” free of harassment, intimidation and assault.
“This year – in a similar vein to Borderless Fest run by the lovely Sara O [Shahsavari], and Venus Fest that happens in Toronto – we’re strictly highlighting only women [and women-identified] and non-binary musicians this year,” she continued. “It was really empowering for me as a queer woman myself. I was given this venue and this stage and this platform to be able to do something with it, so I thought, “Why not highlight marginalized voices and women of colour?””
Accessibility and amplification of these voices is important to Cooper. She notes that venue closures in the downtown area, such as The Pig’s Ear, The Spill, and Catalina’s, have affected the Peterborough arts and culture landscape.
“My favourite thing about Sadleir House is that it allows us to hold space for the absurd and amazing. We lost a lot of downtown venues, especially for queer and marginalized people and people of colour in Peterborough,” Cooper explained. “The downtown is really missing a lot of its heartbeat. And although we’re not technically a part of the downtown community, we’re trying to get people to walk a little further and take that extra step to come and be a part of a community that is so welcoming. It’s a place to totally take risks and have fun.”
Sad Fest is open to all ages, with a bar on site for those 19 years old or older. Festival passes are available at Sadleir House’s main office or at Clubs and Groups day (September 12) for $13. No one will be turned away for lack of funds.
“Absolutely anyone can come to Sad Fest. The only thing that I would say is that unfortunately the venue isn’t fully physically accessible, but is absolutely accessible to everyone else on all other levels,” she stated.
Cooper is excited and passionate about Sad Fest as well as the year to come, making her an ideal candidate to engage with the community.
She puts it very simply: “I want more people to know that Sadleir House is the space for you.”