Folk on the Rocks has severed ties with the festival’s executive director David Whitelock less than two years after he took the position.
The circumstances surrounding Whitelock’s “departure” are unclear at this point. A press release posted on the FOTR website on Dec. 29 announced the split and thanked Whitelock “for his hard work and dedication,” but did not offer any explanations for the parting of the ways.
Both Whitelock and FOTR president Ryan Fequet declined to comment on the situation, Whitelock telling EDGE, “I can’t comment as I don’t want to be prejudicial at this early stage.” Several of Whitelock’s social media posts from shortly after the press release was made public, however, suggest it might not have been an amicable parting:
“Some people just dont know what they are doing!”
Dec 31: “Hey Karma is a bitch and she will catch up with ya! Looking forward to bringing in the NY, look out 2016, nothing gonna keep this man down…..aint pullin no punches….aint got no time for that.”
Whitelock’s departure comes just over a month after the FOTR AGM, where it was announced the festival had seen a significant net loss for the second year in a row: $54,402 in 2015 and $114,788 in 2014.
Whitelock was not present at the meeting, apparently due to sickness, leaving Fequet to put a positive spin on the numbers by focusing on the fact the festival lost only half as much in 2015 as it did the previous year.
“We’re definitely on the up,” Fequet told EDGE at the meeting, adding, in what’s turned out to be a less than accurate prediction: “We’re past the transition phase [with Whitelock] and on to the building phases.”
Although it’s too early to say if Whitelock was fired (or if he was fired at all) for his financial management, the losses the festival posted under his directorship were strikingly high when compared to previous years. In 2013 the festival lost only $5,000, one-tenth of the loss seen in this year.
Whitelock has been at the head of the festival since 2014, when he was hired only months before the 34th FOTR got underway. He came to the job with significant experience — “39 major music festivals on his resumé,” according to Northern Journal — but also some blemishes. Prior to arriving in Yellowknife, he’d been the executive director of Events Wood Buffalo in Fort McMurray since 2011, which ceased operations in 2014 after going into serious debt.
With only seven months until the next FOTR, the festival’s board of directors is no doubt scrambling to find a new ED. According to the press release: “The Board of Directors will work with a yet-to-be determined candidate in the interim to keep Folk on the Rocks on track for the 36th installment of the festival in 2016.”