DESPITE the furor over the billed appearance of Queen Ifrica, a spokesperson for last Sunday’s Rastafest in Toronto, says the show was a success.

Masani Montague of promoters Upfront Theatre Foundation, says over 10,000 fans attended the roots-reggae event which was held at Downsview Park.

QUEEN IFRICA… was pulled from the festival due to the strong recommendation and suggestion from Downsview Park

A good turnout seemed unlikely when local gay groups threatened protests if Queen Ifrica performed.

They were disturbed by the singjay’s anti-gay remarks during her performance at the Grand Gala, held at the National Stadium in Kingston early last month.

Montague says Ifrica was dropped from the show.

“She was pulled from the festival due to the strong recommendation and suggestion from Downsview Park, and also as a Government-funded event the organisation recognised that it wasn’t consistent with the theme of our production,” she told the Sunday Observer.

“At Upfront Theatre Foundation we do not condone any form of discrimination.”

Montague says the Queen Ifrica episode did not hurt Rastafest. In fact, she believes it “made people more aware of social issues”.

She continued: “It also brought Rastafest on an international stage. The negative publicity put a lot of pressure on the festival organisers and volunteers, making the job of organising and keeping on schedule a bit difficult.”

Everton Blender
Everton Blender

Kingston-born Montague has lived in Canada since 1974. She is a founding member of Upfront Theatre Foundation which started in September, 2000 as a student drama club at York University.

It has evolved into a “service learning, incorporated, non-profit organisation serving children, youth and women in the Jane and Finch community” of Toronto and surrounding areas.

Rastafest started as Culture Jam in 1986. The name change came in 1993 when Ras Michael and the Sons of Negus were headliners.

Singer Everton Blender was the main act for this year’s show.