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Keep the Beat

A Youth Driven Success Story



As Whistler winds down its festival season Pique looks at how teen girls in Nelson invented and run a great music fest that raises thousands for war children

"I was in charge of getting tents," says Maddy Murphy, savouring her mission accomplished. "And then I was like, 'Yeah, I got those tents! Look what I can do.'"

What she'd done was find donations of several large tents to cover an outdoor silent auction, a kids' area, and a performance stage. Maddy, who is 15, belongs to a group of teenage girls who have organized and run an annual one-day music festival in Nelson B.C. for the past seven years, raising an average of $10,000 each year and donating all the proceeds to War Child Canada.

They've made it happen without charging admission, without adult help, with no connection to teachers or a school, and with almost no overhead costs.

The teenage organizers of the first Keep the Beat in 2006 came up with a simple but ingenious idea: have a music festival in a place where there is an ever-changing crowd of people already — Lakeside Park — and don't charge admission. Just pass the hat.

And that's what they do, although it's not a hat but several large buckets. They circulate through the crowd all day from noon until late evening while bands they've booked play free concerts on the temporary stage, while people bid on donated items at the silent auction, while kids hang out in the kids' tent, while people browse the information table and buy T-shirts and buttons, while young and old come and go, stopping in at the event for a few minutes or a few hours. It's laid-back during the day, but Keep the Beat gradually transforms around sunset into an all-age dance party. (And it ends at 10:00 p.m. to keep the neighbours happy.)

In the breaks between bands, the girls (average age 16, and yes, it's all girls — more about that below) stand up at the mic and talk about the work of War Child Canada, an international organization that works to help children affected by war. The girls tell the audience stories of horrific abuses and uplifting successes from war-torn countries.

"It  gives  me  hope"

Many Nelson residents are so impressed by these young women that they come every year and give generously and often emotionally.

"When I see these young people doing this, it gives me hope and it makes me proud, and sometimes it makes me cry," says one older adult member of the audience at the 2012 event on July 25. "I love donating to them. I give more than I would give to any other group. These are our own kids — well, not mine exactly, but they're children of this community, and they're doing this for other children who really need it."

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