Internship Spotlight: Mariam Salaymeh

August 2nd marked the formal completion of my internship at the 19th edition of the Suoni Per Il Popolo music festival. The experience took place in the four venues, under patronage of the Société des Arts Libres et Actuels, and more broadly all over the city of Montreal. I spent a good deal of time at the offices above the Casa Del Popolo, the headquarters and oldest locale. The SALA’s goal is to promote arts within the context of a community, one I feel I have since joined. My 12 week long internship surrounded a 3 week festival even more dedicated to inclusive and exploratory art forms.

Many people who attend cultural festivals or even a one-night event remain blissfully unaware of the hours of work invested beforehand. As festival intern, the range of experiences I acquired were varied. However, they progressively produced a bigger impact on the festival directly for which I am very grateful. It was an enriching experience and an eye opener to the entertainment industry. Although completed, I hope to follow through with an active involvement in the Canadian music and arts community. My background in communications was reinforced by hands on experience, both administrative and technical.

I cannot stress my appreciation for the people that supported me in this process, the Officers at the Arts Internship Office are no exception. My supervisor Peter Burton has been with the festival since its conception and was instrumental in its candour. He encouraged me to help work on grants and understand the wider structure of the organisation, founded by Mauro Pezzente and Kiva Stimac. I assisted with artist remuneration and frequently entered data directly for FACTOR Canada. One notable aspect of the festival is that local artists are celebrated and paid as international acts where possible. I also oversaw the entire festival attendance project for Statistics Canada.

Another aspect that makes the organization I worked for stand out, the owners explained to me, was that when they built Casa del Popolo, they wanted every visual, musical and abstract artist to have employment with them, in one form or the other. To my impression, this is still true today, cleaners, sound technicians, board directors and the intern are part of the same governing organism. The floor above the offices is the Pensione Del Popolo which is the artist accommodation and fully functional hotel during the off season. Artists have their accommodation fees waived. I remember one time the opener for M’dou Moctar revealed to us he was living on the street until the show, Peter gave him his own laptop and set him up upstairs. I met community member and local activist Stefan Christoff, who works the bar in his spare time, and I saw first hand the emergence of anti-oppression movements, most memorably against Bill 21, over the summer.


During the festival, we would welcome up to ten artists a day, check them in (the bar staff always helped me with that) do sound check at 4pm, provide dinner between 6 and 8, open doors at 9pm and performance goes well into the night. By the end of my internship I was entrusted to manage or “run” shows alone. The festival itself comprised 88 shows. This was the most rewarding experience. My other supervisors, Daniel Pelissier and Amélie Malissard provided me with hours of training in order to get there.

I attended press conferences prior to the festival and although stressful they were inductive of how cultural events of this calibre are covered (or aren’t). I shadowed one of the audio engineers, who will be returning to McGill in the fall as an MA student, and learned how to operate a soundboard, each venue having a different make to better suit the space’s technical needs. I also sometimes entertained artists, where my past as a stand-up comedian came into play. When we were overbooked, I helped setting up their flats for them . This festival was an exhaustive marathon which keeps its staff devoted for a greater cause. I walked away with a deeper understanding of arts administration.

Even though I work in community radio I did not quite understand how the entertainment industry could have such a community. But artists such as Lido Pimiento, Dave Burrell, Lubomyr Melnik, Snotty Nose Rez Kids and Tommy Wright III got to know me on a first name basis and my intimidation dissipated. As an anthropology major this was the first time, I had an ethnographic sense of how show business poured into social work and activism. It’s been my goal to work in media that is meaningful. This internship went above expectations. It has shaped an interest in me to work for public broadcasting and entertainment.

None of this wouldn’t have been imaginable without the Generosity of the Archie Malloch Undergraduate Internship in Public Learning Award, and I want to thank Dean Antonia Maioni for all the opportunities I’ve been graced with this summer.

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