Manitoba heavy music community rallies around promoter hit by coronavirus cancellations

Cory Thomas of Ninjacat Productions. GoFundMe

Winnipeg’s heavy music community is banding together to support a longtime local promoter who has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.

Cory Thomas of Ninjacat Productions is known for — among many other shows — the annual Manitoba Metalfest event at the Park Theatre, which brings in bands from across North America and beyond.

When local music venues began temporarily closing their doors due to health concerns, Thomas had to cancel a number of planned events — including the festival — which left him out almost $10,000.

Thanks to community support via a GoFundMe page, however, he’s well on his way to recouping his losses.

“Cory and I have been friends for a long time, and he was mentioning to me with COVID-19 making us cancel all of our shows, he was out a ton of money,” said Rachel Quelch, Thomas’ co-worker at the Park.

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“He was saying things like, ‘I don’t even know if I’m going to be able to do this anymore,’ and I said, ‘not on my watch’!”

Quelch told 680 CJOB she’d seen online fundraisers work in similar situations, so she started the GoFundMe page… and both she and Thomas have been blown away by the results.

“I couldn’t believe it,” said Thomas. “When Rachel mentioned it to me, I thought, ‘no one’s going to be able to donate. Everyone’s out of work.’ I see people in the music industry saying they’re not able to pay their rent.

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“It’s far surpassed what I thought. It’s amazing. I can’t believe it. I never thought it would go this far.”

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As of Friday morning, the fundraiser was at more than $6,800 and climbing.

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Thomas said the reason he’s out such a large amount is because his events are promoted months in advance. In addition to paying for flights for out-of-town bands — something he said he’s not getting back from the airlines in this crisis — there are also costs associated with marketing, sponsors, paying deposits, and more.

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While this would have been Manitoba Metalfest’s seventeenth year and it’s disappointing it’s not happening, Thomas said the decision to cancel it, as well as his other upcoming shows, was the right one given the coronavirus situation.

Quelch said the unexpected support is a testament to Thomas’ integral role in Winnipeg’s music scene.

“It just goes to show how important Cory is to our community. I am surprised by how much money has been donated but I’m not surprised by the support.”

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