Bluesfest Spotlight: Clothing the Volunteers

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Photos by Andre Gagne

P!nk soared above the RBC Bluesfest crowd last week but, on the crowd, another kind of pink posse has been working hard every day. You may have noticed the shirts, hundreds of brightly clad volunteers slip on their pink tees each shift and are out serving beer, working the gates and more. They’re kind of hard to miss in that colour bordering on neon.

Now, somebody has to design what is pretty much the Festival’s official uniforms and that somebody is Matt Gale.

Gale tells Ottawa Life that he first got into graphic design as a teenager when he discovered the Corel Photopaint software. He’d pop in photos of his family and friends to see how he could playfully enhance the images. That lead to him designing cars before he could even get behind the wheel as one. The software just allowed Gale to design any ride he wanted.

“My favourite things about graphic design as a career is that you can take something relatively lifeless and make it easier for people to understand, or create an entire brand/personality behind something that is otherwise mundane,” he says.

Word of mouth regarding his clever designs and skill made its way to the Bluesfest team and Gale was brought on to make the volunteer shirts. He says he turns in three options and staff vote on the best of his zany ideas.

For example, this year they went work that pays homage to artist Ed “Big Daddy” Roth of Rat Fink fame. (Though we’d love to see his flying saucers abducting artists from the festival main stages piece that didn’t make the cut!) The offbeat underground comics by Robert Crumb also factored into this year’s design.

While to the bulk of the Festival volunteers this is a simple uniform, it also acts as direct advertising for the fest itself and its various teams. Gale says that while it doesn’t occur to him in the moment he’s drafting up his initial pieces that his work will be seen by thousands of people every day, it does dawn on him once he walks onto the grounds at LeBreton Flats.

“In many ways, I try not to think about that when creating something because it can place too much pressure on the final result,” he says proud to be connected to a festival that caters so strongly to so many age groups of demographics.

As for the feedback he expected by the chosen t-shirt, Gale points out the tongue-in-cheek humour of his work.

“Well the tour bus is eating the artists, so you can probably imagine peoples’ reactions to that. Ultimately I’m happy if I can get a smile out of people while ticking the boxes of the design brief.”