A Little History…

Andrew Dunsmore

Andrew Dunsmore

In 1927, Andrew Dunsmore organized a group of interested people to discuss the need for a festival in the central and upper island area around Nanaimo BC, as there had already been a festival established in Victoria. Assisted by Mr. R.T. Coveney, this idea was realized with the first annual competition held May 17 – 18, 1928, in St. Andrew’s United Church. This first Upper Island Festival had 125 entries in choral, vocal, instrumental and elocution (speech) classes. Folk Dancing was added in 1930.

The Upper-Island Musical Festival Association was registered under the BC Societies Act in 1934. The Festival was temporarily discontinued in 1943 due to World War II. In 1955, Dunsmore and others revived the Festival, adding tap, maypole dancing, piano and accordion to the list of entries. In 1960, the first Honours Performance was held at Nanaimo District Secondary. The first Dance Gala was in 1984 at Beban Park Social Centre.

Present Day

With the growth of other local festivals on Vancouver Island becoming established in the Cowichan Valley and North Island, the “Upper-Island” part of our name was no longer geographically accurate and often became confused with our neighbouring festivals. In preparation for our 2020 season, we changed our name to “Mid Island Performing Arts Festival” to better reflect our geographic position and the range of disciplines beyond music (including dance and drama) we support.

Today’s MIPA Festival has sections in piano, instrumental (including brass, woodwind, guitar and strings), vocal, speech and dramatic arts, and dance. Most of our competitors come from within our geographic area of Bowser to Ladysmith, Port Alberni to Parksville. A growing number attend from other areas of Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland. MIPAF offers all participants an opportunity to perform and appreciate the performances of others.

The Mid Island Performing Arts Festival Society is a self-supporting, non-profit organization registered under the Societies Act of British Columbia. Membership is open to anyone upon payment of a small annual fee. All members are volunteers.

Revenue comes from participant entry fees, membership dues, paid admissions, and donations to the Patron Fund and a Bursary Fund. Each year, the Mid Island Performing Arts Festival gives out more than $21,000 in bursaries to deserving participants, as awarded by our adjudicators.

Aims of the Association

The general purpose of the Mid Island Performing Arts Festival is to advance, promote and develop the Musical Competition Festival movement and to encourage the study and practice of the speech arts, drama, music, and dance within Nanaimo and the surrounding area.

The Festival spirit may be defined as the joy of participating with others in seeking the highest levels in music, dance, and their kindred arts. Inculcating this spirit in competitors, the audience, and the community is an important goal shared by all those responsible for organizing the Festivals. Many of our disciplines use a level system of encouragement that recognizes extraordinary effort while promoting a supportive atmosphere among performers.

Mission Statement

“We envision a world that appreciates music, speech and dance.”

We provide a step in the journey towards performance excellence with educational opportunities for students and teachers. We strive to develop well-rounded young people with positive life and performance skills who will give their gifts back to the community, ensuring that the arts will continue to flourish.


The Mid Island Performing Arts Festival greatly appreciates the support and cooperation of all those who help make the Festival an outstanding event in the community’s cultural life. We are particularly proud of the fact that all our workers are volunteers. Without them, the Festival could not exist. Thank you to the music stores and businesses in each community for sponsoring programmes, venues, and bursaries every year.

The Mid Island Performing Arts Festival is affiliated with Performing Arts B.C. and the Canada West Performing Arts Festival.