Sunday, June 23, 2024

Model of Inclusivity, Farley Flex Speaks on Community Engagement

The Aurora music and arts festival proposal was presented at the Town of Aurora Council meeting on January 22nd, 2013 by Farley Flex. If everything goes well and all the requirements are fulfilled, the Aurora music event will take place July 27th and 28th, 2013 at Machell Park in Aurora.

The Sesquicentennial year 2013 will be a year of change in our community, and it will definitely be a change for performing arts in Aurora. We lost the four year successful Aurora Jazz+ Festival and although not exactly the same, we will be getting a more engaging and practical festival for the Aurora community and especially for our youth.

It is worthwhile to compare and to further examine – why did the Aurora Jazz+ Festival eventually tip in Aurora? If we evaluate the proposed concept against the last festival – the answer is simple. The success of the Aurora Jazz+ Festival provided a benefit for a smaller focused group, whereas this one is based on their model of inclusivity and engagement is designed to provide benefits and success to a larger community.

It is about time for the Town of Aurora to step outside the box and learn and experiment with different concepts in order to encourage real community engagement. If the inclusivity model proposed will be successful for the performing arts, it will then serve as a good example for other groups in Aurora to follow.

“… when you only focus on the icon, you are automatically excluding those who are fans of, or have interest in, but don’t have capability to.”

The music festival model of inclusivity and engagement was extensively explained by Farley Flex (former Canadian Idol Judge) at the council meeting on January 22nd, 2013. He introduced and explained the concept of R.E.A.L. school. In our words, the model focuses on youth and the performing arts industry.It promotes teamwork; a team of young individuals with different skill sets working together towards the same goal. It promotes latest technologies as catalysts of engagement. It invites local businesses. It creates connections. It invites us all for great entertainment.

For those that missed the Council meeting, we thought it would be beneficial to cover the portion of presentation where Farley Flex explained what R.E.A.L school (Reality Education and Applied Life Skills) is all about.

Farley Flex, Former Canadian Idol Judge [Aurora Council Meeting, January 22nd, 2013]

[…] “First and foremost it is an acronym for Reality Education and Applied Life Skills, and what the model is, it is a model of engagement and inclusivity.

Those of you who may or may not recognize me, I was a judge on Canadian Idol which was a one dimensional platform that allowed young people who had aspirations to be performers or singers in particular the opportunity to be crowned the winner of Canadian Idol. The problem that I see with that on the community level is that it excludes all the other interests or infrastructural roles that are associated with pop culture or the music industry.

So what R.E.A.L. school does, it takes the attraction of the icon or the iconic product, but it also offers an opportunity for those who are not necessarily skillful at singing, or skillful at athletics, or skillful at anything to see themselves based on their interest, personality traits and skill sets, involved in that industry.

So for instance, if you take an iconic idol like Justin Bieber – he has an entourage of professionals of roughly 35-40 people who work full-time and all of whom love music as much as he does but have a different skill set and use that skill set to stay close to the thing they love. So that speaks to publicists, graphic designers, wardrobe stylists, aestheticians, soundmen, you name it, any of the infrastructural roles, that if you pulled them out of the formula, Justin Bieber’s career would flop if that person did not play their role.

So when we propose this concept in terms of how grandiose it will be, there is a lead up to the festival we are proposing that involves a series of workshops and opportunities for people who have other interests besides being on the stage and gives them an opportunity to get involved, as set designers, as all sorts of different roles. And whereby you end up with a massively inclusive model that engages youth based on that one central iconic element called music.

So when I did Toronto District School Board Idol (there are 300 high schools in Toronto), they wanted to just do an Idol competition. I (Farley Flex) said, let’s do an Idol Challenge, and in doing so, besides just the singer representing each school, each singer had an infrastructural team of nine additional students; therefore, we had 3000 students involved as opposed to 300.

So that’s essentially the model we are bringing as a measure of engagement for community and youth. So that more people can be involved and therefore, the number of stakeholders increases and therefore the appeal of the event to a greater proportion of the population would attend and enjoy the festival.


“Inclusion enhances self-esteem and promotes acceptance, understanding, and friendship. Communities in which all children and youth are included are healthier, more balanced, and beneficial for all members.” ~ Kristen Zechello

From a high level, pop culture is what engages young people whether that be multimedia, whether that be straight online activity, twitter, Facebook, all the things that engage young people including music, dance, sports, etc. etc. All of those things are catalysts to engage and what happens is when you only focus on the icon, you are automatically excluding those who are fans of, or have interest in, but don’t have capability to. And so the essence of this is to help people discover their own interests, personality traits, and skills sets, and how they can apply that to the thing that they love.


So that’s what this is all about. If you just have a contest for dancers that’s great, but how many dancers may in fact exist in Aurora. But the people who make costumes, the people who like to promote, the people who do all those other things – market products and so forth. They get an opportunity to get involved, whether they are a sibling, a friend or a stranger, they have an opportunity to be included and that’s what most communities are in fact missing. Whether it is an amazing hockey player, or an amazing singer, or amazing dancer, or amazing graphic artist, or visual artist, whatever it is, all icons need infrastructural support.”

Farley Flex, Former Canadian Idol Judge [Aurora Council Meeting, January 22nd, 2013]

Anna Lozyk Romeo
Aurora, ON


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