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HONK! Festival returning for one-day decentralized event

"This year, HONK!’s intention is to reach communities that have not been able to participate in the past."

HONK! Festival musicians play at a previous festival in Somerville. Ben Holmes

The HONK! Festival is back and ready to jam in a new decentralized event on Oct. 9, right in the middle of the upcoming long weekend.

Since 2006, the HONK! Festival has brought bands from across Massachusetts and around the world to Somerville to celebrate music and activism with the community. These local HONK! bands — often referred to as activist street bands — provide free music with no stages or sound systems over three days.

“These bands don’t just play for the people; they play among the people and invite them to join the fun,” according to the HONK! Festival’s website. “They are active, activist, and deeply engaged in their communities, at times alongside unions and grassroots groups in outright political protest, or in some form of community-building activity, routinely performing and conducting workshops for educational and social service organizations of all kinds.”

The 2021 festival will be different than in past years: rather than bringing dozens of international HONK! bands to one centralized location, the festival organizers are bringing 15 local HONK! bands to five separate locations in the Greater Boston area.

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The HONK! Festival will also not include its annual parade from Davis Square to Harvard Square. Safety protocols such as mask wearing will be required at all of the festival locations.

“HONK! 2021 shall maintain a very different and necessary approach this year…But let it be known, in spite of the smaller look of HONK! 2021 due to this year’s necessary adjustments, the hyper local grassroots plans for this year will have a very mighty feel,” HONK! representative Mary Curtin wrote in a statement.

Somerville

In addition to the HONK Festival’s usual Somerville location, performances will expand to Cambridge, East Boston, South End, and Roxbury. According to the statement, the spread-out plan is designed to help decentralize the event but also bring new communities into the festival.

“This year, HONK!’s intention is to reach communities that have not been able to participate in the past, for example Nubian Square in Roxbury, while also retaining HONK!’s historic connection to Davis Square in Somerville,” Curtin wrote. “The plan is to delve deep into various neighborhoods that constitute the hyperlocal communities that make up Boston and its adjacent cities.”

Last year’s HONK! Festival was held virtually and livestreamed. This year’s concerts will also be livestreamed on Youtube.

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“These unplugged street bands will play to support events designed by their neighborhood partner organizations, who are based right where they live and work, with the purpose of raising awareness about the good grassroots work being done right there,” Curtin wrote.

HONK! plans to release more information about the event on Oct. 1.

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