Viola Desmond Singer/Songwriter Contest Offers $10,000 First Prize: Submissions Now Open

(December 19, 2014 Halifax, NS) Singer/songwriters who are residents of Nova Scotia are invited to submit their work for a chance to win $10,000. Presented by the Nova Scotia Department of Communities, Culture and Heritage in partnership with Music Nova Scotia, the contest pays tribute to Viola Desmond and her contributions toward the civil rights movement in Canada. The contest will also create a heightened sense of awareness around Nova Scotia’s Heritage Day holiday. The inaugural holiday honours Viola Desmond on February 16, 2015.  

According to Scott Long, Executive Director of Music Nova Scotia, music plays an important role in bringing people together to demand social justice and change. “Artists have a long history of being powerful allies when it comes to creating awareness for social change. Our artists have a unique set of resources that can amplify the messaging for improving social justice including their creativity, public notoriety and loyal fans. Artistic creativity inspires people to think differently about the world around them and has the power to activate people to demand change,” says Long.

The contest is administered by Music Nova Scotia and submissions are now open. Singer/songwriters submitting to the contest must keep in mind that the spirit of the contest is to create awareness around civil rights, social justice and Viola Desmond. In keeping with the spirit of the contest, singer/songwriters are encouraged to collaborate and co-write the work to be submitted. Collaborations are not mandatory for submission but the judging panel will assess them more favourably. The contest judging panel will be comprised of a diverse cross-section of creative industries professionals from across the province.

“Viola Desmond has long been an inspiration to African Canadians who have demanded social justice, and her story must be heard,” said Tony Ince, Minister of Communities, Culture and Heritage, and for African Nova Scotian Affairs. “We hope the artists who participate in this contest will help to increase awareness about the important role Viola Desmond played in Nova Scotia’s heritage, and their songs will create a lasting tribute to her legacy.”

Viola Desmond was an African Nova Scotian businesswoman who challenged racial segregation at a theatre in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia in 1946. She refused to leave a whites-only area of the Roseland Theatre and was unjustly convicted of a minor tax violation used to enforce racial segregation. Desmond's case was one of the most publicized incidents of racial discrimination in Canadian history and helped start resistance to segregation in Nova Scotia. Desmond acted nine years before the famed incident by civil-rights activist Rosa Parks. Desmond was granted a posthumous pardon, the first to be granted in Canada. The government of Nova Scotia also apologized for convicting her for tax evasion, when, in fact, she was resisting a "whites only" discrimination policy.

Submissions to the contest close on Friday, January 16 and the top three (3) finalists will be announced on Thursday, January 29. The top three (3) finalists will perform on Friday, February 13 at Casino Nova Scotia’s Harbourfront Lounge. The winning submission will be announced on location following the performances. 

To view the contest rules and regulations and to submit to the Viola Desmond Singer/Songwriter contest please visit




For more information and media inquiries please contact:

Scott Long

Executive Director

Music Nova Scotia

902-423-6271 Ext. 101