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Wordfest

We bring 15,000 Calgarians of all ages together to share a love of reading and writing at more than 140 public and in-school events each year.

Our Story

Why We Exist

“Wordfest was a fantastic way to get our students pumped about reading at the beginning of the year. After reading The Metro Dogs of Moscow by Rachelle Delaney and priming our students to meet the author, they were more excited than ever to participate in this field trip. It has made a lasting effect on the rest of the year, as the students are now eager to read and engage more meaningfully with text!”– Gabby Calder – Teacher

“As an emerging Western Canadian writer, the Festival launched me into a prominence for which I could have only hoped and wished. Your Festival and its hard work to involve local and provincial media in coverage of local and out-of-town writers translated in my case into a nationally syndicated feature which appeared in major daily papers in nearly every large urban market. It would not have happened without the dedication and openness to new writers at WordFest”— JJ Lee, Wordfest 2011 Alumnus

HISTORY | THE INITIAL SEED FOR WORDFEST WAS PLANTED IN 1995 when The Banff Centre, interested in profiling its Writing and Publishing programs, sponsored the Hospitality Suite at The Vancouver International Writers Festival. Don Stein, then Associate Director, Planning for The Banff Centre, established a relationship with the Writers Guild of Alberta and a number of other interested parties, to explore the realities of establishing a Banff-Calgary International Writers Festival.

Wordfest was established in 1996 as a project of The Banff Centre, Calgary Public Library, Mount Royal University and The Writers Guild of Alberta. The Banff Centre then approached respected arts professional Anne Green to develop the Festival and create an independent entity. The annual Festival would take place in October and feature international, national and local writers. Founding Festival Director Anne Green programmed the first Wordfest, featuring 50 writers and two dozen events, taking place over four days. The 1996 line-up featured Margaret Atwood, Roch Carrier, Wayson Choy, Tomson Highway, Paul Quarrington and Sheri-D Wilson.

Since then, Wordfest has presented many notable and world-renowned writers, such as Martin Amis, Margaret Atwood, Louis de Bernières, Joseph Boyden, Eleanor Catton, Wayson Choy, Douglas Coupland, Roddy Doyle, Richard Ford, Diana Gabaldon, Rawi Hage, Tomson Highway, Lawrence Hill, Nancy Huston, John Irving, Barbara Kingsolver, Dany Laferrière, Alexander McCall Smith, Annie Proulx, Mordecai Richler and David Suzuki.

In 2010, Founding Festival Director Anne Green introduced Festival audiences to incoming Director Jo Steffens. While honoring the mandate of the Festival and continuing its legacy, Executive Director Jo Steffens launched new programming elements that encourage audiences to think differently about the literary landscape.

Wordfest has recently presented writers in unscripted storytelling events; film and short-animation screenings about books and literary topics; curated presentations of essays inspired by online videos; live illustrations; and friendly competitions in which writers improvise a performance of their writing on-stage. These program innovations and others are designed to broaden the audience for the Festival and to foster an appreciation of the variety of forms in which the literary arts can be
experienced.

April 2015, the Board of Directors of Wordfest announced Shelley Youngblut as the new General Director, to guide Wordfest through its 20th anniversary celebrations and into the Festival’s third decade. Youngblut’s dedication to fostering a generous, inclusive approach to arts presentation at Wordfest marshalled wide community support, inspired audiences and energized volunteers in the creation of a lively, public celebration of 20 years as the region’s premier international readers and writers Festival.

A strong advocate for high-quality community engagement, Youngblut comes to Wordfest from her previous positions as Western Editor of the Globe and Mail and founding editor of SWERVE, the Calgary Herald’s award-winning weekly magazine. A well-known, “creative ringleader,” she is a regular member of the Unconventional Panel on CBC Calgary‚ The Eyeopener, and recently curated the photography exhibit, Your Town is Our Town, at the Lougheed House Gallery. Youngblut is a past participant of The Banff Centre‚ Literary Journalism, Wired Writing Studio and Arts Journalism programs, as well as the Stanford Professional Publishing Program.

Our Impact

What We Do

Wordfest sparks lively, illuminating and meaningful conversations between Calgary’s readers and the world’s most engaging writers. Our year-round literary events culminate in a 10-day festival every October, and are programmed to inspire Calgarians to live more creative and empathetic lives. Wordfest’s trademark events include readings, workshops, panel discussions and in-school presentations from authors writing in every genre and for all ages.

For 21 years Wordfest has brought together writers from around the world to share stories and discuss ideas with readers. Wordfest™is a not-for-profit organization that hosts year-round literary events featuring the world’s best writers. More than 900 writers have presented at these events over the past 20 years, including Margaret Atwood, Douglas Coupland, Joseph Boyden, John Irving, Dennis Lee, Yann Martel, Chuck Palahniuk, Richard Ford, Alexander McCall Smith and David Suzuki.

Our programming is accessible, engaging and promotes a love of reading and a curiosity about the writing life. Events include poetry and spoken word performances, current event panels, publishing industry workshops, art installations, youth and multilingual programming, in-school performances and featured events with the biggest and brightest stars of the book scene.

 

OUR RESULTS

Wordfest’s main event is a literary festival that features upwards of 70 writers from the local, national and international stage. The Festival has approximately 70 separate events across Calgary and attracts an audience of more than 15,000. In addition to the annual Festival, Wordfest hosts various events throughout the year. This spring, live-author events with Yann Martel, Micah White and Guy Gavriel Kay kick off our year-round programming.

Our off-festival initiatives include public celebrations, community booths and audio-visual streaming projects that ensure wide, engaging access to the world’s best writers right here in Southern Alberta.

Our Programs

How We Do It

Our programming is accessible, engaging and promotes a love of reading and a curiosity about the writing life. Events include poetry and spoken word performances, current event panels, publishing industry workshops, art installations, youth and multilingual programming, in-school performances and featured events with the biggest and brightest stars of the book scene.

20th Anniversary Festival: October 7-17, 2016

Wordfest’s main event is a literary festival that features upwards of 50+ writers from the local, national and international stage. The Festival has approximately 65+ separate events across Calgary and attracts an audience of more than 15,000.

Wordfest Youth: October 7-17, 2016

Wordfest Youth is a popular youth and education program that brings students together with authors to stimulate literacy and encourage a love of reading and writing. As part of its commitment to youth literacy, Wordfest Youth subsidizes literary events for high-needs and at-risk youth. Wordfest supports accessibility and engagement for readers of all ages.

Year-Round Initiatives

In addition to the annual Festival, Wordfest hosts various events throughout the year. This spring, live-author events with Yann Martel, Micah White, Sam Maggs, Guy Gavriel Kay, Chris Cleave and Susan Casey kicked off our year-round programming. In addition to such marquee presentations, our off-festival initiatives include public celebrations, community booths and audio-visual streaming projects that ensure wide, engaging access to the world’s best writers right here in Southern Alberta.

New Focus on Aboriginal Storytelling

There is an urgent and growing need to connect new audiences with First Nations, Inuit and Metis authors, artists and storytellers. Due perhaps in part to the recent presentation of the findings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada and the launch of the national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, we strongly perceive an unprecedented eagerness for understanding and connection with Indigenous communities through inspiring and informative live-audience presentations. Wordfest looks forward to renewing the expansion of its Indigenous Voices programming that began in 2015.

New Focus on making Calgary THE Readers City

Calgary is beyond ready to offer a yearly destination weekend, in which readers can engage with a major literary figure. But to make this truly reflective of Calgary, we will use each author’s “essence” as a lens through which we can showcase our city’s unique creative and collaborative culture for its residents and visitors from all over the world.

Our Requests

What You Can Do

Whether as a volunteer, an individual donor or a community partner, all contributions are valuable to Wordfest. They are an investment in our city, helping to build communities through a shared love of reading, writing, learning and exchanging ideas.

  • Each year, more than 10,000 students experience the magic of interacting with live authors during Wordfest. Targeted contributions to Wordfest’s youth outreach programming help the Festival make our activities accessible to schools and parents who otherwise would not have the ability or resources to participate.

Wordfest is also looking for donors and volunteers to help bring thousands of people of all ages together to share their passion for the literary arts and to promote the development of active, engaged citizens and healthy communities. Contributions in any amount are appreciated and go towards supporting Wordfest as it prepares for its 20th anniversary in October 2015.

For more information, please contact Shelley Youngblut, General Director, at 403 237 9068 ext. 227, or email info@wordfest.com.

Stay Connected

Contact

Shelley Youngblut

Wordfest

403.237.9068

Charitable Number: 850647835RR0001

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Annual Operating Budget:

1160000