For as long as there have been words there have been people who have taken the time to craft them into brilliant stories, poems, songs, even cartoons to help spread their ideas.
That tradition of passionate writers is alive and well in a London that has a strong literary community, albeit one that — ironically — doesn’t always take the time to celebrate itself.
It is with that mind that organizers have created the Words Literary and Creative Arts Festival. The inaugural edition of the festival takes place this weekend, Oct. 24-26, with events at Covent Garden Market, Museum London and the London Public Library.
Josh Lambier is one of the co-organizers of the Words Literary and Creative Arts Festival. Back in January, Rob Paynter, director of communications at the City of London, and Brian Meehan, Museum London executive director, contacted Lambier with the idea of putting together a festival that would gather like-minded people together to celebrate the literary community.
Lambier — a PhD student in English who founded the Public Humanities at Western group — said he was more than happy to join up.
“One of the things that is remarkable about London is the number of people it has with incredible talent,” Lambier said. “People who have left to go somewhere else to pursue it, have come from somewhere else to London, or have stayed in London, and are incredibly talented as writers or wordsmiths as some form or another. But what we don’t have is a central event that celebrates what we have done or where we are going with that talent.”
To correct that situation, Lambier and his fellow organizers focused on creating events that would celebrate the written word, in its many forms. In fact, that is exactly why the festival has that second part — creative arts — within its name.
A focus was made on creative arts so to accommodate the fact the festival welcomes literary pursuits like graphic novels, comics, poetry, children’s literature, music, all genres, but keeping a close eye on words as that central theme.
As to why London has traditionally gathered such a strong literary community, Lambier said being a “university town” for so many years has certainly helped cultivate talent.
Of course, location has played a role too.
“We are close to a lot of different things, whether it is Toronto, whether it is the American border. London used to be directly in line between the United States and a lot of travelling acts heading to Toronto,” Lambier said. “The centres of creativity, whether game design or graphic novels, we have had a lot of talent come through the city.”
While the festival celebrates local literary talent, it is also focusing on the importance of words themselves.
The festival has a number of events lined up to help get the public engaged.
There are conversation sessions where authors speak to each other and there are interview sessions where experts (in the sense of those who have sat down to look at the work) will draw connect with various writers, with the help of the audience.
In addition to several “traditional lecture format” events, there is also a Book Fair scheduled for the mezzanine level at the Covent Garden Market. The book fair will involve over 40 for local and area authors.
At the library there is a Book Jam that was created to engage a younger audience who wants to engage with both the spoken and written word.
There is only one event that covers a charge, which is the opening reception. There are still tickets ($20 apiece) available for that opening and can be purchased through the festival website, www.wordsfest.ca.
A complete list of events and locations is also available on the website.
Lambier said it has been “something of a challenge” to lift up something that hasn’t been done before.
However, the effort, he adds, has been well worth it.
“There are a number of great literary groups in this city so we want to bring attention to what they have done,” Lambier said. “We want this to be an ongoing event, hopefully fit right into the public’s fall schedule.”