Get your reading glasses on: WordFest begins

By Chris Tait

When coming to festivals revolving around books, people will have certain images come to mind. A bunch of old guys lecturing about their new book or wino socialites and academics pretending to know exactly what the author intended even when they really don’t. For festivals like these, certain names come to mind, and some them rhyme with nerd-fest.

But these are only the misconceptions often associated with WordFest, the International Writers Festival. WordFest hasn’t been about the wank, but about exposing the writers people should know and this year it will add itself to the list of successful festivals Calgary has to offer. For the uninitiated, WordFest offers a chance to interact with Canadian and international authors from all sorts of genres. Writers from around the world come to Calgary and Banff for the opportunity to showcase their latest works.

“Calgary is such a diverse community that we want to try and bring really quality writing and informed entertainment to as many interests as possible,” explains WordFest Producer Anne Green.

According to Green, the focus of the festival has always been “to make reading accessible and fun.” To exterminate any misconceptions derived from the name, the festival tries to cater to a broad audience.

“There’s a lot more performance aspect, right across the board, this year in terms of really diverse elements,” says Green. “Multimedia, singer/songwriters, performance poets, actors–it’s bringing in a number of different disciplines to celebrate the writing. We’ve even got people who’re into dinosaurs.”

With the diverse program geared toward diverse tastes, the festival has always brought in artists from various media, including everything from poets to comic book writers.

“We try to keep pushing the boundaries, because we don’t want to become complacent in our program,” divulges Green.

“We’ve got a very broad reach,” she continues, explaining the age ranges catered to at WordFest are anything from kindergarten and up, with a number of children’s performers including renowned folk singer Connie Kaldor.

Highlights for the 2004 festival include Natalee Caple, freshly recognized by the Markin-Flanagan Distinguished Writers Programme for her crime novel, Mackerel Sky, University of Calgary professors Suzette Mayr and Clem Martini, and a rare public appearance by Michel Tremblay. Paul Anderson will also be present, doing several multimedia-integrated readings from his latest novel, Hunger’s Brides, which has been stirring up recent buzz with reviewers.

“Our main venue is Vertigo Theatre this year,” says Green. “All our downtown venues are either linked or within a couple of blocks from each other. We’re hoping to achieve a much more festival buzz.”

On top of all the programmed events guaranteed to grace the festival, Green promises there’s more going on than just the listed events.

“We’ve got some surprise programming in the downtown venues at Vertigo in the evening,” she says mischievously. “We’ve programmed a number of young artists to perform between shows, people who are considered really quite cutting-edge. You’ll have to come down and see!”

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