Wordy wanderings come a-callin’

By Jordyn Marcellus

The written and spoken word has a strong history in Calgary. The city hosts two of the medium’s biggest festivals, Wordfest and the Calgary International Spoken Word Festival. Calgarian Craig Davidson — a man who sacrificed his own body twice for his 2007 novel The Fighter by taking a full steroid cycle during research and then being defeated in a boxing match during publicity for the same book — is a rising star who has been compared to alt-lit writer Chuck Palahniuk.

With this year’s exciting lineup, which includes strong young voices like poet Zoe Whittall, graphic novelists like the pseudononymous Seth and local writers like Davidson, Wordfest offers opportunities for Calgarians to witness a wide range of artists showcase the art of wordsmithing.

“We always aim to bring the very best calibre of writers to Calgary and Banff and a broad program that will appeal to our community and a broad audience,” says festival director Anne Green. “It’s certainly not a festival aimed to the literati in its outreach. Our outreach is to the entire community, and if you look at the program it’s a very populist program.”

The festival, entering its 14th year, has been directed by Green since its inception in 1996. Founded by a group of organizations including the Calgary Public Library, then-Mount Royal College, the Writers Guild of Alberta and the Banff Centre, the festival has gained traction every year it’s been around.

“We all went into [it] not knowing what the end result was going to be, whether or not it would be a one-off or what it would be,” says Green. “Next year will be our 15th anniversary, so there you go — it’s grown from one little event into one of North America’s premier literary events.”

One thing that Wordfest organizers try to do, with a great deal of success, is make their festival accessible to all Calgarians. The festival features diverse programming across the city, including a free Wednesday, September 13 workshop with budding young writers like Whittall in the Rozsa Centre.

“For many years we’ve tried to broaden [our programming],” says Green. “We work a lot with writers who are extending their platforms. We work with performance artists, writers who work with musicians — Kris Demeanor is playing, [and so is] Roland Pemberton [rapper Cadence Weapon] . . . What we try to do is include a reflection of what’s going on in the world.”

University students get a really good deal too: with a student ID in hand, tickets for events over $10 are half-off.

“We try to make the festival as accessible as possible,” says Green. “There’s a number of free events also. Several events are directed to writers and those who are interested into getting into the writing trade.”


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