The Vancouver Writers Fest concluded its anticipated 30th Festival on Sunday, after six days of 94 events with 112 authors on Granville Island. A year steeped with meaning, pathos and delight, 2017 marked not only the landmark anniversary of one of the world’s most prestigious literary festivals but the final year that Hal Wake, Artistic Director, will be at the helm. Leslie Hurtig will begin her work as Artistic Director from November 30 onwards.
The Vancouver Writers Fest welcomed more than 16,500 audience members to Granville Island to see a diverse lineup of authors from Canada and across the globe. Book sales totalled more than $80,000.
“What we have built over 30 years is a cultural event that increasingly brings people from across Canada, the United States and even as far as Australia to Vancouver. They have come here because of what we offer: a full range of thoughtful conversations and entertaining performances from some of the best writers in the world,” said Wake.
Highlights of the Festival included an on-stage interview with Margaret Atwood and Hal Wake, followed by an evening of conversation between Atwood and Andrew O’Hagan; a celebration of 50 years of House of Anansi Press, and Dennis Lee’s Heart Residence; an electric Poetry Bash with Kim Addonizio, Matthew Dickman and Hera Lindsay Bird—amongst others—as curated by Lorna Crozier; Adam Gopnik in conversation with Charles Foran; a “Game Changing” event with NHL legend Ken Dryden; and a remarkable discussion about identity and Indigenous voices between Witi Ihimaera, Ali Cobby Eckermann and Leanne Betasamosake Simpson.
More than 100 school groups participated in the 40 events curated to introduce young readers to the ideas of some of the most celebrated children’s authors in Canada, including Gordon Korman, Margriet Ruurs, Cary Fagan and Andy Jones. Another dozen schools in the Lower Mainland were treated to visits from festival authors through the Spreading the Word Reading With Writers program.
Speaking of his time at the Festival, Wake reflected, “It is hard for me to describe what an honour, privilege and pleasure it has been to work with the staff, board and volunteers to put on this tremendous festival every year, and have a lot of fun doing it.”
The Festival’s artistic programming will be curated by Leslie Hurtig as of November 30, who will work closely alongside the Executive Director.
A lifelong contributor to—and champion of—Canada’s publishing industry, Hurtig possesses extensive knowledge of the Festival, having acted as a Director and then as Board Chair from 1999 to 2016 combined. Her experience of the publishing industry is as in-depth as it is broad. Prior positions include Bookseller with Munro’s Books; Freelance Publicist with McClelland & Stewart; Publishers’ Representative with Michael Reynolds and Associates; and Foreign Rights and Contracts Manager with Raincoast Books.
“As we wrap up this outstanding anniversary year, and celebrate the vision that Hal Wake has brought to this festival over the past twelve years, I am thrilled with the possibilities for its future. We have a tremendous framework and world-class reputation to build upon. I can’t wait to get started,” Hurtig enthused.