London’s Literary and Creative Arts Festival, Words, has always been more than a traditional literary celebration.
Since it started 10 years ago, artistic director Joshua Lambier has sought to share creativity and inspiration in many forms.
This year, as Words marks its 10th anniversary, you’ll find best-selling authors, an award-winning photographer and some of Western’s biggest literary names at the festival.
“You’re going to get a really interdisciplinary experience of music, journalism, big thinking, visual arts, people participating in open mics, making zines,” said Lambier, coordinator of the public humanities program at Western.
“It’s a very interactive experience that might be a bit different than what people call to mind when thinking of a traditional literary festival.” – Joshua Lambier, artistic director of Words
That includes original research from scholars and professors at Western, who will share their findings or host conversations at various events over the 10-day festival, which runs Nov. 3 to 12.
Western’s writer-in-residence, Téa Mutonji, an award-winning poet and author; student writer-in-residence Gray Brogden and Sheila Heti, the new Alice Munro Chair in Creativity, will all be featured at Words alongside Canadian musicians, writers, researchers and artists of all kinds.
Connecting Western to the wider community has always been an important element of the festival, Lambier said.
“The mission of the public humanities was to try to find ways to make arts and humanities disciplines more accessible to public audiences in our community. It’s always been in the DNA of Words to have the university come downtown, and in the process, also make (those) downtown feel welcome at the university.”
This year’s theme is ‘crisis, creativity and care,’ a nod to the COVID-19 pandemic and the important role the arts can play in responding to big problems or moments of “unprecedented” change.
The pandemic brought an interesting twist to Words – a boon for its attendance. Thanks to virtual programming, audiences tuned in from all over the country, in numbers that ballooned by about 75 per cent, Lambier said. Though the 2023 festival has a major focus on togetherness, gathering to harness ideas and inspiration with others, there will also be live stream options in many cases to take advantage of interest in virtual programming.
From comic book workshops to songwriting sessions, there are events to interest a variety of attendees.
A few of the highlights:
*The Man I Left Behind: Award-winning photojournalist Larry Towell will share his work capturing images from major conflicts around the world during a Nov. 4 folk music performance at Museum London, accompanied by fiddler Anne Lindsay and Mike Stevens on harmonica. Lambier deems this an event “not to be missed.”
*Poetry Live: An Evening of Open Mic Poetry: Led by Western graduate Matthew Dawkins, BA’23, whose first book, Until We Break, was published during his time at university, will host the event with special guest Charlie Petch on Nov. 5 at Museum London.
*Emma Donoghue & Chris Roulston: In Conversation: Acclaimed author and Londoner Emma Donoghue in conversation with her partner, Western French studies professor Chris Roulston, a leading Anne Lister scholar, on Nov. 9 at Museum London. Lister’s five-million-word journal, now a UNESCO World Heritage Document, helped inspire Donoghue’s newest book, Learned by Heart.
Over its 10-year history, Words has helped bring the city’s creative community together and created the foundation for new events and projects.
“When we started the festival and people asked why, I would always express the shock that London didn’t have a literary festival that mobilized our writing communities, our creative communities together to celebrate the fact that this is where Emma Donoghue lives. This is where Alice Monroe went to Western for an undergraduate degree. John Kenneth Galbraith and Ryan Gosling and Justin Bieber all emerged from this region, and yet we didn’t have a literary festival to celebrate that,” Lambier said.
“Since then, I have seen the creativity of the community pick up so incredibly. It’s such an achievement to see the creation of events that’s come from having a moment like this to mobilize.”