Memories of Readers and Writers Festival 2013

by Stewart Goodings with photos by Annette Reinhart

Denman’s annual treat for book lovers and aspiring writers, held July 18-21 provided a score of literary memories for those lucky enough to take in the solo sessions, workshops, Main Stage conversations, as well as a new element this year – music in front of the General Store and on stages at the Kaffee Klatsch and Earth Club Factory.

I’ve been coming to the Festival for six years, and cannot think of another one which has offered as many lively and memorable experiences …. in no particular order, here are some whiIMG_4334ch Festival goers have told us about:

An eloquent trio of writers – Ted Chamberlin, Lorna Goodison and Des Kennedy – riffing on the delights and challenges of living on islands, a theme close to the hearts of Denmanites …..

IMG_4369 An absorbing and moving conversation with Alexandra Morton, during which moderator Des Kennedy elicited Morton’s life history and mission in 90 fascinating minutes to the largest crowd of the Festival, over 200 avid listeners and fans …..IMG_4315

A virtuoso one man performance by the humorist, Terry Fallis, as he read from and described the background to his book “Up and Down”, especially the contacts he’s had with former astronaut Marc Garneau …..

Who will forget our BookworIMG_4293m, the charming Jori Phillips (Miss-Spelled), as she wandered around the Festival venues, dressed in her hand-made dress created from pages of a thesaurus?  Who would have imagined that the dress would subsequently go viral on the internet then get picked up by CBC Radio and TV and other national and international media outlets?  Congratulations to Jori for her craft and creativity!

Another addition to this year’s events was live music performed by a variety of Audio Arts musicians at three venues, adding to the festive atmosphere of this Friendly Festival.IMG_4301

Music was also a theme for the Saturday evening Main Stage, with guest Moderator Kathryn Gretsinger engaging Esi Edugyan, Kevin Chong and Katherine Monk in a discussion of their work in relation to the turbulent times of their books’ settings.

DSC_0190For poetry fans, the Friday evening Main Stage conversation between Fred Wah and Steven Price – two master wordsmiths in both poetry and prose – was well worth the price of admission.

The ten participants in Jack Hodgin’s Writer in Residence program were once again treated to powerful teaching and valuable advice from this well loved and regular presenter at Denman Festivals.

DSC_0102Both the opening and closing sessions were marked by the wise and evocative words of First Nations story-teller, Wedlidi Speck, urging us to be inspired by the ancestors and the community of spirit that is the Denman Festival.

For many Festival goers, attending the solo sessions by our invited authors gave everyone a chance to get up close and personal with some of Canada’s finest writers, as they read from their books and answered audience questions …. whether it was Anakana Schofield taking on the Irish brogue of her protagonist in “Malarky”, or Lorna Goodison sharing her mother’s life story in her Jamaican lilt, or Katherine Monk delving into the influence of Friedrich Nietzsche on Joni Mitchell’s music, every solo session had gems of listening pleasure.

This was the first year that thIMG_4238e Festival had been able to benefit from the renovations to the Seniors Hall, and both the open French doors to the lounge and the new patio received many compliments as Festival attendees were able to relax between sessions.

One of the unique features of the Denman Festival was the opportunity for local writers to share their work, and both Friday and Saturday sessions featured humorous, thoughtful and creative selections of both prose and poetry.


Attendance was up 10% over last year, indicating the so-called death of the book is not yet happening!  However, the organizers are not sitting on their laurels.  Two meetings have already been held since the Festival ended, and planning for 2014 is already underway!  Suggestions of new authors are always welcome.

Another Readers and Writers Festival is over, once more showing what a remarkable and creative island Denman is.

Posted August 2013

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