Festival of Words 2019. Moose Jaw Public Library Rotunda | Rob Harden photo
Literary festivals move online
by Lori Deets
Online zoom meetings and other social media platforms have made it possible for anyone to attend public events whenever they choose, without even having to put on a pair of pants.
And moving online may also be an opportunity for festivals to become more accessible for those with accessibility barriers, according Amanda Leduc, communications coordinator for the Festival of Literary Diversity.
“Although most festivals do their best to be as accessible as possible, festivals continually try to improve accessibility. Accessibility is never-ending. It is ongoing and it always will be,” she said
“The key is not just transposing exactly what you have done in a physical sense to an online platform. You really have to think about how you do things differently. What are some different online ways you can get people to engage?”
The Saskatchewan Festival of Words has had to get innovative to engage with their community and survive the current pandemic crisis without cancelling their major annual event, according to executive director Sarah Simison.
In April, Simison and organizers decided to proceed with their annual summer event online.
“I felt it was our duty as a literary organization, to pay authors and artists, to be authors and artists,” said Simison. “It is our job to put the money into the hands of the creators of this work.”
Previously the festival took place in downtown Moose Jaw, giving both the presenters and the participants a taste of Moose Jaw over a four-day period in July.
Twenty events will now take place from July 13 to 19 using online video conferencing platforms.
Organizers used the previous festivals as a road map to navigate their planning process, with free programming, closed captioning, live sessions on Zoom and recording of all sessions that will be available on their website, festivalofwords.com.
Simison is glad she and her committee made the decision to go ahead with their event.
For her, the festival going virtual means greater access for everyone, including people who normally don’t access the festival because of physical, financial and social disabilities.
As well, participants can join in from anywhere in the world.
Both Simison and Leduc agree this is an exciting time for Canadian literature.
Lori Deets is Metis-Cree born in northern Saskatchewan. Being a 60’s Scoop relocated to southern Saskatchewan, Lori now calls Moose Jaw home. Lori has been an avid reader and writer all her life, and has recently entered into the INCA certificate program. Lori is also a recent graduate of the Indigenous Women in Community Leadership from Coady Institute in Antigonish, Nova Scotia. Lori is very active in her community of Moose Jaw, as the chair of the Wakamow Aboriginal Community Association and Vice Chair of the Saskatchewan Festival of Words.