From May 6th to the 8th, CanLit's attention will turn to Brampton, Ontario, where the inaugural Festival of Literary Diversity (the FOLD) will finally take place after more than a year of planning and scheming. And we're really looking forward to it. Here's why:
1) The Lineup: Chances are, you've got a beloved author on this list. Heather O'Neill, Ayelet Tsabari, Helen Humphreys, Brian Francis, and Lawrence Hill are some of the big names, with plenty of other artists to discover and fall in love with. Check out our Festival of Literary Diversity reading list here at 49th Shelf.
2) The Diversity: Diversity is a great buzzword, but the organizers at the FOLD have gone ahead to make it mean something. In fact, they've made it mean everything. The festival's mandate includes the following mission: "To present a diverse range of stories (1) that are underrepresented in literary settings, (2) that reflect variations in geography, ethnicity, race, culture, gender, ability, sexual orientation, and religion, (3) employ different methods of story-telling." The result is likely a festival unlike any other you've attended before.
3) The Buzz: We've read the Quill & Quire cover story, and we're also excited to learn the festival has gained support from new partners including Sheridan College, the Ontario Trillium Foundation, the Region of Peel, and ECW Press, in addition to early support from Investors Group, The Richardson Team, and the Ontario Arts Council. It's still weeks away, but the FOLD has taken on serious momentum.
4) The Outreach: While the literary world can be a bit of a bubble, the FOLD is taking its mission out into the world. The festival includes three sessions for secondary school students, and a one-day workshop for educators, both ensuring that the FOLD's impact continues long after the festival weekend is over. Also scheduled is a Diverse Can Lit Writers' Hub, connecting writers with publishers who are actively seeking diverse stories, and a panel called City Building From a Global Perspective, in which four compelling city builders propose solutions for fully inclusive communities that respond to the complexities of a truly global city.
5) The Schedule: See above, point 2, "a festival unlike any other you've attended before." The panel topics are fantastic: on faith and fiction; LGBTQ writers on defying boundaries; on music and youth culture; on improving access to diverse stories (with publishing professionals); on how politics shapes the stories writers tell; on the role of language and dialect in shaping stories; and many more.
6) The Destination: Who doesn't love a road trip? "Brampton is Canada’s second-fastest growing city and the ninth largest city in the country. Located immediately north of Lester B. Pearson International Airport, Brampton residents represent more than 170 different cultures and speak more than 70 languages." It's the most perfect place imaginable for a festival celebrating diversity to take place.
7) The Organizers: The FOLD was born from the wedded visions of author Jael Richardson (whose new book, The Stone Thrower, is one of the best picture books out this spring) and publishing pro Léonicka Valcius (who shared her incredible DiverseBooks vision with us back in 2013). These are inspiring women who make things happen, and they've definitely established themselves as people to watch.
8) The Audacity: In a time of scale-backs and lowered expectations, it's amazing to see something new and ambitious being created. Who wouldn't want to be a part of that?
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