Record attendance crowns Litfest’s success

LitFest: Edmonton’s Nonfiction Festival confirmed its place among the front ranks of literary festivals this year, showcasing 52 authors at 35 events, and incorporating everything from a night at the Winspear Centre to quiet professional development opportunities for writers.

LitFest continued to balance a passion for excellence in nonfiction writing with a light and conversational tone. Sessions engaged in serious conversation about the relationship between journalism and politics; the social impact of the Afghan mission on Canadians; the use of physical barriers to reinforce political divisions; the importance of increasing local agricultural production in order to combat global warming; and the strains we are placing on local ecosystems. At the same time, the festival also dove gleefully into sessions featuring burlesque dance, whisky tastings, sexy poetry and the baking of apple pies.

LitFest welcomed a record 3,000 patrons in 2012. The festival was thrilled to host nominees for the Governor General’s Award, Charles Taylor Prize, the BC Book Prize, and the Hilary Weston Prize. LitFest’s most contentious author provided the Festival with one of its finest evenings. The inclusion of Alexander McCall Smith generated some controversy this year as McCall Smith is one of the world’s most successful and beloved writers of fiction. McCall Smith laughingly offered to leave immediately when told of the controversy surrounding his appearance before settling in to entertain an audience of 800 at the Winspear Centre with stories of his vast experiences and writings with characteristic wit and aplomb.

Aside from a fiction writer, successful new programming unveiled this year included:

  • A new partnership with the Strathcona County Library, featuring two parts of a lecture series by noted theatre historian Anne Nothof, a lively reading and talk by naturalist Jerry Haigh, and a workshop on the business of self-promotion as a writer by Jennifer Cockrall-King.
  • A new partnership with Startup Edmonton, including a presentation of a panel featuring local technology theorists, and an intimate workshop with Norah Young.

LitFest 2012 featured 52 authors, 7 musicians, 6 dancers and the documentary film Northwords. It was made possible through the combined efforts of 98 volunteers, 8 staff and 31 sponsors/funders. Of course, planning is already underway for LitFest 2013, October 17-27.