Victoria Festival of Authors returns with expanded edition

ON STAGE

What: Victoria Festival of Authors
Where: The Metro Studio Theatre (1411 Quadra St.), Mary Lake Nature Sanctuary (1772 Millstream Rd.), and victoriafestivalofauthors.ca
When: Sept. 29 to Oct. 3
Tickets: Eventbrite.ca (no ticket sales at the door)

Planning a festival mid-pandemic, especially one with multiple venues, many mediums, and more than two dozen participants from around the province, is not the easiest of ordeals.

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But for Laura Trunkey, who is producing the sixth annual Victoria Festival of Authors, facing countless restructuring plans and several months of protocol-susceptible tinkering beats the alternative — no festival at all.

“Last year, it was online only,” Trunkey said. “This year, it feels like we’re planning two festivals. We’re organizing the livestreams and Zoom events for the online portion, but we also have all the considerations of COVID safety for the in-person events.”

The sixth edition of the festival, which runs Sept. 29 until Oct. 3, offers an expanded footprint compared to the 2020 version, which was held entirely online. In-person events will be held indoors at the Metro Studio Theatre and outdoors at the Mary Lake Nature Sanctuary, two scenarios in which organizers can keep guests socially distanced. For those who want to enjoy the festival from the comfort of their own home, the festival features several free, online-only events.

The live portion of the festival has Trunkey feeling chuffed about its potential as attendees will have the opportunity to meet writers from their own backyard. “When we were considering these in-person events, and thinking of how to make them safe, we decided we would just have a regional focus this year. It’s really nice to be able to recognize all of the poets and writers from our area, because there are so many.”

Trunkey has scheduled 10 events featuring 28 writers during the festival’s five-day run, which gets underway Wednesday at the Metro. Brentwood Bay writer and 2019 Griffin Poetry Prize winner Eve Joseph will moderate opening night, which features four authors and will focus on new work. The remainder of the festival is similarly scheduled, with Andre Alexis, Patrick Friesen, M.A.C. Farrant, Carla Funk and Darrel J. McLeod among the established poets and prose-writers set to appear.

John Barton, Beth Kope, Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm, Danny Ramadan, Yvonne Blomer Kathryn Calder and Samantha Nock are on-board as moderators. Space for in-person events is limited, Trunkey said, and tickets must be purchased in advance (tickets will not be sold at the door.) But the entire event will be streamed online, so the festival has quite a large footprint when it comes to coverage, Trunkey said.

“We have definitely found ways to be more accessible. That helped us last year, realizing the potential of online audiences. Our goal isn’t to grow the festival; we don’t want it any longer or to host more events, we just want to be able to reach a greater and more diverse audience.”

As for the response it will receive from the public, Trunkey said she has no idea. It was a Herculean task to bring the festival to fruition, so she’s committed to making the most of a less-than-ideal situation amid a topsy-turvy environment.

“Right now it’s difficult, because we’re seeing some in-person events, which are almost sold out, with very few people registered to see it online. Where as we have a couple of events where only a handful of people have registered to see it in person, but a ton of people have registered to see it online. I don’t know that we’ll know [how it is going to be received] until right before.”

mdevlin@timescolonist.com

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