Illustration by Tricia Lim

WordFest brings the Imaginarium to Calgary

By Thomas Johnson, October 10 2018 —

While Calgary’s home for all things literary can be experienced year-round, WordFest’s week-long sojourn kicked off on Monday, Oct. 8, bringing to YYC a brief wonderland of imagination. The festival, now in its 23rd season, has expanded its typically impressive roster to host over 120 artists, filling out 180 events.

“People love coming to literary events here. It’s really great to see people coming out and supporting the arts community in Calgary, especially writing,” says Logan Peters, the communications and development associate for WordFest. “Our events are packed. A lot of people love to read and I think that’s amazing because it can be inspiring to read a book, learn new things, meet the author of a book you’ve been reading. That’s what I see in Calgary — people get excited about literature.”

Thematically, WordFest 2018 revolves around the Imaginarium, a street-long curiosity shop occupying several venues on 12 Avenue as well as the Memorial Park Library, where a full bar has been installed on the second level, putting the ‘lit’ in ‘literary.’ (Sorry.)

Despite the significant growth, Peters doesn’t see WordFest slowing down its increasing scope.

“I think it’s going to keep getting bigger. As WordFest keeps doing its thing, more and more people are getting involved and more and more people are getting excited,” Peters said. “I started working here last year and what I’ve seen is that people are more and more excited. People are finding a literary community here and my hope is that WordFest continues to be an open space for people to come and hear their favourite authors talk and leave feeling inspired.”

Highlights for this year’s WordFest include American journalist Kurt Anderson and Inuit throat singer Tanya Tagak. Anderson, who is best-known as the trailblazer who first referred to United States President Donald Trump as a “short-fingered vulgarian,” spoke on the current state of American identity on Tuesday.

Closing out WordFest on Oct. 15 is three-time Juno nominee, two-time Juno winner and 2014 Polaris Prize winner Tanya Tagak, whose first book Split Tooth moves fluidly between fiction and memoir, poetry and prose. Her performance is set to mirror the ambiguous style of her book, ranging from a musical to spoken-word and dance to reading for a truly singular experience. She will be interviewed by University of Calgary professor and fellow author Vivek Shraya.

WordFest 2018 comes at an interesting time for Calgary’s literary community, as it nearly coincides with the opening of the new Central Library, which will open its doors to the public on Nov. 1. And while Calgary has never lacked a proper written community, the pair of events will help strengthen the bond Calgarians have with their mediums of expression.

“They’re making [the Central Library] a community hub. They’re offering services like audio-booths, places to read, places to work, which is really important,” says Peters.

WordFest’s Imaginarium will conclude on Oct. 15. Event prices vary, though a student discount is available. For more information check out their website.

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