The Toronto International Festival of Authors is All Set to Host its First Live Event
on Sep 22, 2022
The Toronto International Festival of Authors is back with in-person events for the first time since 2019, which director Roland Gulliver welcomes with a sigh of relief. He first joined TIFA in February 2020, right before the world went into lockdown. Two festivals that were almost entirely remote followed.
"It's so exciting to finally be in person," Gulliver said earlier this week to the Star. "That joy and energy when authors and writers are in the room and with audiences are very special (and) much missed."
However, the time away has allowed ideas to germinate about how to create a festival that takes the best of all mediums, digital and in-person, and crosses borders and, hopefully, a few boundaries.
After writer Salman Rushdie was viciously attacked in August, one of the festival's biggest events came together almost spontaneously in collaboration with PEN Canada. The Freedom to Write and Read: Standing with Salman Rushdie on Tuesday will feature authors such as Margaret Atwood, John Irving, Ian McEwan, Deepa Mehta, and many others reading passages from Rushdie's work, emphasizing the importance of sharing our words.
That reading is just one of the highlights of a festival with over 200 events and activities that organizers hope will draw more people.
Another is the Moth, an award-winning New York group that "do these remarkable, performed readings that then lead to discussion and debate around social issues, cultural issues, healing," according to Gulliver. They'll be attending a special event at Koerner Hall as part of TIFA's efforts to present events throughout the city.
There's also the Wasteland Project, which brings together writers from all over the world, including Ukraine, to respond to T.S. Eliot's "The Waste Land," framing a global conversation about the impact of war, pandemics, and colonial violence. "I think that's a really exciting way to work and connect," Gulliver said.
McEwan, Douglas Stuart, Marian Keyes of Ireland, Vivek Shraya, Ben Macintyre, Sarah Polley, Martha Wainwright, and Scott Turow with Linwood Barclay are among the festival's marquee writers and readings this year.
TIFA Kids will host nearly 30 events, many of which are free, including readings by David A. Robertson and Kevin Sylvester.
There's also a TIFA Kids-focused "Ask The Expert" event (part of a weeklong series of free outdoor events) that discusses how to explain the news to children.
Throughout the festival, music, words, poetry, and dance are combined in various iterations.
Kapow! features Irvine Welsh, a Scottish writer, and others in a performance that includes readings, conversation, and hip hop.
Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, an indigenous writer, musician, and songwriter, is planning a performance that "blurs the boundaries between story and song."
Poet and writer Anne Michaels will perform a concert celebrating the history of poetry, music, and storytelling in Toronto.
TIFA always introduces novel ways to interact with books and writers. The "Spectacular Translation Machine" by French illustrator and graphic artist Marjolaine Leray is one of the most intriguing this year. Visitors interpret and "translate" the picture book "La Petite Créature" by selecting a page and writing what they think the words should be. "The really exciting thing about doing it here is that there are so many languages in the city; hopefully we'll get a kaleidoscope of different translations," Gulliver explained.
TIFA fans will notice that the dates have changed: the festival used to be held a month later — in the last week of October and sometimes into the first week of November, depending on how the dates fell. This year, it begins on Thursday, continues through the weekend, and concludes on October 2.
According to Gulliver, the date change has allowed TIFA to schedule outdoor events. "The combination of indoor venues, outdoor spaces like the concert stage, and all the beautifully designed space next to the water excites me about the Harbourfront Centre as a space."
Gulliver said he's focused on finding ways to engage "both people who are book lovers coming down to see their favorite writer but also just want to experience something interesting and new," about the festival's potential to grow and become more accessible and visible.
From September 22 to October 2, the Toronto International Authors Festival will be held at Harbourfront Centre and other locations throughout the city.