MOOSEJAWTODAY.COM — The Saskatchewan Festival of Words has played a key role in the formation of the new Canadian Association of Literary Festivals (CALF), with artistic director Sarah Simison as CALF's first president and the first annual conference to be held in Moose Jaw.
"We've been working with other festival directors for, I think, over a decade now," explained Amanda Farnel, executive director of the Sask. Festival of Words. "We usually meet every two years to do a conference and go over what our issues are and what Canadian literary festivals need to be talking about.
"Probably about five or six years ago, we talked about possibly starting an association to better advocate for ourselves amongst publishers, community groups, cities, federal funders, just so we have better information on what we're doing as a unit, so how many authors we're bringing in, book sale numbers, attendance, that kind of thing. So, it's been in development for a while."
Simison was formerly the executive director of the Saskatchewan Festival of Words before accepting the executive director position for the Moose Jaw Cultural Centre (MJCC), where the Festival of Words offices are located. She remains involved in the Festival of Words as artistic director, and because the MJCC is a primary venue for the event. As the MJCC boss, Simison has pushed to expand community connections and increase the MJCC's relevance and reach.
That's why it is significant that the first in-person CALF conference will take place in Moose Jaw from June 5 to 7, 2024. (A smaller, virtual conference took place online in June 2023).
"Currently, Sarah Simison, our artistic director, is the president of the CALF board. She's been heavily involved in starting up the association, and our next conference will be this year in June in Moose Jaw, so we'll bring all the festival directors here," Farnel explained.
"It's all to champion our organizations within different communities, and it has a focus on the different sizes of literary festivals, and advocating with publishers, and learning to better promote ourselves. So, these are longstanding relationships. We've been part of this group, and it's now formally an association."
Farnel said all the members are excited to start building momentum for CALF. They are also happy to be headed to Moose Jaw this summer — and Sask. Festival of Words won't miss the chance to showcase the city.
About 30 literary festival directors are expected to attend for the CALF conference. Going forward, each festival will take turns hosting. With increased collaboration and communication comes an increase in innovation, Farnel noted, so members are looking forward to benefiting individually and as a greater community, and continuing to be leaders in the literary world.
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