Last year we embarked on a virtual festival with trepidation. Would we be able to successfully translate the enthusiasm of a live audience to something delivered solely through computer screens? As it turned out, we had little reason to worry. VFA2020 was our most well-attended festival yet, as well as our most accessible. The 28 invited writers adapted easily to a new format, and we were privileged to bring their voices to you.
VFA2021 represents more firsts: we have taken what we learned last year and combined it with the strengths of past programming to deliver a hybrid festival. We are excited to present seven in-person events to small but necessary audiences. You can also take part from the comfort of your living room since all in-person programming will be livestreamed for free. These events celebrate the writers from our region: Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland. Three of our events are composed solely of authors from Victoria, including A City of Their Own, an event with musical accompaniment by Victoria’s Artist-in-Residence Kathryn Calder.
Because there are voices from outside our region we want to hear from, we will have four Zoom events, taking place Saturday and Sunday afternoon. These sessions feature authors from across Canada, including our capstone event presenting Governor General Award Winner André Alexis In Conversation with Hal Wake. As was the case last year, Zoom programming remains free of charge or by suggested donation. This year’s festival is hybrid in more ways. While most of the events were programmed by VFA, others have been conceived and created by guest curators. Indigenous writer Samantha Nock curated maskotēw-askiy: a Celebration of Prairie Poetics as well as Mâmawi: Selena Boan in Conversation with Samantha Nock. Danny Ramadan, who appeared as an author in 2020, has created an event featuring new Canadians: The Foreign Land We Call Canada: Immigrant Stories. Forest Poet-Tree Walk is back as an in-person event organized and hosted by Yvonne Blomer and Beth Kope, whose creative imagining first brought the annual event to our festival in 2018. Finally, Planet Earth Poetry co-curated our evening poetry reading: Birth, Death, The Restlessness In Between.
The bookends of this year’s festival, feature work at very different stages of completion. New Works, on Wednesday evening, showcases four local writers who are gifting us a sneak peak at their manuscripts in-progress, while Sunday evening, in conjunction with the Victoria Book Prize Society, the City of Victoria Butler Book Prize and the City of Victoria Children’s Book Prize will be awarded. Whether you are attending in person or virtually, I am so happy to welcome you to VFA2021. Thank you for spending your time with us.