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LeftWords Festival to relaunch this weekend

A number of independent publishers have paired up with the Mayworks Festival of Working People and the Arts to relaunch LeftWords Festival of Books and Ideas, a celebration of progressive, critical writing and publishing. The event, which takes place May 6 at Toronto’s Ryerson University, will feature a full day of author and activist panels, and a book and magazine fair.

The program features a roster of notable political thinkers and writers “ including Alan Filewod, Deb Barndt, Jeet Heer, and Emily Pohl-Weary, to name a few “ with talks by American activist and scholar Frances Fox Piven and by journalist and activist Michele Landsberg, whose Toronto Star columns were recently published in the collection Writing the Revolution (Second Story Press). (The full program can be found at the LeftWords website.)

The book fair will exhibit such alternative publishers as Between The Lines, Fernwood Press, Another Story, Coach House Books, Brunswick Books, and a host of independent magazines, such as Briarpatch, FUSE, Shameless, This Magazine, Herizons, and Broken Pencil.

The first LeftWords festival took place in 1999 and every year until 2005. According to Matt Adams, a LeftWords organizer and publicist at Toronto’s Between the Lines, they packed it in due to a lack of funding. We never really had the marketing budget we needed or the space rental budget that we wanted so we finally thought, ˜We should quit while we’re ahead and wait for better times.’

Social media and the new partnership with Mayworks has now permitted organizers to put on the event in an affordable and efficient way, Adams says. Politically, he adds, it’s an exciting time thanks to the Occupy movement, the Arab Spring, and renewed public interest in Canada around environmental issues and left-of-centre politics. All these topics are becoming much more prevalent and LeftWords is a place where these ideas are talked about, and where books and magazines in which people address these critical issues are sold, Adams says.

Michele Landsberg, pictured above, will deliver the keynote lecture at LeftWords Festival in Toronto on May 6.