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Inaugural FOLD festival attracts 500 attendees, awarded Ontario Trillium funding

Jael Richardson (photo: Arden Wray)

Jael Richardson (photo: Arden Wray)

The inaugural Festival of Literary Diversity kicked off on a high note May 6, with an announcement that the Ontario Trillium Foundation had granted the Brampton, Ontario, event $38,500 over the next 12 months.

FOLD founder Jael Richardson said the money “gives us hope that we have something meaningful to offer the world.”

The festival – which took place at several venues in downtown Brampton – hopes to bring diversity to the publishing industry by connecting established authors and industry professionals with emerging diverse authors. Richardson said the event “better than we expected on a lot of levels,” and estimated that approximately 500 people attended the weekend’s programming. While organizers initially hoped the number would be closer to 1,000, Richardson isn’t disappointed, because the events were well attended and people were engaged.

“I think we were really pleasantly surprised that on all levels the sessions really impacted all the people who came,” she said. “It was a really powerful weekend.”

Given the positive feedback she’s received, Richardson is committing to making FOLD an annual event. Thanks to the Trillium grant, along with funding from the city of Brampton, she wants to host FOLD events throughout the year, and sees opportunities for advocacy work to encourage local businesses to become more accessible.

The one thing Richardson is not willing to do is move the festival away from Brampton, a commuter city located outside of Toronto. She compares the relationship of Brampton and Toronto to the relationship between Canada and the U.S., saying it was important to the citizens of Brampton that Torontonians came to the festival and enjoyed themselves. People from Brampton, she said, couldn’t get over how powerful the experience was in their own city.”

As far as planning goes, the next step is “going to be about defining our goals as an organization,” Richardson said. “We’re going to build on what we’ve already done and keep it successful.”