Kitchener, Ontario, has ended its association with the Word on the Street festival, and instead plans to run more year-round literary programming across the city.
“We had a good 15-year run with Word on the Street and a great partnership, but what we’ve heard in the last couple of years from our community is that they just wanted more,” says Jeff Young, Kitchener’s manager of special events.
The $20,000 in city funds that supported the one-day fall festival will instead be diverted to a series of book-related events launching this summer. ImagineIt Kitchener, helmed by former Word on the Street Kitchener co-ordinator Julie Marshall, will be held in collaboration with the Kitchener Public Library.
Programming will include a mix of regular series and annual events, such as the 85 Queen Series, featuring critically acclaimed authors, Family Literacy Day, and writer’s craft workshops. In addition, literary programming will be piggybacked onto pre-existing events in the city.
“It certainly wasn’t anything negative with Word on the Street, it was just an opportunity to expand programming,” Young says. “There’s a new neighbourhood strategy the city is working on. We’ve got a strong partnership with the KPL, and it’s an opportunity for us to take what was a great one-day festival and do something of our own, but expand it to multiple days throughout the year, while also hitting all different areas of the city, getting into the different neighbourhoods, and utilizing the library branches and their expertise.”
WOTS Canada is working with the KPL to explore the possibility of incorporating a WOTS component into some of ImagineIt Kitchener, says national coordinator Helena Aalto. “Many authors live in Kitchener and the surrounding areas, and [Kitchener] has been an enthusiastic participant in the national festival,” she says.”We’re sure there will be great support for the city’s new initiative.”
The Word on the Street literary festival was launched in 1990 and still takes place annually in Toronto, Saskatoon, Halifax, and Lethbridge.