Picture your favourite books all in one room. Now, picture meeting all of their authors simultaneously in one weekend.
London’s own literary and creative arts festival, Words, has a similar effect; in its third year, Words brings a notable array of authors and members of the literary community to Museum London for a weekend of literary bliss.
The weekend consists of interviews and panel discussions between members of London's creative arts community and figures from across Canada.
But Josh Lambier, artistic director of Words and current PhD student at Western, emphasizes that the literary festival isn’t just for English majors.
Some of the authors are scientists who incorporate their work into the creative arts. Shane Neilson, for example, is a family physician whose poetry focuses on pain, mental illness and disability; Madhur Anand is an environmental science professor at University of Guelph who writes poetry focusing on nature.
Among the other notable authors attending is Emma Donoghue, whose screenplay Room (adapted from her novel by the same name) was recently nominated for an Oscar. The best-selling novelist currently resides in London and has donated copies of her original screenplays to Western Archives. Steve Paikin, acclaimed Canadian journalist and current host of TVO’s The Agenda, will also be in conversation with former mayor of London, Anne Marie DeCicco-Best — an interesting turn of tables notes Lambier, as Paikin typically interviews politicians.
In addition to the new panels of authors, Words has made a few changes from prior years. The Souwesto Local Authors’ Book Fair, located upstairs in the museum, will now have extended hours and include works from 40 Canadian authors who write for smaller publications.
Lambier says Words has arranged “creative pairings” this year in hopes of bringing together artistic and literary voices from the university and the community. One pairing is Bryce Traister, the chair of the Western English department and Donoghue, who will discuss her new novel, The Wonder.
Words will also host poetry events such as guerrilla poetry, where festival attendees read poetry in teams in unexpected places along Dundas Street, and a Saturday night event called Poetry Live! This event will see a coming together of London’s three most prominent poetry groups: London Poetry Slam, London Open Mic Poetry and Poetry London. Attendees of the festival can sign up to read their own poetry, regardless of the style they write in.
In terms of the goals of Words, Lambier hopes that the festival can bridge the gap between university education and the local London community.
“One of the things I noticed half way through my PhD was a significant disconnection between civic life — the city — and the academic study of literature,” Lambier says. Through his work with the Public Humanities project at Western, Lambier has identified Western professors and chairs that are “champions of broader public conversation.” Lambier is hopeful that the Western bubble may be popped through Words.
Words is taking place Friday Nov. 4 to Sunday Nov. 6 at Museum London. All events are free with the exception of the opening reception on Friday evening, which is $15 for students.