Toronto International Festival of Authors is Set to Announce the Festival

The Toronto International Festival of Authors is back with in-person events for the first time since 2019, which director Roland Gulliver welcomes with a sigh of relief. He first joined TIFA in February 2020, to the same time when the world went into lockdown. Two festivals that were almost completely remote followed.

“It’s so exciting to finally be in person,” Gulliver told earlier this week to Star. “it’s very special when authors and writers are in the room and with audiences”

What the time away has allowed, though, is for ideas to percolate about how to create a festival that takes the best of all mediums, digital and in person, and crosses borders and, hopefully, a few boundaries.

After writer Salman Rushdie was viciously attacked in August, one of the festival’s biggest events came together almost spontaneously in collaboration with PEN Canada. The Freedom to Write and to Read Standing with Salman Rushdie on Tuesday will feature authors including Margaret Atwood, John Irving, Ian McEwan, Deepa Mehta, and many others reading passages of Rushdie’s work, reinforcing the importance of sharing our words. That reading is just one of the marquee events in a festival featuring more than 200 events and activities that organizers hope will attract more candidates.

Another is the Moth, the award-winning New York group that, “do these remarkable, performed readings that then lead to discussion and debate around social issues, cultural issues, healing.” Gulliver describes. They will be participating in a special event at Koerner Hall, part of TIFA’s efforts to present events in all parts of the city.

There’s also the Wasteland Project, with writers from around the world, including Ukraine, responding to T.S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land,” framing universal conversations on the impact of war, pandemics, and colonial violence. “I think that’s a really exciting way of working and connecting,” spoke Gulliver.

Marquee writers and readings have always been a part of the festival, this year they include McEwan, Douglas Stuart, Ireland’s Marian Keyes, Vivek Shraya, Ben Macintyre, Sarah Polley, Martha Wainwright, and Scott Turow with Linwood Barclay.

TIFA Kids will feature almost 30 different events — many of which are free — including readings from David A. Robertson and Kevin Sylvester. There’s also a TIFA Kids-focused “Ask The Expert” event (part of a series of free outdoor events throughout the week) that discusses how to explain the news to kids.

Music and words and poetry and dance are combined in a variety of iterations throughout the festival. Kapow! features Scottish writer Irvine Welsh and others in a performance that features readings, conversation, and hip hop. Indigenous writer, musician, and songwriter Leanne Betasamosake Simpson is set to do a performance that “blurs the boundaries between story and song.” Poet and writer Anne Michaels will appear in concert, exploring Toronto’s poetry, music, and storytelling history.

TIFA always introduces interesting genre ways of engaging with books and writers. One of the most interesting this year is the “Spectacular Translation Machine” with which visitors interpret and “translate” the picture book “La Petite Créature” by French illustrator and graphic artist Marjolaine Leray by selecting a page and writing what they think the words should be. “This is a really exciting thing about doing it here because there are so many languages in the city; hopefully we’ll get this kind of kaleidoscope of different translations,” Gulliver said.

TIFA’s fans will note that the dates have changed,  the festival traditionally took place a month later over the last week of October, and sometimes into the first week of November depending on how the dates fell. This year, it starts Thursday, runs over the weekend, and ends on Oct. 2.

According to Gulliver, that date change has allowed TIFA to program outdoor events. “The instigation for me of the Harbourfront Centre as a space is the combination of indoor venues, outdoor spaces like the concert stage, and all the greatly designed space next to the water.”

Referencing the festival’s potential to grow, and become more accessible and visible, Gulliver said he’s focused on finding ways to engage “both people who are book lovers coming down to see their favorite writer but also just want to experience something that’s interesting and new.”

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