From publishers to writers, teachers to librarians: resoundingly, people we have met with are overwhelmingly supportive of the FOLD. These are people that have been generous with their resources, thoughtful in their discussions, and, most importantly, candid about their experiences that confirm the need for a long-overdue initiative that addresses diversity in Canadian literature.
One question we get often is, “do we really need a festival focused on diversity?” We are offered examples of diverse Canadian authors who are winning awards, authors such as Andre Alexis and Lawrence Hill whose careers are flourishing. The short answer is yes, we do. Equality means creating solutions that take into account the specific ways people have been marginalized. And the conversation needs to be ongoing to remind us often, to build a new and more inclusive dialogue, and to support each other as we change the way things have always been done.
Our biggest obstacle is financial. As a year one event, the FOLD is ineligible for many grants and foundation opportunities. The challenge in garnering sponsorship support from local businesses is two-fold: we have no demonstrated record of success, and what we’re doing is entirely new to this community.
Brampton, a city historically supportive of the arts, currently has no opportunities to celebrate the literary arts. There is no significant event to engage the 4.1 million people that visited the Brampton Libraries (online and in person) last year. This means helping community partners understand what, exactly, a “literary festival” is, while at the same time demonstrating that the FOLD is not your average literary festival. Yoga, sessions for entrepreneurs, and spoken word events for youth: these are just a few of the things that set us apart. We are also the city’s first ever event focused on garnering a national audience. It’s a lot to cram into one conversation.
But how does a festival of diverse books make a real change, anyway? Why is it a worthwhile investment? 4 in 10 Canadian youth are graduating high school with insufficient reading skills. Empowering educators to teach more diverse
Canadian literature, and giving youth access to genres that interest them and stories where they see themselves represented could help foster a love for reading and affect this staggering and rising rate of illiteracy in Canada. 48% of Canadians become aware of books through in-person activities: and the FOLD would give them direct access to the works of established diverse writers, and therefore would have a direct economic impact in the lives of many diverse writers. These are just a few examples, and we have so many more.
This is our festival, Canada- one where all our voices can be represented. Donate today, or come support us at our upcoming 5K run/walk, the Professors Lake Polar Dash (sponsored by the Running Room). It’s a family friendly event with crafts and activities for kids… and it’s worth your drive to Brampton.
Megan Lambe is the Communications and Development Coordinator for the FOLD