A message to our Festival Community:
Thank you for your patience and for giving us the time and space we needed to make a really difficult decision. We are very sad to announce the cancellation of the 38th Festival of the Written Arts that was scheduled to take place August 13-16, 2020.
We have been paying close attention to the COVID-19 projections from federal and provincial public health officials. While BC is seeing some success in “flattening the curve”, we recognize that restrictions on social gathering are going to continue through the summer.
“This was not a decision we made lightly,” says John Lussier, President of the Festival Board of Directors. “Every single person on the Board wanted to see the 2020 Festival of the Written Arts happen. We know it affects so many people in our community. We also know that we have an obligation to ensure the safety of our authors, volunteers, staff and our audience and to follow the direction from the public health authorities. Looking at the projections of what lies ahead, we knew we had no other choice.”
Our greatest regret is the loss, for this year, of the wonderful community of writers and readers that comes together at the Rockwood Centre in Sechelt every August to be immersed in words, books, ideas, history, stories, and the opportunities to listen, learn and reflect. By cancelling now we can focus our resources on finding alternative ways of delivering programming that connects our festival authors and our audience over the next several months. We want to support, most especially, the authors who were to appear at the 2020 Festival, their publishers, and our amazing local independent bookstore, Talewind Books.
We are grateful for the long-term support of our public sector funders, sponsors, and donors that will help us move forward and plan for the year ahead. We could not have predicted a global pandemic when we launched the Legacy of Literacy Endowment Campaign in 2017. We are seeing now how essential that revenue is to the financial sustainability of the Festival.
We have posted below the answers to some of the questions we anticipate you might have. We look forward to staying in touch with you over the weeks and months to come. The Festival’s virtual office is open. You can reach us by email at ja**@wr*************.ca or leave a message at 604-885-9631.
We wish you well in these uncertain times. We hope you find comfort and inspiration in the pages of a good book.
Why now? The Festival isn’t until August. Isn’t this too early to make such a major decision?
While the event itself doesn’t happen until August we are at a critical stage for setting the wheels in motion for things like ticket sales, author travel, promotion and advertising, organizing volunteers, hiring contractors, etc. This is the building phase of the annual Festival. Further, we’re in a community that has already had to discourage visitors in order to ensure health care resources are not over-stressed. Many of our attendees and volunteers fall into high risk groups. The Festival Board feels the only responsible course of action is to cancel this year’s event and make that difficult decision in a timely manner so that we can inform everyone affected.
What if Dr. Henry starts lifting restrictions next week? Can you reverse course?
From what we’ve heard from public health authorities, it’s more likely that things will return to normal in a phased way, and big events like ours will be among the last to have restrictions lifted. We don’t think it’s realistic to expect that before August. If the guidance from public health officials opens up an opportunity to consider different ways to stage a limited event, we are certainly ready to consider that.
Can the Festival survive the financial hit? Will there be a Festival in 2021?
Thanks to the generous support of our public sector funders, donors, sponsors, and attendees over the past 37 years, and careful financial management, we are in a position to weather this storm. We are now earning revenue from the Legacy of Literacy Endowment campaign that we launched in 2017. It was our hope that endowment revenue would help us withstand revenue shortfalls. We did not see a global pandemic on the horizon but those endowment earnings play a significant role in allowing us to carry on.
Also, the SCFWA has an incredibly dedicated board, staff, and corps of volunteers who, while very disappointed that we had to make this decision, are determined to step up and ensure that Canadian voices will be celebrated once again at our Festival in 2021.
Has the Festival considered other ways to deliver programs or hold a scaled-back event?
Our mandate is to bring Canadian writers and readers together and we will seek opportunities to continue to fulfill that mandate. This could include collaborating with other organizations or producing “pop-up” events when it is possible and safe to do so. The Festival remains committed to supporting Canada’s literary community and especially the authors who were scheduled to appear at the 2020 Festival. We will do all that we can to promote their work and encourage our Festival patrons to buy their books. Here at home on the Sunshine Coast, we will also do what we can to support our independent bookstore, Talewind Books.
Jane Davidson, Artistic and Executive Director
John Lussier, President, Board of Directors