Thursday, March 31, 2016

Kitchener pulls out of national book and magazine fair Word on the Street

The Kitchener-based annual one-day Word on the Street in Kitchener was a relatively modest contributor to the much larger national festival. However, according to a story in the Waterloo Region Record, it now it has been decided to pull out of the national event. The City of Kitchener, which financed it, decided its $20,000 budget would be better spent holding a series of literary-themed events throughout the year in collaboration with the Kitchener Public Library.
The city announced Wednesday it is pulling out of the festival, which it has hosted for 15 years. Instead, it plans to hold ImagineIt, a series of events in partnership with Kitchener Public Library that "will focus on fun and interesting ways to connect the community through engaging events that celebrate reading, writing and literacy," according to the ImagineIt website.
According to the news report, while WOTS was thriving in other cities (Toronto drew 225,000 people in 2014), attendance at the Kitchener festival dwindled over the years, from as many as 7,000 at its peak for as few as 2,000 after it moved from its original location in Victoria Park to the City Hall rotunda and the Kitchener Market.

This is not the first defection from the national book and magazine festival which, since its founding in 1990 as a very successful Toronto event, expanded year by year into such cities at Halifax, Lethbridge and Saskatoon and, until now, Kitchener. The Vancouver Book and Magazine Fair Society, after 12 years as part of WOTS dissociated itself in 2013 from the national organization and rebranded as a 5-day Word Vancouver.

Last year the Toronto Word on the Street was moved from its longtime location in Queen's Park in Toronto to Harbourfront (the original fair had started as a true street fair, occupying several closed blocks of Queen Street.)

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