Blue Metropolis is the name for the Montreal International Literary Festival. Also known as Blue Met, is the world's first multilingual literary festival and has been held annually in Montreal since April 1999. It was founded by Montreal writer Linda Leith. In early 2011, Leith departed and a new President was hired as well as a new Director of Programming. The Blue Metropolis Foundation is a not-for-profit organization founded in 1997 that brings together people from different cultures to share the pleasures of reading and writing, and encourages creativity and intercultural understanding. The Foundation produces an Annual Literary Festival and offers a wide range of educational and social programs year-round, both in classrooms and online. These programs use reading and writing as therapeutic tools, to encourage academic perseverance, and fight against poverty and social isolation.
Blue Metropolis was inspired by an earlier event called "Write pour écrire". In 1996, three Montreal writers who were members of the Writer's Union of Canada (Linda Leith, Ann Charney and Mary Soderstrom) organized a new kind of literary event in partnership with the Union des écrivaines et des écrivains québécois (UNEQ). Called "Write pour écrire", this event brought writers and readers together from across the language divide. In 1997, Linda Leith founded Blue Metropolis Foundation. Created by writers and readers for writers and readers, the Foundation grew thanks to the support of many volunteers, friends and partners. The first Blue Metropolis Montreal International Literary Festival took place April 19 to 23, 1999. Its events, which took place in French or English or both, included the first Blue Metropolis Translation Slam and literacy/community writing activities, as well as readings, on-stage interviews, and panel discussions. With the support of writers, readers and volunteers, the Foundation was able to expand its programming beyond the Festival and organize a wide range of educational programs for young people, from the primary school to cégep levels, as well as year-round Literacy & the Literary activities in Montreal and beyond.
The name "Blue Metropolis" was partially inspired by the philosophical essay "On Being Blue", in which the American writer Wiliam H. Gass investigates the many different and contradictory connotations of the word "blue".
The 2016 edition of the Festival, which ran April 11–17, hosted over 235 writers from 10 countries with 233 events in 5 languages.
The next dates of the Blue Metropolis Festival are April 24–30, 2017 in downtown Montreal.
The Festival awards the Blue Metropolis International Literary Grand Prize annually. Past winners are:
- Anne Carson (2016)
- Nancy Huston (2015)
- Richard Ford (2014)
- Colm Tóibín (2013)
- Joyce Carol Oates (2012)
- Amitav Ghosh (2011)
- Dany Laferrière (2010)
- A. S. Byatt (2009)
- Daniel Pennac (2008)
- Margaret Atwood (2007)
- Michel Tremblay (2006)
- Carlos Fuentes (2005)
- Paul Auster (2004)
- Maryse Condé (2003)
- Mavis Gallant (2002)
- Norman Mailer (2001)
- Marie-Claire Blais (2000)
In 2013, the Festival announced a new prize, the Premio Metropolis Azul. To be bestowed each year to an author from any country or region for a work of fiction written in Spanish, English or French, the prize recognizes works which explore some aspect of Hispanophone culture or history. The prize is sponsored by Ginny Stikeman.
- Valeria Luiselli (2016)
- Junot Díaz (2015)
- Luis Alberto Urrea 'Queen of America (2014)
- Sergio Ramirez La fugitiva (2013)
In 2015, the Festival announced the creation of two new on-going prizes.
The Blue Metropolis First Peoples Prize is awarded to a Canadian Indigenous writer for a work in any genre. Winners have included:
The Blue Metropolis Words to Change Prize is awarded to a writer whose work connects communities whether they be linguistic, religious, ethnic or other communities:
In 2016 the Festival announced a new prize in association with the Conseil des arts de Montréal. The work is awarded to a first or second generation migrant to Quebec, residing in Montreal, from a multi-cultural community, written in French or English, for a first publication in Quebec.
- Ghayas Hachem (2016) for Play Boys.
The Festival in the past also awarded the Blue Metropolis Al Majidi Ibn Dhaher Arab Literary Prize. Named after the poet Al Majidi Ibn Dhaher, the prize was initiated in 2007 and is worth CAD $5,000. The prize is sponsored by the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage. Dr Issa J. Boullata served as consultant for the prize and the jury is composed of an international roster of poets, novelists and literary professionals. The prize is currently on hiatus, expected to return in 2017 with a new winner.
Past winners of the Al Majidi Ibn Dhaher prize are:
- Habib Selmi (2014)
- Hisham Matar (2013)
- Ahdaf Soueif (2012)
- Alaa Al Aswany (2011)
- Joumana Haddad (2010)
- Zakaria Tamer (2009)
- Saadi Youssef (2008)
- Elias Khoury (2007)