Eden Mills Writers' Festival
The Eden Mills Writers' Festival is a festival that is organized once a year and held in the village of Eden Mills. Eden Mills is approximately 12 KM East of Guelph, Ontario, Canada and is a small village. The festival includes readings by poets, authors, and other writers at various outdoor venues throughout the village. The festival occurs on the second Sunday after Labour Day in September. In previous years more than 40 Canadian authors appeared to give readings and interact with audiences, including notable Canadian writers like Margaret Atwood and P. K. Page. On September 15, 2013, the Festival celebrated its 25th anniversary.
The festival has outdoor readings by professional writers and provides opportunities for young and unpublished writers to present their work in a juried reading session called "the Fringe." There are also two literary contests: the Ishar Singh Poetry Contest and the Festival Literary Contest for new writers over the age of 16. The festival also includes a book vendors' bazaar (Publisher's Way), an aboriginal event, a children's site, and musical events. Eden Mills is located on the Eramosa River and the festival's principal readings take place on its banks.
In 1989 the Eden Mills Writers’ Festival began with a local resident, writer and Governor General's Award winner, Leon Rooke. Since 1989, the festival has occurred annually though expanding.
The festival actually began in the original General Store, which was built in 1877. The owners of the general store at the time, Don and Mark Holman, suggested to Leon Rooke (who, at this time, was living with his wife Constance across the street) to launch his latest novel A Good Baby, from just outside the store. Leon invited other writers to this event, such as Rohinton Mistry, Michael Ondaatje, Jane Urquhart and Linda Spalding. A small audience of 350 people emerged and the Eden Mills Writers’ Festival had begun.
The Festival Over the Years
Over the years, the Festival has taken place in an array of different Eden Mills venues, most of which are outdoors. Some are on the banks of the Eramosa River, others are in local residents' scenic backyards, to name a few. In addition to the main venues, there is a popular Aboriginal area (the Adisokaun stage). There is also a very popular location for children called Children's Site at Jenny's Place. There have been additions to the festival including the fringe and Young Adult readings, as well as two annual literary competitions. The festival also has a section of the village partitioned for Publishers' Way. This is where booksellers, publishers, magazine producers and non-profit groups can display their work. Authors also congregate here to meet fans and sign their books. There is live music between readings and local food vendors selling various types of food to accommodate all diets. This all happens within the small village and is only a short distance to walk from venue to venue. The festival does offer transportation for anyone who cannot manage the walking.
Running the Festival
The Festival is run completely by volunteers. Many of these volunteers have been with the festival for years, yet there are new volunteers every year. There is an eight person board, six of whom are Eden Mills residents. There is a general membership of approximately 50 people who assist with fundraising, operations, publicity, author selection, entertainment and music. On the day of the festival there are 60 volunteers to help. Even the private sites that are used for readings are used free of charge. This is a festival made of local support and generosity.
A Unique Festival
Eden Mills is the first community in North America to attempt to have a carbon-neutral footprint. This is reflected in the festival planning and activities. Often, festivals can wreak havoc on the surrounding environment. The Eden Mills Writers' festival is the exception, "To avoid landfill-clogging plastic bottles, Eden Mills brings in a water tank to dispense treated water to thirsty attendees. Festival volunteers discourage the use of disposable food containers by transporting dirty dishes by teenaged volunteers on bikes for washing at a neighbouring summer camp. Shuttle buses from downtown Guelph help reduce the need for cars." This is a unique festival not to be missed!