Where We’ve Been (1) – Why I have been

In this short series, local author Carlinda D’Alimonte shares a moving insight about enjoying BookFest Windsor over the years.  This section offers a brief history of the festival.

I’ve had the pleasure of attending Bookfest Windsor (originally called Windsor Festival of the Book) since its inception in the fall of 2002 at the Capitol Theatre and Arts Centre.

I love the spirit with which the festival is presented.  It reaches out to us. It connects the people of Windsor, Essex County, and Southwestern Ontario to nationally and internationally recognized authors.

I confess to a love of books, writing, good discussion, learning, good company, and good food, so when the three days of Bookfest Windsor come around each year, I am hungry for what it has to offer and truly in my element.   Anyone who enjoys literature, history, art and learning can enjoy this event.

For that weekend every fall our community expands and we expand with it, pressing against the boundaries of who we are and who we think we are.  The experience changes me and I suspect this is true for many participants.

I love being in downtown Windsor, too, something I confess I don’t do often enough.   An event like Bookfest pulls people like me out of the periphery to a core of our region’s energy.   When it’s populated with attendees of the Bookfest (and to be honest, any cultural festival), it’s a magical place.  There’s something about assembling a large group of artists and art lovers and thinkers in one place that fosters understanding, heightened perception, and genuine dialogue.

I walk away from that experience changed.  It’s hard to pinpoint the changes.  My community, Windsor and Essex County, changes.  Walls seem to crumble.  I feel  I am in a new place.

I have attended every Bookfest since 2002. In those first few years, the Capitol served as the hub of activity with events taking place in the main Pentastar Playhouse , the smaller Kelly theatre and Joy Family theatre.  The spaces resonate with Windsor’s entertainment history.

Built in 1920 by architect Thomas White Lamb in his Adam/Empire style, a sort of art deco approach he used in 16 other Canadian theatres, the Capitol retains much of its old charm despite changes to the interior space.  In its colourful history, the theatre has been home to Vaudeville, film, drama, music, and books. In 2005, Bookfest moved to the Art Gallery of Windsor for seven years before returning to its original home, the Capitol, in 2012.

It’s interesting to look back at the festival, bookended by the participation of Alistair MacLeod and Nino Ricci in 2002 (both of whom have been back repeatedly) and Margaret Atwood and Eleanor Catton (both BookerPrize winners) in 2013.

That first year, 2002, writers of the stature of Alistair MacLeod and Nino Ricci shared the stage with emerging authors Lisa Gabriele and Lawrence Hill. This mix has been repeated year after year; what’s more, these artists share the room with us.  They are available and accessible to all of us.  

I am still moved by hearing Michael Crummey and Jane Urquhart read their poetry.   I was familiar with their fiction, but the poetry spoke to me on a more personal level.

Other events that stand out over the years include Noah Richler reading from What We Talk About When We Talk About War, discussions on publishing featuring Alana Wilcox of Coach House Books, and the words of John Metcalf, editor and short story writer, who told us that poetry instructs us how to read, and for those of us who write, it instructs our use of words.



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