September 5-13: Writes of Passage: Canada-Ireland
We launched the first Ottawa International Writers Festival at the National Arts Centre on September 5, 1997. It featured sixteen writers from Ireland (the largest contingent ever to read beyond the Emerald Isle), sharing the stage with thirty-five Canadian writers from across the country. We called our inaugural Festival the “Writes of Passage” and we spoke of the gift of literature and the intimate relationship between the writer and audience that reminds us that “ultimately none of us lives in isolation, that we are all interconnected, all part of one large, often cramped, sometimes raucous, but never dull world-family.”
The Festival opened with an Aboriginal elder conducting a sweet grass ceremony, followed by the haunting sounds of Celtic music and dancing. From opening night to our closing celebration with Pulitzer Prize winner Frank McCourt reading from “Angela's Ashes,” those nine days had transported us to a different world. Those were heady days, when we were crazy enough to program six writers each evening without an intermission! Heady days, when we transformed a former NAC bookstore turned storage room into our “Irishtown Pub”—selling more beer during the course of the Festival than the entire NAC summer program! The Fourth Stage was born!
No schedule of readings is available, but author bios are found to the right.