Brampton's Festival of Literary Diversity goes virtual for 2020

The festival devoted to celebrating underrepresented authors and storytellers will be held from April 30 – May 3, as originally scheduled.
The scene at the 2017 Festival of Literary Diversity. (Herman Custodio)

The 2020 Festival of Literary Diversity (FOLD) has cancelled its annual in-person events in Brampton, Ont., and will debut a virtual festival amid growing concerns over COVID-19.

The festival devoted to celebrating underrepresented authors and storytellers will be held this year from April 30 to May 3, as originally scheduled. It will include many of the previously announced FOLD 2020 participants in a variety of webinar and remote-event formats, which will be closed-captioned and provided free of charge on their website.

All authors will continue to receive their honorariums and ticket holders will be refunded, according to a press release.

"We spent a lot of time building these panels and group in-conversations and we wanted to try to retain what we had built," the festival's co-founder and artistic director Jael Richardson told CBC Books.

"We wanted to figure out how we can support the artists, how we can keep the event going and how we can reach a wider audience through this virtual landscape. We knew that any time you ask someone to pay for it, it takes a particular kind of privilege to be able to participate. We thought, if at any point, in any year, it seemed most important to make this one free."

Richardson is regularly featured on CBC, and is the regular books columnist for CBC Radio's q.

In 2019, Richardson and FOLD won the Freedom to Read Award. The award is presented annually during Freedom to Read Week in Canada and recognizes an individual or group in the literary industry whose work promotes freedom of expression.

Other literary events have taken similar steps, including the 21st edition of Moncton's Frye Festival, slated for April 17-26, cancelling its events. Organizers plan to share reading suggestions and discussions about the books by confirmed authors through the festival's social-media platforms.

Montreal's Blue Metropolis International Literary Festival, initially scheduled for May 1–6, is also cancelled. In response, the festival will offer a series of creativity workshops for children between 6 and 11 years old and share reading recommendations on its social media platforms. 

The Hamilton, Ont.-based gritLIT Festival is no longer running April 16–19. Jesse Thistle, Margaret Atwood, Mona Awad, Robyn Doolittle, Jenny Heijun Wills and Gwen Benaway were among the host of writers scheduled to appear during the literary event.

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