Before she founded The Festival of Literary Diversity, author Jael Richardson was a regular at literary festivals for years. But as a Black woman, the sense of community she longed for at these events was often lacking. “I always felt very alone. From the content to the overall experience, it felt like something was missing,” she says. “So I started FOLD because I knew there was a need, and I thought I could help fill that.”
The Festival of Literary Diversity (FOLD) is the first literary festival of its kind in Canada, dedicated to celebrating diverse authors and storytellers. Since 2016, the festival has been a much-needed space for underrepresented writers and readers to come together and discuss their craft, engage with diverse stories, and start important conversations.
Operating as a hybrid festival this year, FOLD offers a range of panels, discussions, workshops, and interactive events. Some highlights this year include panels on queer joy and disabled futures, a literary cabaret with some of our favourite Canadian authors, a variety of writing workshops, a screening of the film Scarborough, and plenty of networking opportunities, trivia nights, and after-parties. Visitors can take part both online and in-person at Brampton’s historic Rose Theatre, from April 30 – May 7.
Some of the buzziest names in CanLit will be making appearances at the festival over the next week and a half, including Elamin Abdelmahmoud, Britta Badour, Jesmeen Kaur Deo, Cherie Dimaline, Ali Hassan, Catherine Hernandez, Jen Sookfong Lee, Suzette Mayr, Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, Robyn Maynard, and many more.
We connected with Jael before FOLD kicks off this weekend to hear what’s new and exciting and how this beloved fest has evolved over the years.
How has FOLD grown since that inaugural year?
The festival has grown in a few ways since the inaugural year. Our flagship festival is now seven days instead of three. It includes a complete and comprehensive virtual experience as well as in-person and hybrid events. We also launched a kids festival in 2019 that is growing too. We’ve done a lot in eight short years, and I’m really proud of what the FOLD is doing and what we’ve been able to accomplish.
What is the mission for the 2023 fest?
The mission for 2023 is to create meaningful connections – virtually and in-person. We really want to enhance what people get to do and be a part of when they arrive at the festival, whether online or at The Rose Theatre in Brampton. So often, people are focused on numbers and stats, and since the pandemic, as the festival director, I’ve become really interested in creating opportunities to feel a more meaningful connection with attendees – authors and readers alike.
What’s new to programming this year that you want to share widely?
We have more trivia times and opportunities to win book prizes than we ever have before. We also have really great evening events at 7:30pm all week long. Our literary cabaret is back for a second year, and our spoken work showcase is back as well. We also have our very first art-night event – a Dine + Draw event with Brampton artist and illustrator Meegan Lim.
What do you love about running the fest out of The Rose in Brampton?
The Rose Theatre is a really special venue. It’s beautiful and elegant. We used to be in different downtown Brampton venues, and being in one place makes running the festival so much easier, it’s become a community space for the festival. I also love that it is both spacious and cozy. If you’re more comfortable being a bit separate from the larger group, you can sit in places that allow you to feel more comfortable but that still offer a great view.
For those who’ve experienced the fest, what’s the best way to get involved?
The best way to get involved is to come in whatever way works for you. If you’re out of town or operating from home, the virtual events offer a great opportunity to connect with the FOLD team and with authors. Register early to plan ahead for the author events you most want to experience. Come to the welcome event to say hi. Attend the trivia and after-parties. Put yourself out there. If you’re coming in person, bring a friend or come solo. The events are set up to give you space in between to explore good food or learn from experts. And, as in past years, our affordably-priced pass model gives visitors a lot of value over the week of programming.
Is there anything else you want to share with us right now?
For festival guests looking to read the lineup ahead of time, and that appreciate a deal and some swag, our bookstore partner Another Story Bookshop is offering a limited time promotion on FOLD book orders.
The 2023 Festival of Literary Diversity (FOLD) runs from April 30 – May 7. See the full FOLD schedule and get your tickets here.