Woody Point special for more than sell-out crowds

Justin Brake
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The Writers at Woody Point literary festival in Bonne Bay has been facing a problem since Day 1.

Interest in the event, which is now entering its sixth season, is so high that tickets for the entire festival sell out the day they go on sale.

With a 170-seat capacity at the Woody Point Heritage Theatre, where most of the shows take place, it's no wonder organizers can't create enough supply to meet the demand. But it's a good problem to have, they say.

The Writers at Woody Point literary festival in Bonne Bay has been facing a problem since Day 1.

Interest in the event, which is now entering its sixth season, is so high that tickets for the entire festival sell out the day they go on sale.

With a 170-seat capacity at the Woody Point Heritage Theatre, where most of the shows take place, it's no wonder organizers can't create enough supply to meet the demand. But it's a good problem to have, they say.

"We've considered moving to other, larger venues for other events and all that, but it would kind of defeat the purpose," says festival co-ordinator Gary Noel, explaining the festival's significance in reviving the 100-year-old Heritage Theatre which locals Charlie and Joan Payne bought in 1998 to restore for community use.

"So it's grown in popularity and this year, I mean, we sold out in minutes," says Noel. "As fast as the calls were coming in, as fast as we could handle them, we sold every ticket on that morning in May."

Set in the scenic town Woody Point, at Bonne Bay in Gros Morne National Park, the festival continues to draw high-profile writers and musicians, both local and visiting.

A performance by Ottawa singer-songwriter Kathleen Edwards will kick off the five-day event this evening, followed by four days of readings by authors such as Paul Quarrington, Elizabeth Hay, Alistair MacLeod, David Adams Richards, and both established and emerging Newfoundland literary talent like Lisa Moore, Des Walsh, Michael Crummey, Greg Malone, Beverley Stone and Jessica Grant.

Artists who will perform alongside the writers include a host of Newfoundland talent, like Anita Best, Sandy Morris, Duane Andrews, Amelia Curran, Ron Hynes, Louis McDonald, the members of Gros Morne Summer Music, plus Montreal funk-blues musician Shane Murphy.

In addition to the Heritage Theatre shows, the Woody Point legion hosts evening concerts with some of the participating musicians.

With a split focus on both literature and music, and to other degrees fine arts, the festival is emerging as a credible venue for Newfoundland writers to engage with audiences and share their work.

"In the last few years Newfoundland literature has become hugely predominant throughout Canada," says Noel.

"Newfoundland authors are regularly listed in the top books that come out every year in Canada, so we know there's a growing body of literature in Newfoundland and a growing recognition that good literature is coming out of here."

Festival founder and Globe and Mail sports editor Steve Brunt contrived the idea for the festival in 2003, three years after making Woody Point his summertime home.

"Newfoundland's got this incredible artistic thing going here," he explains. "We have this incredibly vital culture here. You know, musically, in terms of visual arts, and in terms of writing. Considering the population of the island it's way out of proportion with the size of the place, what this island produces artistically. So we're just tapping into that."

A big part of the festival's mandate is to highlight local talent in the arts, says Brunt, recalling Crummey's reading on the first night of the inaugural festival in 2004.

"You could hear a pin drop. For a lot of the local people here, Michael was telling them their own story."

The festival has also been successful in drawing celebrated authors from other parts of the country, and from abroad, as well.

Making his festival debut Aug. 13, Toronto-based screenwriter, musician and novelist Paul Quarrington will travel to Woody Point on the heels of being diagnosed with lung cancer in June.

"I'm just trying to get as much in, in whatever time is left," he says on the phone from Toronto. "I really want to see it out there."

Quarrington, whose works include "Whale Music," "King Leary" and Giller Prize nominated "Galveston," is high-spirited given his circumstances.

"If you decide that life is beautiful and worth living, then one year isn't any less beautiful than a third year, or whatever you might reasonably have expected to have, so you should just try to take advantage of it. I've been having quite a bit of fun," he says. "Perhaps too much fun."

A reading from "King Leary" is in store, he says, as well as a recent story called "The Conversion," an experimental hybrid literary-musical presentation Quarrington says he's been reciting.

All events at the Woody Point Heritage Theatre have sold out, but Brunt says they "look after most of the people on our waiting list, so it's not as impossible as people have occasionally said it was (to get in)."

A second Friday performance featuring Curran, Richards and Malone was added and tickets for the 4 p.m. event are still available, says Brunt.

"It's our most popular show this year, so we're just going to do it twice."

Writers at Woody Point runs to Sunday. For more information visit www.writersatwoodypoint.com or call the Friends of Writers at Woody Point at 709-458-3388.

telegram@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Woody Point Heritage Theatre, Globe and Mail

Geographic location: Woody Point, Newfoundland, Bonne Bay Canada Gros Morne National Park Ottawa Montreal Toronto Galveston

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Recent comments

  • Stan
    July 02, 2010 - 13:33

    i feel a positive thread for today.... --fingers X'ed

  • Einstein
    July 02, 2010 - 13:27

    Sounds like fun!

  • up4discussion
    July 02, 2010 - 13:21

    this is one of the things i miss about newfoundland and unfortunately will not be able to attend. it's great to see the festival so successful due to it being well run! great job mr. noel!

  • Frank
    July 02, 2010 - 13:17

    Ah yes, the Hamptons.

  • Sam
    July 02, 2010 - 13:14

    In the last few years Newfoundland literature has become hugely predominant throughout Canada, says Noel.

    Is that so? The fact remains that for the MOST part if you want to get published in Newfoundland you have to write quaint 'How's she going by' books such as Tales of Nipper Mooney or books on Newfoundland history. Such books attract the tourist; therefore our publishing industry will never amount to anything more than its international reputation of being a tool of the tourist industry.

  • Stan
    July 01, 2010 - 20:22

    i feel a positive thread for today.... --fingers X'ed

  • Einstein
    July 01, 2010 - 20:15

    Sounds like fun!

  • up4discussion
    July 01, 2010 - 20:05

    this is one of the things i miss about newfoundland and unfortunately will not be able to attend. it's great to see the festival so successful due to it being well run! great job mr. noel!

  • Frank
    July 01, 2010 - 19:57

    Ah yes, the Hamptons.

  • Sam
    July 01, 2010 - 19:53

    In the last few years Newfoundland literature has become hugely predominant throughout Canada, says Noel.

    Is that so? The fact remains that for the MOST part if you want to get published in Newfoundland you have to write quaint 'How's she going by' books such as Tales of Nipper Mooney or books on Newfoundland history. Such books attract the tourist; therefore our publishing industry will never amount to anything more than its international reputation of being a tool of the tourist industry.