Linda Leith, English instructor
and Blue Metropolis organizer.
Photo by Andrew
by Alyson Grant
When part-time Concordia English instructor Linda Leith isnt teaching
her students the finer points of science fiction, she is busy organizing
the Blue Metropolis Literary Festival, arguably one of the most important
literary festivals in the world.
Just over three years ago, Leith ran with William Gasss idea that
blue is a word of many meaningsthe blues, blue chip, blue collarand
put it in front of metropolis to create a non-profit organization that
promotes the arts and literature with the festival as its showpiece.
Three years later, she is shaking her head over how far the festival has
come. Blue Met has always been a city you might dream about, and
frankly, its amazing how it has become a reality, how what was basically
an idea has become a festival that welcomes 150 writers from all over
the world, and thousands of Montrealers can hear what they have to say,
Leith said she may sound starry-eyed, but for good reason. After only
its second year, the festival was short-listed for the grand prize of
the Conseil des arts de la Communauté urbaine des arts de Montréal.
The competition for the $25,000 prize was fairly illustrious, including
La La La Human Steps and the Festival of Films on Art.
Were a young festival, and that was amazing recognition,
Leith said, adding that Blue Met was presented with $5,000 at a gala lunch
simply for being nominated.
Part of what has always made Blue Met unique is its multilingual nature,
something Leith has stressed as important from the beginning.
Although this years festival, which opened last night, promises
to have more languages and cultures represented than ever, there will
be changes in how many languages you can hear at one event, minimizing
some of the confusion people felt in past years.
What weve done is include a greater number of languages, but
in most events, some will be in French only, some will be in English only
and others will be described as multilingual, Leith said.
Concordia writer-in-residence Anne Dandurand is one of several Concordia
people who are participating in the festival. This is Dandurands
third year, but her first time reading in French.
I like the festival, because literature takes center stage, and
that doesnt happen that often in the cultural life of Montreal,
Dandurand said. Also, they dont trap themselves in one kind
of writing. They have many genres that they expose the public to, such
as spoken word, drama, poetry and non-fiction.
Québecois writer Jean-Claude Germain teamed up with CBC host Eleanor
Wachtel to host the official opening ceremony last night, at which Norman
Mailer received the Blue Metropolis Grand Prize of $10,000. The first
annual short-list for the $80,000 International and Canadian Griffin Prize
for Poetry was also announced.
There will be a wide variety of events running until April 16 at the Hôtel
des Gouverneurs on St. Hubert St., many of which will be broadcast on
CBC radio and Radio Canada.
To see the complete schedule of events, see the Web site at www.blue-met-bleu.com.