Downtown London - News

November 2018

  • Festival celebrates written words, downtown community

    November 1, 2018

    Festival celebrates written words, downtown community


    By Sean Meyer


    Given the level of literary talent in the Forest City, Josh Lambier admits he was surprised London didn’t do a better job of celebrating its authors, poets, and everyone else who uses words to make a point.


    Seems he wasn’t alone in that confusion when organizers decided to change that fact five years ago with the launching of Words: The Literary and Creative Arts Festival. This year’s fifth anniversary edition of the festival is set for Museum London, from Nov. 2-4.


    The festival — Words as it is affectionately known — features emerging and established writers, alongside celebrated authors, poets and journalists, from London, across southwestern Ontario, and beyond.


    For Josh, Word’s artistic director, as well as director of Public Humanities at Western University, the festival offers an ideal platform for a mission particularly close to his heart.


    “I come down from the university where I direct Public Humanities at Western and that program has a similar mission in terms of finding a way for higher education, the humanities, the arts, to reach broader audiences in the community,” he said. “That is the specific mandate of the Public Humanities. A public festival that celebrates what our disciplines do was the perfect opportunity to link the university and the city.”


    Josh said he believes the festival is meeting that goal. 


    The evidence, he explains, is found “in the smaller moments,” like when someone comes up to him on the street and mentions an event they’d seen at a previous festival and how much they enjoyed it, or when people ask him mid-summer, or even in the spring, who is on the slate of guests for this year’s festival. 


    Today, he adds, there are even people from other festivals contacting Words’ organizers around what’s happening in London.


    While he considers those “the real wins,” Josh said there is something equally important he doesn’t want people to overlook.


    “I always envisioned the festival as being a stage that showcases groups that operate 365 days a year, including Poetry London, London Poetry Slam, Open Mic Poetry, London Writers Society,” he said. “These groups are active all year round, what we are is a stage for introducing people to things that are already on the books.”


    Josh’s feelings of growth are backed up by the numbers as the first year of Words drew upwards of 900 participants while last year’s event attracted more than 2,000 people.


    The festival’s success can be traced back to a number of factors, including guests such as London poet laureate Tom Cull, celebrated sports journalist – and Western grad — Stephen Brunt, London author and 2016 Oscar nominee Emma Donoghue, and celebrated author and poet Lee Maracle.


    Josh is quick to add the festival’s downtown location is a big factor in the success of Words.


    Pragmatically, holding Words at an indoor venue like Museum London is particularly important when running a festival in November. 


    That said, there is also a philosophical reason for the festival to be downtown. As Josh is quick to point out, with the festival having been designed to celebrate “cultural diversity, provocative ideas and to spark the imagination,” the downtown is an ideal location.


    “A downtown like London is increasingly more visibly diverse, it is open to a lot of communities who should feel they have a place in the centre of the city,” he said. “We want to spark debate about issues of importance to Londoners and the best place to do that is in the downtown.”


    For more information, or to purchase tickets for the opening reception, the festival’s only ticketed event, visit

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