Toronto: That’s a Wrap

With a much-needed tea in one hand and laptop in the other, I report to you from the other side of exhaustion that the very first edition of Spur Toronto has wrapped up.

And what a weekend it’s been! Jam-packed with frank conversation and debate, spirited readings and performances, it was every bit as successful as we’d hoped.

True to its name, Spur came into existence quickly—in only six months. The intrepid and plucky Spur team worked around the clock to deliver a festival that didn’t disappoint.

The response has been tremendous—packed houses, repeat attendees, and no shortage of hands up during Q&As. We saw first hand that people are thirsty for spaces of discussion and debate about issues that matter.

Our keynote event, The Future of the Book, was an auspicious kick-off when more than three hundred people braved terrible weather to attend. Both Thursday and Friday nights’ Bar Car events at the Pilot Tavern were full of thinker-revellers dancing the nights away.

Author Shyam Selvadurai’s reading as part of our Well-Read Mornings series was beyond sold out. Those left standing were too engaged by Selvadurai’s humour and insight to mind there wasn’t any breakfast left. The Yes Lab, Political Advertising, the Theatre of Politics and many more were also full houses.

Most importantly, a real sense of community and momentum began to take shape. At this “summer camp for the mind,” the ideas discussed at one event began to inform others. The fruits of Friday night’s Political Satire discussion, for example, came into Sunday’s Q&A at the Theatre of Politics panel. This exciting cross-pollination is exactly what we had hoped Spur would do.

We also received tremendous coverage and support from the press and the blogosphere. At the Toronto Star, Linda Barnard gave us a great feature in the lead-up, as did BlogTO and the Torontoist.

Carol Goar, the moderator for our panel on Political Advertising, summed up the day’s debate in her Star column.

Spur is more than just another festival—as part of the larger institute to be launched this fall, it is a raucous ideas incubator with a ripple effect. So if you weren’t able to make it to Spur Toronto, don’t despair. Join us for Spur Winnipeg (April 26-28) and Spur Vancouver (June 17-19).

Come back to this site for upcoming blog wrap-ups from our RBC Emerging Scholars, as well as the Toronto communiqué summarizing Spur’s coverage from our Public Fellow, Vasiliki Bednar.

And after our Winnipeg and Vancouver editions of Spur and the communiqués that will follow them, we’ll be amassing the ideas into one cohesive document available to all.

Spur Toronto might have only ended last week but we’re thinking ahead. Check back for announcements this summer about year-round programming that will start in October, and save the date for next year’s Spur Toronto festival, April 3-6, 2014. It will be an even bigger, livelier and more fertile four days of events.

If Spur festival planted a seed in your mind this year, there are plenty more opportunities to spur your curiosity and become part of the movement. Make sure your name is on our distribution list by emailing info@spurfestival.ca donate to help us grow Spur, or volunteer.

We’ll look forward to seeing you soon.


Helen Walsh is a publisher, producer and writer. Walsh took over the Literary Review of Canada in 1998 and, along with a small group of passionate literati, re-launched the magazine later that year. She has since grown the readership, reach and influence of the magazine by producing a highly popular series of public readings and talks. In 2005, Walsh founded Diaspora Dialogues Charitable Society, an arts organization that supports the creation of new fiction, poetry and drama by culturally diverse writers. Walsh is the director and founder of Spur.

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