GuelphToday received the following letter from Eden Mills Writers' Festival board of directors chair Theresa Ebden.
As we kick off the 35th annual Eden Mills Writers’ Festival this weekend, I wanted to express my gratitude as chair to all who have helped us sustain our non-profit’s vision through the pandemic and inflation.
Our festival has become a Canadian literary tradition and is a favourite among authors and readers alike. In this new era of ChatGPT, now more than ever the power of human ingenuity shines through: nothing replaces an artist’s ability to use the power of words to deliver compelling new ideas, and use original evocative turns of phrase to ignite our imaginations and reveal worlds and ideas beyond our own experience. And, this year at the Eden Mills Writers’ Festival, we have more than 40 authors with a wide range of perspectives and experiences to drive an informed and articulate community that connects with open hearts and open minds.
Our community vision began on the steps of the Eden Mills General Store on Barden Street in 1989. You can imagine a much smaller gathering: Governor General Award winning author Leon Rooke and his wife Connie invited fellow writers to gather and read their work in front of his house. As one elder resident told me recently, Leon said he would “invite a few friends” – and Leon’s list of like-minded literary friends was vast: over the years the festival was joined by the likes of Margaret Atwood and Michael Ondaatje. The festival grew, and to date, we have featured more than 800 Canadian authors. We anticipate hosting 1000+ people on Sunday for the fully accessible adult programming, as well as the children’s programming, which is interpreted in sign language.
The Eden Mills Writers’ Festival could not take place without our staff and our many supporters – our donors, our property hosts, our sponsors, nearly 100 volunteers, and of course our supportive community in Guelph and beyond. As they say, it takes a village.
We’re delighted to be back for a second year after pausing our in-person activities for two years amid the pandemic – during which we produced free online programming to the public. It was the right thing to do: to give back to the community that had sustained us, at a time when people needed inspiring words more than ever. But it did mean an erosion of our funds. And then came inflation – which hit a 30-year high as we reopened in 2022. Rising prices drove up service costs for 80% of Canadian nonprofits despite no change in funding, according to a 2023 report by CanadaHelps.
To sustain the Eden Mills Writers’ Festival beyond this year, this Fall we have set a fundraising target of $50,000, or about one-fifth of our charity’s operating budget. Please consider a donation, promote your day on social media, to help spread the word to ensure we have another 35 years of Open Air. Open Book. Open Mind.
Please visit us at www.emwf.ca to learn more about festival day on Sunday, Sept. 10, and how to donate to support great Canadian literature. We hope to see you there!
Theresa Ebden, EMWF chair