Each year, The Word on the Street welcomes approximately 8,000 attendees to a ‘literary theme park’ of engaging activities including readings, panel discussions, workshops and more! The theme for The Word on the Street Halifax 2016 was Read Local, as we explored the meaning and importance literature and literacy has in the Atlantic Region.
The Word on the Street (WOTS) Halifax Society was formed in November 1994 as a non-profit organization, with links to four literature and literacy festivals in Canada (Toronto, Kitchener, Lethbridge and Saskatoon). After key Nova Scotians from the library, literacy, book and magazine industries met with representatives of The Word on the Street Canada, a decision was made to host a literary festival based on the great success of The Word on the Street in Toronto. Halifax produced its first festival in 1995.
In our first year we attracted over 10,000 people to a festival that spanned three blocks and was produced with the assistance of 75 dedicated volunteers. By 1998 we had seen extensive growth in exhibitors, participating writers and presenters, numbers of sponsors and volunteers. Programming areas increased to over 50% of the festival site which had expanded to include five blocks in downtown Halifax. Exhibitor participation had increased another ten percent. Most publishers in Atlantic Canada and several from outside the region were represented at the 1999 festival.
Following the 2000 festival, the Board of Directors in Halifax made a decision to move the festival to a site less affected by weather. After much deliberation the event moved to Pier 21 on the Halifax waterfront.
Although this gave the festival a bit of a different atmosphere, the artistic aspects of the festival were very similar to prior year events. The Halifax festival was at the Pier from 2001 to 2009. In 2006, the festival moved to The Cunard Event Centre (Pier 23).
In 2010 the Halifax Society decided the return to the festival’s roots and get back ‘on the street’. This move was so well supported by the authors and the attendees that we made it a priority to remain an outdoor festival.
In 2011 we found a new home – the Halifax Waterfront. Then 2015 saw The Word on the Street Halifax celebrate our 20th anniversary by hosting the festival in the exquisite Halifax Central Library, and we are thrilled to be there this year too!