Reflections on IFOA Midland 2016

We asked Jennifer Kerr, Assistant Manager of the Midland Cultural Centre, to reflect on IFOA Ontario programming and its benefit to the Midland community! Here is what she had to say:


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Lit On Tour: A Season of Ontario Sights

Lit On Tour’s IFOA Ontario 2016 season saw author events in 15 locations across the province.

As the staff person who toured to all of these locations, save one (sorry to have missed you, St. Catharines!), I was fortunate to have been able to visit parts of the province I had never seen before. Throughout our touring, our hosts pointed out local natural landmarks, or we found some interesting sights on the way.

Here is a brief tour of TEN of these Ontario sights, in no particular order:

1. Sleeping Giant, Thunder Bay


Image Credit: CBC.CA, “Seven Wonders of Canada”

For months, I had heard tell of this natural wonder in Thunder Bay and seeing this rock formation – which really does look like a giant asleep on its back – myself was just incredible. The mythology around this jutting peninsula is also equally fascinating.

2. Stuffed Animal Fall Picnic Display en route to Midland

Seeing is believing with this sight, and since we drove straight by this incredible display of stuffed animals (mostly bears) having a autumnal tea party, I was the only one in the car to witness it. Thankfully, this Toronto Star article proved I did not imagine huge stuffed animals perched on a tractor and seated around a picnic table on someone’s front lawn to amuse my fellow passengers.

For proof, you’ll just have to drive along County Road 93 yourself. Keep a sharp eye out on your right hand side when you hit Waverley, Ontario or you’ll miss it!

3. The Knox Presbyterian Churches: Woodstock & Stratford


The gorgeous interior of the Knox Presbyterian Church in Woodstock.

Having two venues with the same name in different cities was, I admit, a little confusing. Seeing both of these local landmarks, I was struck by their beauty and history. Both had dark wood interiors and gorgeous side rooms.

4. Owen Sound & Grey Union Public Library, Owen Sound


Image Credit: Owen Sound Sun Times.

We got to partner with a number of libraries this season, and I don’t mean to play favourites, but the library building in Owen Sound was such a noteworthy mix of old and new. I’m also a sucker for ivy-clad buildings. Look at how much ivy there is!

5. Brant Street Pier, Burlington


Image Credit: Flickriver.

On a brief walk before the event, we stumbled upon this pier off Lake Ontario with some of the funkiest waterfront architecture. The pier mimics the shape of waves or, considering it’s a very windy spot, wind.

6. Kakabeka Falls, en route to Oliver Paipoonge


Image Credit:

Our trip to Thunder Bay and the neighbouring town of Oliver Paipoonge would not have been complete without a stop to this breath-taking regional landmark. As a southern Ontarian, I’ve gotten pretty used to referring to Niagara Falls as THE falls in the province, but as you can see, Kakabeka is also pretty spectacular. Well worth the stop before our author event in O.P.

7. Bobby Orr Hall of Fame, Parry Sound


Image Credit: Bobby Orr Hall of Fame

Now I’m not a hockey fanatic, but every time I’ve heard the name ‘Bobby Orr’ it’s either been in connection with the phrases: ‘Stanley Cup’ or ‘Parry Sound.’ Getting to experience, even quickly, the impressive sight that is the Bobby Orr Hall of Fame during our visit to Parry Sound (which is conveniently housed in the Charles W. Stockey Centre, where our event was held) made me feel a little more Canadian.

8. Heritage Homes, Port Hope

Seeing the vast number and types of Heritage Homes in Port Hope can help you understand why this Ontario city  has been named “one of the finest inventories of historically important homes and buildings in Canada.” Rows upon rows of heritage homes greet you as you drive in off Hwy 401, and continue until you reach the two heritage districts in downtown Port Hope itself.

9. Great Western Park, Windsor


Part of Great Western Park with the Art Gallery of Windsor to the back.

As a group of Torontonians we were so used to having water always to our south – so we were quite disoriented when we arrived in Windsor to find water, the Detroit River, and Detroit itself to the north. To help get our bearings, we took a stroll through the park that hugs the downtown Windsor-side of the Detroit River and happened upon a green space bursting with monuments, statues and dedicated gardens. I could have stayed for several more hours just reading all of the plaques.

10. Western University, London


Image Credit: Office of the President, Western University

Walking to the building for our event at the University of Western Ontario, we were absorbed in the steady stream of students flitting from class to class. One could easily get lost in a haze of caffeine-fueled midterm mayhem on this sprawling university campus, and there are a lot of gorgeous buildings to take in too!

By guest blogger Rebecca Hallquist, Executive Assistant at IFOA. You can follow Rebecca on Twitter @mecsbecs28

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IFOA Ontario On The Road Playlist

IFOA’s Transportation Coordinator, Matt King, created a playlist for his travels across Ontario with Lit On Tour. Check it out here:


For the 10th year, the International Festival of Authors has partnered with libraries, bookstores, universities, and community organizations across the province of Ontario to present the world’s best writers of contemporary literature as part of its touring program, IFOA Ontario. Events include readings, interviews, roundtable discussions, and public book signings throughout the province.

As a driver for many of these events, I got to meet the authors, engage in conversation, watch their readings, as well as getting to play car DJ. Sometimes setting the tone, filling in spaces, or just providing background noise to ideas and laughter. Here is a collection of songs that reflect the authors, their books and our adventures driving throughout Ontario in these last 4 months.

Err Humanum Est “Mistakes are Human.” Alyssa York’s book, The Naturalist, is a story of loss, discovery, and love in the Amazon of the 1860’s which I relate with this 1960’s Brazilian track by Jorge Ben in which he speaks of our cosmic inheritance and of the gods exploring new worlds.

Before that, we heard “The Boy with the Arab Strap by Belle and Sebastian. One of many musical references made in Jamie Tenants debut novel The Captain of Kinoull Hill.

Takashi Hiraide’s The Guest Cat is a tale of a couple’s encounter and impermanent relationship with a cat. In his song Bird’s Lament Moondog does his signature exploring tiny musical forms, much like a cat pawing at some interesting piece of string until it ceases to move, at which time they continue on for their next encounter.

A story of family looking back through old worlds and previous generations with a new set of eyes is what Nina Bunjavec did with her most recent graphic novel, Fatherland. That’s what this 1970’s Yugoslavian electronic composition by Silvio Foretic does. Here he takes an old melody and relates it through the most current technology of the time, analog synthesizers, which are now relics to be ruminated upon themselves.

Steven Price’s book takes place in Victorian England. I don’t have any Victorian music to play you, but on our drive to the airport one October morning we spoke about the German band, Kraftwerk. So here they are with a song about a scientist who would have been in France studying at the same Steven’s book takes place.

A lot of authors at the IFOA this year were crime fiction and suspense novelists. Robert Rotenberg, Lotte Hammer, Iain Reid, Ben Sanders, and Shari Lapena amongst others. Though I’ve been told it wasn’t intentional, I remain suspicious. In our travels there was some conversation about being a “genre” artist and whether this is time for it to elevate itself past that title, or whether it will remain a fertile breeding ground for on screen adaptations. But regardless, that last noir song about double indemnity is by Rodd Keith. The track before it was by Nina Simone from her album Nina Simone and Piano, an album I definitely played on every IFOA Ontario trip.

Moving along, here is a song by Toronto’s Bad Bad, Not Good that I think could inspire a screen adaptation itself to their song, Timewave Zero.

That was of course Leonard Cohen with the song Everybody Knows.

Though the trip up to Thunder Bay and Oliver Paipoonge may have been on a plane, I send this chilly song for Karen Connelly’s tale of politics and love in Myanmar. I am choosing a track Lover of the Winter and Snow by Burmese singer Ton Tay Thien Than. Though it may not be the most overtly political song, it’s the notion of snow in a mostly tropical country like Myanmar that can harken ideas of impermanence and loss, mirroring some of the complex themes brought up in Karen’s newest book Burmese Lessons.

IFOA Midland event happened to be on the day Bob Dylan won the Nobel Prize, so much of our trip with Jowita Bydlowska, Jamie Tennant and Emily Saso was spent discussing the many confounding and potentially affirming arguments for his selection. Jowita’s book Guy is a story of a record exec with an insatiable thirst for average women. In honour I thought I’d play a Bob Dylan song that Guy might put on as he is coldly ensnaring his prey, but chose the sacrilegious wordless muzak cover by Claude Dejean. Now here is a song by Andy Schauf about a party.

With our last song, I think back to our first trip of the season to the Stephen Leacock Museum in Orillia Ontario with Gary Barwin and Lynn Kutsukake. What song did I choose? Gary’s own experimental electronic compositions, a yiddish sea shanty if one exists? Gary set the tone of his reading with some circular saxophone music. I think our talk about translation and fitting in matches both Gary’s and Lynn’s novels. For this warm summer drive, I’m playing a composition from a man who found his own unique voice living both inside and outside of the surroundings in which he was placed. Here is Ulysses at the Edge by Harry Partch.

Thank you for taking this ride with me, and thanks to all the authors for stimulating conversation about the world inside and outside of our minivan. For more information on the IFOA Ontario program check out or our main site,


By guest blogger Matt King. You can follow Matt on Twitter @FreeAbsolutely

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