Barry Gray performs last year at the final Kootenay Storytelling Festival held in Procter. This year the festival shifts to Nelson.

Kootenay Storytelling Festival shoots for the stars

The Kootenay Storytelling Festival returns this September with an expanded, intergalactic line-up.

The Kootenay Storytelling Festival returns this September with an expanded, intergalactic line-up.

The event, which moved to Nelson from Procter last year following a five-year hiatus, will include four out-of-town — and out-of-this-world — storytellers in addition to several homegrown ones.

“It’s an exciting time for the festival,” says creative producer Avia Moore. “It has deep roots and a way of running already. It’s both established and brand-new, which is a chance to remake it without having to start fresh.”

The festival will feature the same number of performers as last year but have more events. Moore says they’re also targeting a wider audience demographic.

“It has been very local, with only local stories and we really want to keep the festival’s roots while expanding.”

The headliner is former CBC Radio personality Jowi Taylor and his Six String Nation project. Centered around an acoustic guitar built from 64 pieces of Canadiana that represent different cultures, communities, and characters, the project has toured the country to great acclaim and resulted in a bestselling book.

Taylor’s concert kicks off the festival on Friday, September 20. While he doesn’t play the guitar himself, at each stop a local musician is invited to. Moore hasn’t confirmed who will have the honour in Nelson, but expects the show to have a second act with multiple musicians.

The festival’s astronomical component is courtesy University of BC professor Jaymie Matthews, a mission scientist with the Canadian Space Agency and self-described “gossip columnist” to the (heavenly) stars. He’s an expert in stellar seismology and exoplanetary science and speaks about our relationship with the rest of the galaxy.

Back on Earth, Victoria’s Shoshana Litman will spin tales steeped in Jewish lore. She was ordained a Maggidah — a storyteller, speaker, and teacher — following two years of study and training. (The storytelling festival happens to fall during the Jewish festival of Sukkot.)

Haida singer/storyteller/drummer Kung Jaadee, meanwhile, provides a First Nations perspective. A former primary school teacher she has performed stories and songs across North America for nearly 20 years.

Rounding out the bill are local favourites and festival mainstays Richard Rowberry and Barry Gray, plus slam poet Emily Lamb, and former MLA Corky Evans.

Full-day festivities are planned for September 21 and 22. Moore says they’re hoping to use the Capitol Theatre, Royal Canadian Legion, and Expressions as  venues. Presentations in local schools are also planned in the week leading up to the festival.

“We want to make this something the community feels is theirs,” Moore says, “because storytelling is the way we make our community.”

To help defray the cost of bringing in the out-of-town performers, organizers are asking for Aeroplan and Air Miles donations.

Tickets will go on sale in August. Check the website at kootenaystory.org.

Festival’s new face

A born-and-raised Nelsonite, Moore joins the Kootenay Storytelling Festival as creative producer following a decade as a performer and organizer with large festivals.

She never saw the local event during its years in Procter but has a strong connection to it: co-founder Barry Gray taught her elementary school and she spent summers in her youth touring western Canada with her storytelling father and stepmother, David Kaetz and Anne Glover.

Moore herself has a stage background, beginning with Capitol Theatre summer productions 15 years ago, and holds two theatre degrees.

She worked with a Yiddish arts and culture festival in Montreal for several years, rising to artistic coordinator, and last summer was in Toronto with Ashkenaz, Canada’s largest Jewish music festival. As a dancer and theatre artist, she’s also been on stage in European festivals.

Moore returns annually to Nelson to see her mother and during last year’s visit discussed the storytelling festival with Gray.

“It started with light conversations about what they might do and evolved when it looked like I was going to be in town for the summer,” she says. “It’s not a large festival yet but has the potential to grow. I’m thrilled to be at the ground level.”

Moore has been in Nelson for a couple of months now, working with the organizing committee on the festival line-up.

“The committee knows what they’re talking about with stories and storytellers,” she says. “They’ve done a really good job curating the artists and now it’s up to me to make it happen.”

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