The Toronto Storytelling Festival is the second-oldest arts festival in Toronto. I ran the first one on April Fool’s Day, 1979, just three years after TIFF began. I’ve always thought we have a lot in common with the film festival. Stories are mind-movies. As we listen to a storyteller we run our own images, voices, scenes. The storyteller provides the words but the listeners do the work of finding their own meaning in the tale, and then choosing to pass it on by word-of-mouth to the next listener. Perhaps that’s why Chinua Achebe once wrote: Storytellers are the enemies of all champions of control. Stories may be the best antidote we have in a world of “alternative truths.”
From the beginning, the Toronto Storytelling Festival has been a mix of local and international talent. The 2018 Toronto Storytelling Festival continues this vision by bringing together some of our finest local, Canadian, and international storytellers. Indigenous storytellers are a big part of the 2018 festival, with Yukon Indigenous comedy duo Susie and Charlie (Sharon Shorty and Duane Gastant’Aucoin) bringing their hilarious take on Elder wisdom. Ron Evans, the festival’s unofficial “elder”, brings stories from Metis and Chippewa-Cree ancestry. From Holland we’re joined by Eric Borrias and Sahand Sahebdivani. I heard both of them at the Amsterdam Storytelling Festival, and fell in love with their passionate and animated way of telling stories. The legendary Gcina Mhlophe is coming from South Africa. She’s an activist, writer, and storyteller who has had a profound influence on the culture of her homeland. Judith Liberman moved to Turkey from France, fell in love with the language and culture, and has become a trusted and much-loved keeper of Turkish traditional tales. Laura Simms from New York brings a deep understanding of how stories can help mend a broken soul and a broken world. And Jamie Oliviero, from Winnipeg, is a lively and dedicated storytelling educator who works with classes all around the world. He once got the greatest laugh from an audience I’ve ever heard at any festival. It was in a tent in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, and I’ll tell you that story if we meet during the festival. I’m so happy that our out-of-town tellers are coming to be with us, and hope you get many opportunities to listen to them, share your own stories, and take them out for a coffee (or something stronger).
Toronto is one of the world’s greatest crossroads cities, and the art of storytelling is alive and well and thriving here. Over the ten days of the festival (March 2-4 and March 19-25) some of Toronto’s own top storytellers will be featured at venues throughout the city. For families, there will be fabulous storytelling in many neighbourhood libraries, at the Bata Shoe Museum, Aga Khan Museum, Artscape Wychwood Barns, and the Toronto Reference Library. Adult audiences will gather at the Gladstone Hotel, CSI Annex, the Japan Foundation, The Garrison, Alliance Française, Ismaili Centre Toronto, Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, the Barns, and many more spaces across the city. I’d like to give special thanks to our Festival Ambassador Itah Sadu and her husband Miguel Sanvicente, whose store A Different Booklist, recently won the Premier’s Award for Excellence in the Arts. A Different Booklist, at Bathurst and Bloor, will play host to many festival programs, including a daily lunch-hour storytalk featuring our Canadian and international storytellers.
I was the founder of the festival, back in my salad days when I was too green and too foolish to know better. The 2018 Toronto Storytelling Festival is my last year as director. I’ll keep coming as teller and listener, of course. For someone who loves stories, this is the best show in town. Meanwhile (a storyteller’s favorite word …), I hope you enjoy the programs. And 1001 thanks to the many volunteers, colleagues, and the good people on the Board of Directors of Storytelling Toronto who make our ongoing storytelling party possible.