SYDNEY — Every fall, Cape Breton hosts the Cabot Trail Writers Festival, bringing readers and writers together inside intimate venues on the scenic Cabot Trail.
The festival, now in its 11th year, is set to welcome back literary fans again for a weekend of storytelling and workshops.
Andrea Currie, one of the Cabot Trail Writers Festival's co-chairs, said Cape Breton is the perfect setting for the connections they want this festival to create.
"It's a pretty amazing gathering, partly because we live in an amazing place here in Unama'ki," Currie said. "The authors tend to love it too because I think the setting just gives it a whole different vibe."
Currie, who lives in Port Hood, is a member of the Métis Nation and is originally from Winnipeg. Her first book, "Finding Otipayimsiwak, The People Who Own Themselves" about the Métis people is set to be released a year from now in September of 2024.
Currie says including more Indigenous writers is part of the festival evolving its position in the decolonization process.
"The festival has been really evolving in terms of thinking about what our role can be as part of decolonization. Indigenous people understand very clearly, and more and more allies understand that decolonization is a necessary step in reconciliation," she said. "We've always had diversity among our writers, but there are communities we haven't engaged with, so we're committing to creating space for Indigenous writers."
Currie is working double duty this year between being co-chair of the festival and co-hosting "Medicine Stories," a workshop consisting of readings and discussions on themes related to the writers' experiences, challenges, and dreams as Indigenous writers. Currie says they planned to include this workshop in last year's festival but post-tropical storm Fiona had different plans.
"This was originally for our festival last year, which was literally blown away by hurricane Fiona," Currie said. "But 'Medicine Stories' is part of the festival's commitment to expanding the range of what we present to audiences."
Joining Currie in hosting "Medicine Stories" is Mi'kmaw writer Amanda Peters, a member of Glooscap First Nation and author of "The Berry Pickers," released earlier this year in April. Currie says the workshop will deal with stories of their work and their journeys as Indigenous women and authors.
"It's about Indigenous women writers carrying our work and sharing thoughts about writing," Currie said. "It's part of a very deliberate action that the festival took, really deciding to take a space of programming time and invite Indigenous writers to create something for that workshop."
The Cabot Trail Writers Festival has more than just lectures and workshops for literary fans. The weekend's schedule of events contains food, music, ink-making and more. Currie hopes visitors feel uplifted and inspired to write and create their own stories.
"People who come will hear powerful and inspired readings from lots of writers. It's just a very laid-back and friendly feeling of camaraderie among people who love books," she said. "They feel inspired to create themselves, to write themselves or, you know, just to feel challenged and uplifted."
One event Currie said was worth mentioning is "Heard in the Highlands." She says it reminds us our stories connect to the land.
"People are led on a guided hike through the highlands and will encounter writers along the hike, sometimes musicians too," said Currie. "It reminds us our stories are connected to the land, that we all come from a land where our ancestors originated, and we all have some kind of relationship with Unama'ki, which I think is really enriching for people."
The Cabot Trail Writers Festival runs all weekend, with events happening at venues in St. Anns, Wagmatcook and Inverness. Tickets are available online at www.cabottrailwritersfestival.com.
Mitchell Ferguson is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter covering Indigenous affairs for Cape Breton Post.
Mitchell Ferguson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Cape Breton Post