The Word on the Street (www.thewordonthestreet.ca) is an annual book and magazine festival celebrating reading and advocating literacy.
History of The Word on the Street
The Word On The Street was conceived by a group of publishing industry executives from the Book and Periodical Council’s communications committee in 1989. These executives thought that Toronto, as Canada’s publishing centre, should have a large-scale, free public festival in order to celebrate national literature.
Modeled after New York City’s Fifth Avenue Book Fair (founded in 1979), The Word On The Street was incorporated in March 1990 as a non-profit charitable organization. The inaugural festival took place that fall on Sunday, September 30, 1990 on Queen Street West in Toronto. The event coincided with International Literacy Year and upwards of 30,000 people attended.
In 1994, to facilitate its expansion mandate, The Word On The Street was incorporated nationally as The Word On The Street Canada Inc. (The regional festivals are now individually incorporated and license the use of the name and logo from Word On The Street Canada Inc.)
Vancouver and Halifax joined on The Word On The Street’s 5th anniversary in 1995. Seven years later Kitchener came on board in 2002. Each of the four festivals is going strong and from time to time there is interest from other regions in starting a local event. Given the right circumstances, there may be further expansion in the coming years.
Across the country attendance is more than 250,000: 200,000 in Toronto, 40,000 in Vancouver, 30,000 in Halifax and 10,000 in Kitchener–and growing every year!
In each city, festival teams and their respective boards of directors work year-round to showcase the most relevant authors, artists and presenters and the best representatives of Canada’s prestigious book and magazine publishing industry.
The Word On The Street is successful at least in part because the network model of related events allows each festival to reflect the local flavour of its host city rather than requiring a cookie-cutter “different city, same event” approach.