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Vancouver Writers Festival director Hal Wake leaving after next year's edition

Elizabeth Hay, left, a Canadian novelist and short story writer, sits with Hal Wake, artistic director of the Vancouver Writers Festival.

Word Christchurch literary festival

Hal Wake, the long-time artistic director of the Vancouver Writers Festival, has announced that next year's festival will be his last in that role.

"I've been the artistic director for 11 years and I've had an absolutely amazing experience," said Mr. Wake. "I've tried to make changes and keep things fresh for the entire time, but you get to a point where it gets harder to reinvent or to do something different or to keep it alive."

Mr. Wake, 64, joined what was then the Vancouver International Writers and Readers Festival in 2005 and the following year took over from festival founder Alma Lee, who organized the inaugural event in 1988.

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Prior to joining the VWF, Mr. Wake worked for CBC Radio. His roles with the public broadcaster included book producer for Morningside with Peter Gzowski and host of Vancouver's morning show, The Early Edition, a position he left in 1997.

When asked about highlights over the years, Mr. Wake predictably said there were too many to list – but he did mention an extraordinary event with author Alistair MacLeod accompanied by the Chor Leoni men's choir. Mr. MacLeod, whose works included the novel No Great Mischief, died in 2014.

"There's no way to describe the profound emotions and pleasure that can come from a well-crafted event with extraordinary writers at its heart," said Mr. Wake.

This year's festival, which concluded last Sunday, drew more than 17,000 people over more than 90 events. The festival says book sales exceeded $100,000 – a 15-per-cent increase over last year.

A successor has not been named.

When asked what was next for him, Mr. Wake said he's concentrating on 2017 – the 30th annual VWF. He says he has no concrete plans beyond that.

"Personally I need some new challenges. I always love it when I take on something I don't know whether I can do. And then I get pushed into doing something new and different and it's risky and ultimately then satisfying."

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About the Author
Western Arts Correspondent

Marsha Lederman is the Western Arts Correspondent for The Globe and Mail, based in Vancouver. She covers the film and television industry, visual art, literature, music, theatre, dance, cultural policy, and other related areas. More

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