Literature is a big deal on BC’s Sunshine Coast.
The Sunshine Coast Festival of the Written Arts, now in its 34th year, is the longest-running writer’s festival in the country. It celebrates Canadian writers from all corners of the country, and all genres, from mystery to poetry to non-fiction. The festival underscores how important culture and the arts can be to the quality of life — and the economies — of small, isolated towns and regions like Sechelt and the Sunshine Coast.
The festival takes place in Sechelt’s Rockwood Park (courtesy of the town), a beautiful site near downtown. The Festival owns a 450-seat, open-air cedar and fir pavilion in the park, a unique venue that is dedicated to the three-day, four-night literary event.
Executive Director Jane Davidson enthuses about the event. In a recent online interview, she’s quoted as stating, “We have the most amazing audience. There’s something about the island feeling here — the isolation. It allows them less distraction, more focus. They’re really here. It’s like summer camp for writers and readers.”
Over the years, Sechelt and the Sunshine Coast generally have come to appreciate the impact the Festival has, both on their overall quality of life, and the economy.
In the BC Rural Centre podcast below, Davidson explains that out of town festival visitors spend nearly half a million dollars — a huge impact in a small town, concentrated over a three-day span. She also explains it’s not unusual for festival attendees to be so impressed, they end up buying property and settling down in the region — a difficult to quantify but nonetheless significant added economic and social benefit the town and region derive from the annual event.
The local community pitches in ever year, including 150 volunteers, and local businesses that sponsor and otherwise support the festival. Attendees are equally passionate and loyal — the festival regularly attracts upwards of 9,000 attendees.
Literature, Canadian-style, and its celebration every summer at the Festival is but a single expression of one the Sunshine Coast’s premier assets — its exceptionally strong cultural base — which is rigorously promoted to excellent effect.
Interested in attending the Festival, and checking out the many other cultural and natural assets of the Sunshine Coast? Here’s a map to get you started in the right direction!
Interested in culture as a rural economic driver? Or stories of successful rural women entrepreneurs? Then you’ll wants to listen to this fascinating interview with Montana’s Red Ants Pants founder, Sarah Calhoun!