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Scream in High Park Mainstage Event

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Books and wine. Books and tea. Books and cookies. Just about anything goes well with books. But one of my favourite pairings is books and outdoor readings. And the Scream Literary Festival has had that on offer for twenty years, expanding into a multi-day affair in partnership with publishers, authors and multiple venues, all leading up to an evening reading in High Park. Sometimes, it's sunny. Sometimes, it's buggy. Sometimes, it's rainy. But the stars always come out for Scream, the hill lined with blankets, picnic baskets and . . . grape juice. Included in this landmark are a series of author testimonials from those who have had the pleasure of reading to the sunsoaked, raincloaked, starry-eyed fans of the Scream in High Park Mainstage event.


(excerpted from TheScream.ca)

At 6 p.m., at Pearson International Airport, the sky is overcast, the temperature steady at 21 degrees. The humidity registers at 81 percent. The barometric pressure is at 101.1 kilopascals and falling slowly. Variable cloudiness this evening, with a low of 17 degrees. Clearing towards midnight. Environment Canada Forecast, July 18, 1993.

Eighteen years ago a young Toronto-based writer had a interesting thought... he wanted to commandeer the Dream in High Park’s Shakespearean stage on one of their off-nights and hold an outdoor poetry reading. Many of us figured that this was going to be another one of those ideas that lived and died between the second pint and last call, but Matthew Remski proved us wrong. He gathered what limited resources he had, drawing on both his friends and his bank account, and managed to get sixteen writers to the stage in an event he named The Scream in High Park.

Former Scream Director Peter McPhee remembers the first day distinctly: “It rained off and on throughout the morning of July 19 and only started to clear in the afternoon. We had hoped people would come early with picnics. At 5:30, [with] a television crew broadcasting live from site, there were seven people on the hill which forms the amphitheatre. We knew six of them. The TV producer was not impressed. However, at 7:00 we had an audience of 450. And by the end of the night we knew it would happen again.” We had an inkling of what the Scream might become, but who could have predicted that it would go on to be one of the most prominent literary festivals in Canada? We never imagined that we'd draw crowds of up to 1200 people annually.

Regardless of how the Scream grows, we will never mess with the magic of the High Park reading itself: the casual atmosphere and outdoor setting; the extraordinary writers; the humour and poignancy of the readings; the voices; the celebration; the summer night air. In the words of Peter McPhee: "I will never forget reading at the first Scream. The sun had just set and the silhouettes of the people at the top of the hill were blending into the sky, mixing with my voice, and approaching infinity. I think one's sense of place becomes distorted. In our current cultural climate there is something unreal about listening to poetry in a park, surrounded by the country's largest city (though the act is natural enough and the writing well grounded). At Scream In High Park we are everywhere at once. A place only magic can take us. We arrive, hear the voices and wonder if this is how carnival sounds."

Visit TheScream.ca for more information about the festival, its history and how to become involved.

Landmark curated by Julie Wilson. Wilson is the literary voyeur behind Seen Reading, The Madam at Book Madam & Associates, and the author of Truly, Madly, Deadly: The Unofficial True Blood Companion (under the pen name Becca Wilcott).

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Scream in High Park Mainstage Event
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