To emphasize community and diverse voices, Paul Richmond is staging the entirety of this year’s Great Falls Word Festival in one location — the Shea Theater Arts Center in Turners Falls.
The ninth annual spoken word festival, which Richmond organizes under the auspices of Human Error Publishing, will be held Thursday through Saturday. Richmond said he hopes choosing one location rather than the multiple venues that has been tradition will “focus on bringing the community to one place.”
The ultimate goal, he said, is to make the festival more of a town-wide event — similar to those in Edinburgh, Berlin and New York City — which would help put the Pioneer Valley on the map as a hub of literary happenings.
Yet, these kinds of events are becoming more difficult to put together, as the focus on where time, energy and, of course, money is spent is increasingly elsewhere, Richmond said. Without the invaluable help of RiverCulture, the festival would be nearly impossible to offer, he noted.
However, he sees the growing importance of and need for a festival of art and words. In these times of political division, Richmond said he sees “the need for opportunities and venues for people to say what they feel.”
“We live in a democracy and we should be able to have discussions,” he said.
Richmond himself is not shy about his political leanings, but is eager to create “a safe place where people are listening and allowed to listen.”
“Once people relax, they can start liking things they maybe thought they wouldn’t like at first,” he said on creating an atmosphere of open-mindedness.
The festival will take place both on the Shea’s main stage as well as downstairs to accommodate multiple shows happening concurrently. There will also be a café and a bookstore featuring work from local writers.
Richmond’s line-up of performers is an attempt to include a multitude of voices that reflect the local community and its creative talent.
Thursday will kick off with an open mic from 1 to 5 p.m. At 6:45 p.m., the first show titled “The Mole” will start, which Richmond describes as a spin-off of NPR’s “The Moth,” except that the stories needn’t be true in their entirety as long as they have some factual basis. The 8:30 p.m. performance of words and music called “Do It Now” will feature Richmond himself, John Sheldon, Tony Vacca and Jo Sallins.
On Friday, the main stage will feature the performance group Exploded View at 6:45 p.m., with a talk-back following the performance. The group’s latest performance begs the questions, “How well do you really know the people you love?” and, “What will make it into your obit?”
Authors from Slate Roof Press, including their managing editor, Janet MacFadyen, will read from their work at 7:45 p.m. At 8:30 p.m., the show “Taking a Stand: Poetry of Resistance” will feature numerous poets, including some international writers like David C. Johnson from England and Roger West from France.
Downstairs, artists from the “Women’s Prison Writing Group” will share their work in their show titled “The Voices from Inside” at 6:45 p.m.
The packed Saturday line-up starts at noon, and will include the Naugatuck River Review at 1 p.m., Meat for Tea at 2 p.m., Straw Dog Writers Guild at 3 p.m. and the Cloud Saddle Writers at 4 p.m. on the main stage.
There will be an open mic downstairs from noon to 2 p.m., followed by the show “SOUP” (Some of Us Poets). At 4 p.m., published novelists will be reading excerpts from their books, including Jan Maher, whose most recent novel “Earth As It Is” was an award-winner in the LGBTQ category of the 2018 American Fiction Awards.
In honor of Veteran’s Day, Sunday’s theme is “The Long Way Home,” and will feature stories from and about veterans from 1 to 5 p.m, describing the literal and figurative ways war brings people a long way from home. With hopes of helping homeless veterans, there will simultaneously be a food drive called Bards Against Hunger for the Turners Falls food pantry.
The main ticket option is a $20 button that is valid for all four days of the festival, but there is also the option to purchase $5 or $10 tickets for individual shows. For more information about programming or to purchase tickets, visit greatfallswordfestival.com.
Nicole Braden-Johnson of Conway is the author of “Unheard Melodies,” a monthly poetry column in the local “The Visitor,” and has also been published in several literary journals. She is always on the lookout for poetry news and events and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.