WINGHAM – A significant part of Wingham’s cultural heritage is coming home, as Alice Munro’s Nobel Prize for Literature will be heading for the North Huron Museum.
Karen Stewart and Verna Steffler made the announcement to North Huron council at the Jan. 13 meeting, while requesting support for the upcoming Alice Munro Festival of the Short Story. Stewart explained that the festival began in 2003 as an annual festival to celebrate award-winning author and Wingham-area native Alice Munro.
“The festival and its accompanying short story contest evolved to expand its scope and scale following Miss Munro winning the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2013,” Stewart said, adding that the change was made to reflect the new mandate of the event.
The festival was re-launched with a new mission to nurture emerging writers, and celebrate the short stories and landscape that inspired Munro’s work.
“The goal of the Alice Munro Festival of the Short Story is to produce a Canadian literary event that is intimate, stimulating, and hopefully a little surprising for writers and readers alike,” Stewart said.
In the past, the festival has included author readings, professional development for writers, educational opportunities, panel discussions, and book signings. Last year’s festival included 313 short story entries from across Canada, up 20 per cent from previous year. The Alice Munro Festival of the Short Story for Kids was also added last year to bring new programming to local schools, with six authors visiting local elementary schools in Clinton, Wingham and Howick and F.E. Madill, and presenting to over 700 students.
“One of the primary objectives of the Alice Munro Festival of the Short Story is to nurture emerging writers, some of which may be the next generation of great Canadian authors,” Stewart said.
“Expanding our festival in order to bring writers and children of all ages together through storytelling was fundamental to achieving our goals.”
The 2020 festival will run June 5-7, hosting a dozen authors hosted and attracting guests from across the province.
“By renewing your support, you help make festival events accessible to all,” Stewart said, requesting a contribution of $3,500 from council. “This mutually beneficial partnership will help increase the profile of the Township of North Huron.”
Steffler came on board with the festival in 2003, and said North Huron council has played an important part in supporting and growing the event.
“I must say, it has evolved into something that is absolutely fabulous now,” Steffler said. “With your help, our festival very much has come alive.”
A close personal friend of Munro, Steffler has received a number of belongings from the author in addition to the Nobel Prize, including a desk, chair, and a number of other awards.
“There’s more things to come yet, I could probably fill the back end of my vehicle when I come down again,” Steffler said. “I’m a proud supporter of Alice and she has become a very good friend. I think it’s good for our town to bring someone back who is so notable through the whole world, and we have her.”
Deputy Reeve Trevor Seip said the Alice Munro Festival of the Short Story wouldn’t be what it is without the committee’s involvement, and congratulated them for building the event from nothing.
“The committee has taken ownership of this thing and for it to grow 20 per cent, that is significant growth,” Seip said. “At the end of the day, it’s the committee that makes it run, not this council or the council before.”
Reeve Bernie Bailey echoed the sentiment in his remarks.
“North Huron is so proud, and it’s just fantastic how you’ve pulled this off,” Bailey said.
The $3,500 requested was supported by North Huron council in principle, and will be dealt with as part of the 2020 budget.