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SpokenWeb brings literary archives to life at this year’s Blue Met Festival

From deep curation to flamenco: the SSHRC-funded project helps unearth long-forgotten performances
April 26, 2019
By Yuliya Kondratenko

Katherine McLeod Performing the Archive unites Katherine McLeod’s passion for flamenco with her academic interest in archival literary performance. | Photo by Michael Kovacs

When recording to tape became accessible in the 1960s, artists began documenting literary performances and conversations. But most of these audio archives remain inaccessible or in danger of decay. Those that do end up being digitized are largely unreachable by a wide audience.

SpokenWeb, a cross-university project funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), is making recordings from Canada and beyond more available. The project hopes to foster collaborative studies of this literary history and propose new ways to engage with the material as a learning tool.

Jason Camlot, a SpokenWeb researcher and professor of English in the Faculty of Arts and Science, leads the Concordia partnership with Montreal’s Blue Metropolis International Literary Festival.

There are a number of SpokenWeb events featured in the 2019 edition of the festival, which runs from May 2 to 5. They are designed to provide the general public with a better understanding of the archival initiative.

“Knowledge mobilization is an important part of our research program,” Camlot says. “Our partnership with Blue Met is one great example of how we will deepen our connections with community organizations and literary festivals in the years to come.”

William St. Hilaire, president and artistic director of Blue Met, says SpokenWeb helps us understand where we’re going by revisiting where we’ve been.

"The voices of the past are always alive, and they blend with those of the festival's authors to deepen our understanding of social issues — and of course, for our pure pleasure," she says.

Here are the SpokenWeb events to catch at this year’s festival. All are open to everyone.

Klara du Plessis PhD student Klara du Plessis hosts Deep Curation, a new experimental approach to literary event planning.

Deep Curation

Friday, May 3, 2 p.m. at the Hôtel 10, Salle Jardin

Cost: Free

Deep Curation is a new and experimental approach to literary event planning. The event is curated and hosted by Klara du Plessis, PhD candidate in the Department of English and features poets Liz Howard, Oana Avasilichioaei and Tess Liem (MA 17).

“This format refocuses agency on the curator who chooses the exact poems and reading order,” du Plessis explains. “This creates a cohesive, thematic arc to the event. It’s not necessarily performative, but it is definitely a very directed poetry reading experience.”

Performing the Archive: A Remix

Sunday, May 5 at 2 p.m. at La Vitrola

Cost: Free

Camlot partners with Katherine McLeod, affiliate assistant professor of English and a researcher with SpokenWeb. Together they will transform archived poetry readings from the SpokenWeb project into a remix of voice, rhythm and movement.

Hosted by Deanna Fong, a long-time SpokenWeb collaborator, this event unites McLeod’s passion for flamenco with her academic interest in archival literary performance. It is all set to an original score composed by Camlot using archival sounds from past literary events.

“My doctoral and postdoctoral research has all been on poetry readings and performances in Canada,” McLeod says. “This event is an opportunity to put that research into practice by performing archival recordings of poetry readings.”

The Words and Music Show

Saturday, May 4, 10 p.m. at the Hôtel 10, Salle Godin

Cost: $7

This event is hosted by writer, performer and SpokenWeb community partner Ian Ferrier. It is Montreal's longest-running literary variety show and this edition will feature Melanie Mununggurr-Williams, Liz Howard, Kaie Kellough and Julie Bruck.


Browse the full program for the 2019 Blue Metropolis International Literary Festival.

Find out more about Concordia’s Department of English.

Read the full story behind Klara du Plessis’s Deep Curation.

Find out more about SpokenWeb.


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