Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Profile of the Rowers Pub Reading Series

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Profile of the Rowers Pub Reading Series

OB:

When did you start the Rowers Pub Reading Series, and what are its origins?

CG:

The Rowers Pub Reading Series launched on Wednesday, October 3, 2007 with readings by Trevor Cole, Molly Peacock and George Elliott Clarke. The idea for the series began when poets Ned Hagerman and Ian Burgham, two regulars of the Rowers Pub & Grill, started talking over a pint one day and came to the following conclusion: wouldn’t it be great to establish a reading series that would encompass some of the finest poets/writers living in Canada and hold it here in this venue? Ned, having worked with poet David Clink on the Atkinson Reading Series at York University (a series with a twenty-five year history) invited David to come on board, then came Halli Villegas, poet/writer and publisher of Tightrope Books, and finally, myself. The five of us run the series. It follows in honour of the Atkinson Reading Series and continues the tradition of bringing celebrated poets and fiction writers to an appreciative audience. We have Carleton Wilson to thank for the eye-catching Rowers Pub logo.

OB:

Why did you choose the venue?

CG:

Looking back I think the venue chose us. Once Ned and Ian had that initial conversation, things began to fall into place. We had the perfect venue for our fall debut. But during that same fall, after the reading series began, the Rowers Pub & Grill changed hands. The new owner – John Oakes – knew of our reading series and enthusiastically agreed to support it. He did however, change the name of the venue to Harbord House but we’d become attached to our name by then so "Rowers Pub" it was. Great food. Great atmosphere. We're delighted to have John's support.

OB:

What is the format for the Rowers Pub series?

CG:

The format is a mix of fiction and poetry - two poets and a fiction writer or two fiction writers and a poet and a break in between each reading. There’s no open mic and we pay our readers. The series runs the first Wednesday of the month, October to May and the second Wednesday in June (in order not to conflict with the Griffin Poetry Prize readings.) According to one past reader, Toronto’s first Poet Laureate, Dennis Lee: You've got a reading series of substance and relaxed grace going. When the readers are happy we're happy.

OB:

How do you select readers for the series?

CG:

As organizers we work together to invite emerging and established writers whose work has meant something to us.

OB:

Is there audience participation at the readings?

CG:

It's our hope that the intimacy of the venue (second floor of Harbord House) will provide audience members with a memorable and moving listening experience. The breaks between each reading allow for people to chat with the readers, sign books, etc – and to mingle with one another. Many of the attendees are writers themselves and/or previous readers at the series.

OB:

Who would you love to have read at the Rowers Pub Reading Series?

CG:

We'd love to have two of our sponsors - Alexander McCall Smith and Scott Griffin – read together at the series.

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