Montreal's Renown Literary Festival

I don't quite remember when I first became aware of Blue Metropolis. I only recall seeing a very high ticket price some years ago for the Montreal festival and knowing that I as a poor English Lit student could not afford it. I'm not sure when the payment structure changed, but I was delighted to see that, according to this year's festival schedule, the ticket prices were now for individual events and typically cost between $10-$30, while others yet were free.

I could probably afford that.

In addition to desiring a taste of the local literary scene, I wanted to learn more about the festival and how it was run, so I decided to also volunteer this year. The application process was quite streamlined and simple, and I received my schedule within the week.

I arrived early on the beautiful, sunny Saturday at Hotel 10 to meet Sufia, the volunteer coordinators, learn about my tasks and responsibilities, and get a lay of the land. Once I had been caught up, we headed to the first event on my schedule, which happened to be the big draw of the festival: the awarding of the Blue Metropolis International Literary Grand Prix to Canadian poet Anne Carson. The event was also an interview with CBC host Eleanor Wachtel, and took place at Montreal's Grande Bibliothèque.

The event went quite smoothly; we were tasked with crowd control before and after the event, handling the flow of attendees, checking tickets, and ensuring everyone was where they had to be. I worked with Sufia and a handful of other volunteers. and though the event started late, my team worked well together to maintain order and ensure everything ran smoothly. Once the attendees has taken their seats and the event had begun, we were able to relax a little and get to know one another. I was even able to sit in on the talk during the second hour. Though I don't know much of Carson's work, she was an absolute delight to listen to, and Wachtel's questions were well-crafted to guide the audience through the author's experiences and thought process. After the event and book signing, I had the pleasure of briefly meeting Carson, which was a real highlight of the weekend.

I had planned on leaving after that point, but as I was chatting with Sufia in the volunteer lounge, she asked if I would be willing to volunteer at another event that evening. Despite my sore feet, I agreed. This talk was significantly smaller, making it much more relaxing - the only concern was that it was being recorded for CBC in a small room with thin walls, so had to ensure that latecomers to the event were quiet.

I returned on Sunday morning to volunteer for two talks on the subject of translation, the latter of which I was quite interested in. We had an overabundance of volunteers for the first talk, and we all came from different backgrounds and cultures. Once the event had begun and the door had closed, we had a lively discussion about food and language. I used my lunch break to explore St. Laurent and return to an old burger joint I liked, Patati Patata, and I appreciated the fact that despite having expanded their menu, they remain a tiny hole-in-the-wall with a homey atmosphere.

The last event I volunteered for was one I had wanted to attend, featuring four panelists discussing their experiences with translating to and from different languages. This was one of the free events, which made our jobs exceedingly simple and low-stress (who would have thought a free talk would draw such a small crowd?). Once the event had begun and the flow of attendees had stopped, I asked my fellow volunteers if they minded me sitting in on the talk. They did not, and I had an excellent time hearing the different authors' perspectives on translation.

Overall, I had a really lovely time at Blue Metropolis. Though the festival crowd tended to skew older, many of the volunteers were around my age, and I bonded with quite a few of them. I had the privilege of getting to hear from multiple accomplished and talented authors, all in a friendly and creative atmosphere. I'm already looking forward to next year!

Sarah Luger