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Celebrating the legacy of George Ryga

July 18th, 2019

Started in 2016, the Ryga Arts Festival has an expanded program this year including musical concerts, theatre, spoken word, and visual arts running from August 24th to September 1st.

“We’re thrilled to extend the 2019 Ryga Arts Festival over two weekends this year, making our arts programming more accessible for everyone,” says the festival’s artistic director Heather Davies. “The blend of professional guest artists and local talent creates a dynamic atmosphere here in Summerland.”

The festival celebrates the legacy of George Ryga (1932-1987), pictured at right, the renowned Canadian author who lived and worked in Summerland. Ryga was one of the most influential playwrights in Canadian history, and he produced wide-ranging work that encompassed a variety of genres, including radio and TV scripts, novels, and poetry.

Not many people know that Ryga collaborated with singer Bill Henderson of the rock group Chilliwack to produce an album, Grass and Wild Strawberries, which Davies says became a hit recording by The Collectors, followed by a stage production at the Vancouver Playhouse where it topped all attendance records.

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of Grass and Wild Strawberries, Bill Henderson and members of the Chilliwack band will be performing with Haida singer Terri-Lynn Williams-Davidson at the festival.

In addition, 18 other events planned for August.

From the festival’s publicity:

“The festival’s kick-off event CELEBRATION on August 24th will include readings and performances celebrating George Ryga’s soaring range of writing, showcasing the talents of many of our visiting artists and Gina Payzant’s award-winning documentary on Ryga.

Ed Henderson, sometime Chilliwack guitarist and Juno-award winning musician, will present an evening of unplugged music called ACOUSTIC BLEND on Friday, August 30th. He will be joined at Centre Stage by the multi-talented singer, composer and pianist david sereda, who will be presenting his own work and the participants from his song circle workshop—the Summerland ‘pop up’ choir.

Ahmad Meree, the Syrian actor-playwright whose one-man show Adrenaline moved audiences to tears two years ago, is one of our artists in residence. He will also lead a workshop called WRITING BY DOING, focusing on creating dynamic theatre two ways: at your keyboard and on your feet. Other workshops offered by the festival include WRITING FOR NATURE with Nancy Holmes, a SMARTPHONE FILM WORKSHOP with Erick Thompson and Brandyn Steele, and SING IN THE STORM with david sereda.

Public readings, co-sponsored by the Summerland Library, will include distinguished Canadian authors Aritha van Herk and Lynette Loeppky. Of course, OUTSPOKEN! will return—an annual fixture featuring a rich blend of storytelling, spoken word recitations, and songs by dazzling local talent.

Our THEATRE TRAIL will be expanded by artistic director Heather Davies to include even more of the original plays and eclectic venues that made last year’s trail so innovative and popular.

Last year’s unexpected hit was an art show at the Summerland Art Gallery called INSPIRED BY, consisting of some 70 visual art pieces and literary texts created by largely local artists drawing inspiration from each other’s works. This year’s show, MIXED AND MERGED, will introduce new possibilities for collaboration by adding spoken word and music.

The Ryga Arts Festival has grown by leaps and bounds in four years thanks to strong local support and funding from all levels of government. It is now the premier cultural event of the summer enhancing the bounty of the Okanagan valley. Come and join the celebration!

Find out more about the Festival and buy tickets to this cornucopia of arts offerings at Please contact with any questions. We are also on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter as @rygafest.”

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