I was happy to be invited to LitFest’s Genu-Wine this year, though I have to say I didn’t know what to expect. The festival program was vague: “LitFest tackles serious global issues, accompanied by samples of seriously good wine”, but I was looking forward to seeing how it would all come together.
Mack and I walked over to the Kids in the Hall Bistro on Saturday night, and encountered a packed venue. A few stand-up cocktail tables were set-up, but halfway through the evening, patrons moved them aside to make room for more chairs. The room, with a buffet table, a wine station and a podium, was unfortunately arranged without proper flow – I had to think the organizers didn’t anticipate such a large crowd.
The spread (there was actually quite a bit of food)
Associate producer Shauna Sisson told us later that LitFest had always wanted to put on a “schmoozing” event, and this was their first attempt at combining wine with snippets of literary works. While festival organizers deserve kudos for trying something new, the format of Genu-wine probably needs further tweaking.
It seemed straightforward enough – the host would introduce one of the four authors and the wine to be sampled following the reading, the author would talk about their work, and end with a reading from their book. The audience was then invited up to help themselves to glasses of Yellow Tail wine (which had all been donated for the event), while enjoying upbeat tunes from Don Berner. Repeated three times, with brief moments to network in between authors, it felt choppy.
The authors themselves accomplished what they needed to do, however – provoking discussion in the crowd. Andrew Potter, musing on the idea (and fallacy) of “authenticity” and Dan Gardener on the nonsensical belief in predictions incited the most debate in our group, but Alice Major was undoubtedly the most eloquent and Lawrence Scanlan the most poignant (and my favourite of the evening), with his excerpt on the rebuilding in New Orleans.
Andrew Potter addresses the crowd
And though they were the cheesiest portions of the evening, I loved how the organizers cheekily tried to connect random varieties of wine with the authors (I will never think of “bubbles rose” in the same way again).
Yellow Tail line-up
I’m not sure what I would suggest to make the event better (two readings in a row? more time between readings?), but I think the casual, informal vibe of the evening is worth maintaining. I’ll be interested to check out Genu-Wine next year, whatever its incarnation.