Spur Festival Toronto

5 events to check out at the Spur Festival in Toronto

2013 is the inaugural year of the Spur Festival, a national festival of politics, art and ideas taking place in Toronto, Winnipeg and Vancouver. The festival's objective is to spark dialogue on current issues and to generate new ideas about how to move our country forward, with a variety of events like debates, panel discussions, writer's talks, and theatrical performances.

The Toronto edition takes place April 11-14. With its theme of the bottom line, the festival explores links between the economy, arts, politics and culture. Events range in price from free to $30, with reduced prices for students, and are held at various Yorkville-area venues.

Festival Director Helen Walsh hopes to create an open and respectful forum for debate that rises above extreme partisan rhetoric. To target students and the under-35 crowd, Spur offers emerging scholars and public fellows programs, student deals, younger speakers, and nighttime bar events. For Walsh, the festival is about having serious discussion and fun at the same time. She has plans to expand Spur to more cities in the future, like Calgary, Ottawa, Montreal and Halifax.

If you're looking to get a bit cerebral this spring (or to get some good material to sound impressive at dinner parties), here are some highlights from the festival's roster of events:

April 11: The Future of the Book
This free debate at the Toronto Reference Library explores what technological developments mean for literature and publishing, and features Paul Holdengr채ber of the New York Public Library and Hugh McGuire, founder of the online e-book publishing site pressbooks.com. The debate is moderated by Toronto Life's editor-in-chief Sarah Fulford (who probably has some vested interest in the issue of technology and publishing).

April 11 and 12: Bar Car
The Thursday and Friday nights of the festival offer live music from local acts at the Pilot Tavern ($10 cover). Thursday night features Toronto's R&B and funk ensemble Soul Stew, and things get jazzy on Friday with Grossman's Tavern regulars Happy Pals.

April 12: Political Satire: Does it Matter?
This panel discussion on the importance of political satire should be entertaining--who wouldn't want to hear Todd Hanson, writer and editor of The Onion, ponder the role of political satire in driving social change? The event also features SCTV and SNL alum Robin Duke, Andy Bichlbaum of The Yes Men, and humour novelist Terry Fallis.

April 13 and 14: All the World's A Stage
Spur features outdoor walking events since, in the words of Director Helen Walsh, "sometimes you need to move the body to move the mind...and it's spring in Toronto!" On the Saturday morning, playwright Ins Choi (of Kim's Convenience fame) will deliver a walking theatrical piece around UofT, Koreatown, and the Annex. On the Sunday, you can stroll among the Yorkville's glitzy storefronts while learning about the neighbourhood's counterculture hippie past, with expert historian Stuart Henderson.

April 14: Vested Interests in Politics
Does money bring political influence? Umm...seems like an obvious question, no? Still, it should be interesting to hear this discussion between two informed insiders: The New Yorker's Hendrik Hertzberg, and Consumer News' Managing Director and Editor Chrystia Freeland (who was also formerly an editor with The Globe and Mail, and contributor to the Financial Times, The Washington Post, and The Economist).

Photo by Connie Tsang

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